With baseball’s All-Star Game coming up at Target Field in less than two weeks, Paul Molitor, who made the American League All-Star roster seven times, was asked if any one stood out for him.
“I didn’t get a lot of playing time in those games,” Molitor said. “But I think the highlight for me was coming back here to play in the Metrodome when I was with the Brewers in 1985. It was a chance for Dave Winfield and Jack Morris and myself all to represent the American League and all being from St. Paul and playing in an All-Star Game in our hometown. That was probably my most special All-Star appearance.”
Molitor struck out swinging in his only plate appearance that game, to end the seventh inning against Fernando Valenzuela, leaving Jim Rice stranded on third in the National League’s 6-1 victory.
Asked if players truly look forward to the game, Molitor said: “You know, it’s a special event. I think it’s probably the best of all the professional sport All-Star Games. It comes right in the middle of the season and it’s really highlighted by Major League Baseball and it is always special with our players to have a chance to participate. They’ve added the incentive of home-field advantage for the World Series — which is probably debatable to some degree, but at least it puts a little incentive on the game.”
Molitor said the home-field advantage angle has made the game more competitive and that players now try harder to win.
“I think they do [try to win],” Molitor said. “I think we got away from that for a while, guys were just kind of using it more as a showcase, which it still is, but now I think the competitiveness of the game, the intensity of the game has picked up since[Commissioner Bud] Selig implemented the World Series perk at the end.”
Does Molitor think that home-field advantage in the World Series is a good thing to tie to the All-Star Game result?
“I think [Selig] realized after the tie they had back in Milwaukee in 2002 with teams running out of players [after 11 innings] and having to play a tie, that we had to find a way to spice the game up a little bit, so he made that decision. I think the players go along with it,” said Molitor, who played for Selig’s Brewers from 1978 to 1992.
Asked if he is looking forward to this year’s game, July 15 at Target Field, the St. Paul native and former Gophers star said: “It will be exciting. I’m excited for the state of Minnesota and the Twin Cities and of course our organization and our tremendous ballpark to kind of show what kind of baseball community we are. I think all the people here will really enjoy the All-Star experience.”
Molitor turned down several offers to coach for other major league clubs before joining the Twins staff under manager Ron Gardenhire this year after working in the minors.
“It has been a great move,” he said. “I really enjoy working for Gardy and with the rest of the staff. Things have been a little bit rough as of late, but overall I think we have some players that are starting to establish themselves at this level. All of us as coaches are trying to find a way to make these guys better every day.”
Asked if he regretted turning down his previous opportunities, Molitor said: “Not really. I try to stay in the moment and look to the future. The minor league roving job was something I really enjoyed, and it was great to have a chance to influence young players. But the time seemed right this time to take advantage of the opportunity that Terry Ryan and Gardy had provided to me and come to the major league level.”
The Twins have really struggled of late, though they got a big victory over the Yankees on Saturday, winning 2-1 in 11 innings.
“We’re heading into a tough stage and playing some good teams,” Molitor said. “We’ve competed really well, I think, over the first 80 games. The last couple of weeks, as I mentioned, have been a little tougher to find ways to win.”
Tough raising money
The $190 million fundraising campaign to improve the Gophers athletics facilities apparently is going to take time.
If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t be making the temporary improvements to the gym and locker rooms at the Bierman Building for the Gophers men’s basketball team, or similar temporary improvements to the football coaches’ offices in the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex, or some of the other minor facility upgrades currently underway.
Then you also have the $8 million the Gophers are trying to raise for improvements to Mariucci Arena.
The word on the street is that athletic director Norwood Teague has a good chance to get large sums of money from Land O’Lakes, 3M and possibly Cargill. But no one has come up as a major contributor to provide for the big needs of the facilities, improvements that would enable Gophers to compete in recruiting with schools that have an advantage.
• Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders was asked what is being done to keep Nikola Pekovic healthy next season. “We’re really trying to get a handle on his foot,” Saunders said. “People have to understand that over the first 41 games [last season] he was one of the top three centers in the league. We’re trying to get his foot right. What we’ve done is he’s seen doctors, seen some therapists, we’re making great progress. He went out to Nike actually, and they went through and fitted him with his own shoe out there. This summer, he has taken the time off to rehab his foot, so hopefully he’s able to play 82 games with us next year.”
• Saunders said Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, who was in Brazil for soccer’s World Cup, will play for host Spain and the renamed FIBA World Cup for basketball in August. Kevin Love is expected to again be on Team USA, as he was at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey and the 2012 London Olympics.
• Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who signed as a free agent from the Giants, talked about how he will fit on his new defense. “More as a run stopper,” he said. “Go inside, play a shade, stop the run and let the guys on the outside get some sacks.”
• Nobody involved with the Twins could remember when they had two former Yankees on their roster like they do at present with pitcher Phil Hughes and utility man Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees let Hughes depart as a free agent and placed Nunez on waivers.
• There are four Minnesota high school hockey players with the U.S. under-18 squad for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup Aug. 11-16 in the Czech Republic and Slovakia: Brock Boeser (Burnsville), Nick Swaney (Lakeville South), Tommy Novak (St. Thomas Academy) and Jacob Olson (Hill-Murray).