NEW YORK – Before the participants in the 2013 All-Star Game took part in media sessions on Monday, they gathered in a hotel room to review the day’s schedule and what to expect from the horde of reporters chronicling the event.
As they seated themselves at a table before the meeting, several players said they looked around and realized that it was a Twins alumni reunion.
“They were everywhere,” Twins closer Glen Perkins said, “and there are a lot of guys that I played with.”
The number of former Twins at the All-Star Game reached eight Sunday when Grant Balfour was added to the American League roster to replace fellow Oakland righthander Bartolo Colon. The AL will be trying to snap a three-game losing streak in Tuesday’s 84th All-Star Game at City Field.
“It’s special,” former Twins closer Joe Nathan said of seeing so many former Minnesota teammates. “We got a chance to reminisce, talk about old times and talk about how guys are doing now. I’m sure in the clubhouse and maybe after the Home Run Derby we’ll get a chance to gather and chat some more.”
The eight All-Stars provide a great history lesson about Twins baseball in the 2000s.
Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, Boston’s David Ortiz and Detroit’s Torii Hunter were on the 2002 team, the first Twins team to reach the postseason since 1991.
Nathan, Balfour and White Sox reliever Jesse Crain — who will miss Tuesday’s game because of an injury — joined the Twins in 2004 to help them sustain their dominance in the AL Central. Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez (2009) and Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy (2010) represent the end of their dominance — six division titles in nine years — and their departures helped plant the seeds for the Twins’ plunge to the bottom of the division.
Perkins and catcher Joe Mauer will represent the Twins, raising the total to 10 players with current or past ties to the organization.
“It’s pretty cool,” Mauer said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. Obviously, you’d like to have all those guys in Twins uniforms here, but there’s great friendships with guys you played with. You carry on. You see your friends doing well. You always hope for that.”
That was the general reaction as the All-Star rosters were announced last week. Of course, there was also this reaction: Just think of where the Twins could be now.
No way of knowing
Hunter, who left the Twins as a free agent after 2007, falls into the latter category, seeing all the familiar faces Monday and pondering what might have been.
“It’s tough because that’s my home, that’s my love and no matter what that’s going to be my first love even if I play against them,” the nine-time Gold Glove outfielder said. “And it is tough to see them where they are at right now. With all these ex-Twin All-Stars here you’d think that if they would have kept us we would have been in the World Series.”
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who sent Cuddyer a congratulatory text message when the Rockies outfielder made the team, has a slightly different perspective.
“There’s nothing guaranteed that if they stayed here they would have become All-Stars more times,” said Morneau, an All-Star every year from 2007 to 2010. “I’m happy for all those guys. They deserve it. It would be nice to have them on our team, but [moving on] is part of the game.”
The Twins allowed Hunter, Cuddyer, Nathan, Balfour and Crain to leave via free agency, and Cuddyer and Nathan both left with concerns about the direction the team was headed. Ortiz, in a bad baseball decision, was released, signed by Boston and become Big Papi, one of the most feared hitters in the majors. Gomez was traded for Hardy. Hardy, in another bad baseball decision, was traded to Baltimore as the Twins decided to try Tsuyoshi Nishioka at shortstop.