Molitor mourns loss of Gwynn

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 17, 2014 - 4:37 PM

The Twins coach said it was "a tough day'' after learning about the death of the fellow Hall of Famer.

hide

Tony Gwynn (second row, far right) and Paul Molitor (next to Gwynn) were part of 3,000-hit club that gathered for a photo prior to attending an autograph and memorabilia show in 1999. The rest of the club included, front row, from left: Al Kaline, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron; middle row, Rod Carew, Lou Brock, Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Molitor and Gwynn; and back row, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Robin Yount and George Brett.

Photo: Donna Connor, Associated Press file photo

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Only 18 men in baseball history own more hits than Tony Gwynn. One of them was in the Twins clubhouse Monday, mourning his old friend.

“It’s a tough day,” said Twins coach Paul Molitor, who was enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2004, three years before Gwynn. “He was a very humble guy. Obviously very talented, but in times like this, you think more about the man than [his] ability. He was a gracious guy who gave back to his community throughout his career, and seemed to keep great balance in his life.”

Being in different leagues, Molitor never played against Gwynn, who died of cancer Monday at the age of 54, except in All-Star Games and during spring training. But Molitor used to spend several months each winter in San Diego, where he befriended a hitter as accomplished as himself. He and Gwynn played golf, shot hoops and talked baseball.

“I picked his brain a few times,” Molitor said of the eight-time batting champion, whose 3,141 career hits were 178 shy of his own. “I used to like to get out there and watch guys take batting practice,” and Gwynn was one of his favorites.

“You play third base and Tony Gwynn’s at bat, you move to the 5-hole and he hits it down the line. You move to the line and he hits it 5-hole. I know it wasn’t easy, but sometimes he made it look easy,” Molitor said. “He had a little bit of power, but mostly he just knew how to get the barrel on the ball. A great athlete.”

Joe Mauer, a lefthanded-hitting, line-drive hitter himself, owns three batting titles, and said it’s a little staggering to consider the sheer size of Gwynn’s legacy. “You admire guys like that — from line to line, he could put the bat on the ball anywhere,” Mauer said. “He was a tough out, one of the greatest hitters to play the game.”

When the Twins were in San Diego last month, Molitor visited with John Boggs, who in addition to being Gwynn’s agent “is probably one of my best friends.” Boggs told him that cancer was ravaging their mutual friend. “Just suffering a lot, so there’s kind of some peace” in that coming to an end, Molitor said. “But it’s been a tough chapter the last several months for Tony. Obviously, I’m praying for his family and all the people who love him out there in California.”

One man’s rust …

Stephen Drew entered Monday’s game with just three hits in 18 at-bats (.167) for the Red Sox since signing as a midseason free agent late last month. That’s the shake-the-rust experience the Twins expected when they signed Kendrys Morales 10 days ago. Instead, they have received a hitting performance that is ... well, how would you describe it, Kendrys?

“It’s incredible,” Morales said. “Yes, I’m surprised, because six months is too long not to play baseball.”

That’s what the Twins thought, too. Manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t expect Morales to fit into the middle of the lineup right away, but the Cuban slugger talked him into it after sitting on the bench his first day. The next day? He started lining the ball all over the field.

“It’s amazing. I know he’s a veteran, I know he’s been there and done it,” Gardenhire said. “But when you sit out a long time, it’s not that easy. And he’s sure made it look easy.”

Without the benefit of winter ball, spring training, or any major league pitching since last September, Morales collected a hit in each of his first six games before going hitless Monday, leaving his average at .310.

“I’ve played seven years [in the majors] — this is the best start I’ve had, the best I’ve felt,” Morales said. “Right now, my timing is pretty good. I’m making good contact.”

Even so, Morales believes he’ll become a better hitter as the season goes on. “It’s probably two months until [I] feel like normal year,” he said. “I go up, up, up, I hope.”

Almost time for Nunez

Eduardo Nunez has a big day planned Tuesday, the last game he will miss, he hopes, with a strained right hamstring.

After another day of treatment Monday — massage, stretching, and “the machine,” as he calls it, a device that stimulates the tissue — he pronounced himself nearly healed from the injury he suffered while beating out an infield hit Saturday in Detroit.

“I feel better today. A little tight, just a little, but getting better,” Nunez said. “Tomorrow, I’ll run outside, run some stairs, run the bases.”

His planned return? “I hope I can play the last day here [Wednesday],” he said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 55 3rd Qtr 9:03
Boston 69
Philadelphia 46 3rd Qtr
Indiana 59
Portland 64 3rd Qtr
Sacramento 50
Charlotte 43 3rd Qtr
Orlando 42
Oklahoma City 34 2nd Qtr 9:23
LA Lakers 23
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 2 3rd Prd 8:40
Florida 4
Columbus 2 3rd Prd 11:47
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 1st Prd 13:38
Washington 1
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 35 2nd Half
Wake Forest 37
Oregon 13 1st Half 11:25
Stanford 16
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 2nd Half 0:16
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which Twins player are you most interested in during spring training?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close