BOSTON - Induction into the Hall of Fame is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for a ballplayer, Paul Molitor said Friday, and Jack Morris and Alan Trammell mean a lot to him. So being there on his friends’ big day was always something that felt right to him.
But missing a couple of Twins games? Now that it’s here, that won’t be easy.
“It’s very odd,” Molitor said. “It’s an awkward thing to walk out for a day or two and just not be here. I know it’s in good hands, it’s just something I haven’t done.”
The Twins manager will depart Saturday morning for Cooperstown, N.Y., about a 4½-hour drive from Boston, in order to be on the dais with his fellow Hall of Famers during Sunday’s ceremonies. He considered remaining for Saturday night’s game in Fenway Park, but that would have meant arriving around 4 a.m.
“When I talked to [Twins President] Dave St. Peter about that option, he was pretty adamant to say, ‘You don’t want to try to endure that and see how you come out on the back end of it come Monday,” Molitor said. “As well as the fact that they want me to be able to at least enjoy a little bit of the time there, which will come down to about 30 hours, in and out.”
Molitor didn’t announce his planned departure to the players, he said, but most of them know anyway. “They’ve been kind of kidding me about it this week,” he said.
Bench coach Derek Shelton will be in charge of the team during Molitor’s excused absence. A former minor league catcher in his first season with the Twins, Shelton managed the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League rookie team in 2000-01, and the Class A Staten Island Yankees in 2002 before working as a coach with the Indians, Rays and Blue Jays.
So he’s no rookie at this. But just in case, Molitor said, “we’ve been talking about it this week. Some lineups and some things we have in place for the next couple of days.”
Molitor has known Morris since they played ball together “on the playgrounds of St. Paul,” he said, yet their friendship “has probably grown more since we retired than during the time we had as teammates. [He’s] just a guy that I have a lot of respect for, a guy that I’ve been pulling for, in terms of this particular honor for a long time.”
Molitor hit .320 against his fellow Minnesotan during their careers, though he was only 6-for-44 (.136) during his first seven years in the majors. “Early on, I felt like I never got a hit. I kind of made up for it maybe a little bit later on. But he was no fun” to face, Molitor said. “The first couple of times you face somebody you know, there’s a little awkwardness when you get in there, and maybe some smirking going on. But after that, you really don’t think about it. For guys that play, and play to win, that just gets sawed off once the game begins.”
Morris was elected last winter by a 16-member committee after failing to receive 75 percent support from the Baseball Writers Association of America for 15 years. Molitor made it clear he believes the old-timers got it right.
“Most people that played in his generation and competed against him are convinced that this should have happened sooner than it did,” the manager said. “But it’s good that it’s happening, and to have a chance to be there and stand and clap my hands for him, I’m looking forward to it.”