Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Morneau paid tribute to Oliva before he left

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB, Major league trades Updated: August 31, 2013 - 11:23 PM

I'm not sure if Justin Morneau knew he was about to be traded when he spoke after Friday night's game, his last, as it turned out, as a Twin (for now?). He told one of his teammates he had an inkling it was coming, and he didn't see at all worried about the possibility in the wake of his game-winning home run.

"If it happens, I'm going to somebody who wants me and feels they can use me in a pennant chase or a playoff drive. And if not, I'm here and I know I'll be here for the rest of the year," Morneau said. "Either way, it's a good situation."

Turned out to be the former, and Morneau hustled out of town once he got the news. He rode the Twins' bus to Rangers Ballpark, gathered his belongings, said his goodbyes, and caught a flight to Pittsburgh, where he was in the dugout by the sixth inning.

"You try to get here as quick as you can because you want to be a part of this," Morneau told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

But he didn't forget where he came from, either. In a classy gesture, Morneau wrote a message to Minnesotans that he hoped to run as a full-page newspaper ad. In it, he thanks the Twins and their fans, and even apologizes for not bringing a World Series title to Minneapolis.

"I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old kid when I made my big-league debut in 2002. I received a warm welcome that day and have felt welcomed ever since," he wrote. "... I am sorry that during my time here, we weren't able to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Series, but I will forever carry many wonderful memories of my time here. I will always cherish every day I was lucky enough to play in front of your fans in a Minnesota uniform."

A lot of athletes might express those sentiments, and you would roll your eyes. Morneau always seemed sincere, however, and was the best player on the team, every year, at looking at the long view, at talking about the future and where the franchise is headed, and not just today's game.

And he genuinely felt a part of something bigger than himself. You could hear it when I asked him last night about passing Tony Oliva on the franchise's all-time home run list.

"This is an organization with a good history, a pretty long history. We've got Hall of Famers and retired numbers, and to pass one of the greatest Twins of all time, it's a really good feeling," Morneau said.

Oliva is around the clubhouse a lot, and that's why being linked with him, Morneau said, "is something really special. [Oliva] is a guy who's always around. He's always got a smile. It means a lot."
 

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