Sid Hartman: Steinbach enjoying second tour with Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2014 - 11:09 PM

The former All-Star catcher is happy to be coaching after ending his career with his hometown team.

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Terry Steinbach blew a bubble in the Target Field dugout standing next to fellow Twins coach Tom Brunansky last month.

Photo: TOM OLMSCHEID • Associated Press,

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Terry Steinbach is in his second season as Twins bench coach, the second in command to manager Ron Gardenhire. The New Ulm native, Gophers product and former Oakland and Twins catcher said he always thought there was a chance he would be back at the major league level.

“I just knew that I played the game a lot and really respected the game and enjoyed the game,” Steinbach said. “I thought maybe someday if everything works out that I would get back into it.”

Steinbach got the chance to manage two games against Kansas City while Gardenhire was attending a funeral in Ohio, and the Twins won both.

“It helps a lot when you score 17 runs in two games. I mean, there wasn’t a lot of moves to make,” he said. “Gardy is a great manager. If there’s anybody to learn from, he’s really good at what he does. For me being very inexperienced on the staff here, it’s a good guy that I can sit back and learn a lot from.”

Steinbach played 10 seasons with the Athletics, making three All-Star teams, before becoming a free agent following the 1996 season and signing with the Twins. He finished his 14-year career with a .271 batting average, 162 home runs and 745 RBI.

“You just never know how your future is going to go as a player, things worked out pretty good. I was a free agent and the Twins were open to me coming here. It was a good place to end my career,” Steinbach said. “You know as it worked out, I got to spend 13 years at home raising my kids and family and coaching them [at Wayzata] and being part of that.

“The first year that they went off to school and [his wife] Mary and I were empty nesters, it opened up that I had the opportunity to come here and be a coach. Things have worked out very, very well for me.”

Sees improvement

Steinbach was asked what he thinks the difference is between the Twins’ offensive output this season compared to last year.

“You know, we’re swinging the bat a lot better,” he said. “Last year we had a tough time scoring runs, and so far we’re scoring a lot more runs. And I think the starting pitching, sometimes it hasn’t been really good but I think the potential is there for our starters to do well is there.”

Steinbach also said he wasn’t too concerned about the Twins offense in spring training when they could barely score a run.

“I told the guys the story about Bobby Welch one year had like a 25.00 ERA in spring training and went out and won the Cy Young,” he said of his former A’s teammate. “So spring training doesn’t mean a lot. You want to get ready and obviously you want to have a good spring, but it is what it is. It’s spring training. It’s not the season.”

All-Star changes

Steinbach said this year’s All-Star Game at Target Field will be different from when he appeared in the game, and he thinks the importance of the game now in deciding home-field advantage for the World Series is a nice improvement.

“Back when we played it, was kind of a formality thing and you went out there and wanted to do your best, but it didn’t carry the significance that it does now,” said the 1988 All-Star Game MVP. “It didn’t carry that home-field advantage. I think the importance of that All-Star Game is much greater now with the group of players that are here than what it was when I was there.”

Steinbach, who won a World Series title with Oakland in 1989, said that while winning the MVP award was a highlight of his career, it wasn’t the biggest thing.

“I think it’s a big personal thrill, to have a personal accomplishment like that. But I still think the overall thrill, and you guys experienced it here in Minnesota in ’87 and ’91, when you win that World Series, that’s the ultimate thrill,” he said.

Wild sees Leddy again

The Wild will get plenty of opportunities to see its 2009 first-round draft pick Nick Leddy, the former Gophers defenseman the Wild traded to the Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season along with Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker, as the teams continue their series in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The trade might end up as the worst in Wild history.

Barker, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft, scored 12 points in 71 games over two seasons with the Wild before being placed on waivers and is now playing in the KHL in Russia.

Leddy, who signed a two-year contract extension after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory last year, has thrived and was one of the defensive stars of Game 1 Friday. He also had an assist in the 5-2 victory. He was the third-leading scorer for Chicago defensemen this season with 31 points on seven goals and 24 assists.

Jottings

ESPN recently predicted the Gophers football team will finish fifth in the Big Ten West. They had the Gophers finishing 5-7 overall and wrote, “Minnesota is projected to slip from last season’s eight-win campaign not due to any one particular factor, but the combination of elements in the projection formula. … Their recruiting rankings haven’t dramatically improved, and among the starters they are looking to replace is the quarterback.”

Former Gophers defenseman Erik Johnson was nearly the hero of the Wild-Avalanche series when he scored his first career playoff goal with less than eight minutes left to give Colorado its fourth one-goal lead of Game 7 on Wednesday night, but the Wild completed a historic comeback to move on.

• Former Holy Angels receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. was in town this past week to deliver free Lenovo computer tablets to children at Adelante College Prep in Minneapolis. The Arizona Cardinals star will do the same thing this week at a school in Phoenix.

Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones will get one of his first tests in a Duke uniform when the Blue Devils play at Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Dec. 3. … Rochester Mayo power forward Dan Jech is playing AAU ball with the Minneapolis Cyclones and made a nice impression with a double-double at the Jayhawk Invitational in Kansas. … Highly recruited Grand Rapids forward Alex Illikainen got a scholarship offer from Providence, where his sister Molly plays hockey. Gophers coach Richard Pitino and assistant Ben Johnson have attended a lot of Illikainen’s games.

The Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center expansion opens Monday in Rochester. Michael Stuart, the co-director of the center, told the Post-Bulletin newspaper that the Mayo building on Block E that’s being built with the Timberwolves will be a similar, impressive space.

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