Two guitars featuring personalized autographs from rock stars hang on the wall. Smoke gusts in from the party next door.
It’s not Snoop Dogg’s dressing room. It’s Paul Molitor’s redecorated Target Field office, the rare place where the Rock and Roll and Baseball Halls of Fame commingle, and where smoke is the result of the world’s first baseball dance parties.
“Molly is definitely the coolest manager to play for,” Torii Hunter said.
Saturday morning, Molitor talked about the guitars, gifts from Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder. Saturday afternoon, he managed the Twins to another victory at Target Field, 6-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays. Saturday night, he planned to attend the Billy Joel concert at Target Center, the result of his connections with Springsteen.
While Molitor and Springsteen haven’t stayed in touch, Molitor still speaks with Springsteen’s guitar tech, Kevin Buell. A bunch of Springsteen’s roadies, including one nicknamed “Chainsaw,” are in town with Joel, and they called Kevin to invite Molitor to the concert.
This just in: Molitor is cooler than me, you and probably anyone you know.
“Last time I saw Billy Joel, he comes out to do ‘Piano Man’ for the encore, and there’s Chainsaw, walking out to the microphone to grab the harmonica, and he throws it to me,” Molitor said, chuckling. “So I’ve got a ‘Piano Man’ harmonica, and five or six from Bruce, and a couple from Eddie.”
Molitor glanced at the guitars and said, “I might have to put the harmonicas up there, too.”
Given the early returns, he might need to leave some room for plaques. As the Twins near the quarter pole, they are better than expected for unexpected reasons. If they can remain competitive until Ervin Santana, Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano can contribute, this could become the Twins’ first worthwhile summer in six years.
“It’s interesting to play for somebody that I played with,” Hunter said. “I learned a lot from playing with him, and watching him play, and having him in spring training. This guy has just poured knowledge into me. He’s one of those guys who gave it back. Coming here to play for him is pretty cool.”
Molitor has avoided the common pitfall of managers and coaches who were great players. He has not pretended that his current players should be able to do what he did.
“He played so long and got so many hits and played so many years and had so many failures, he understands, and has patience,” Hunter said. “He never forgets. He always talked about that — ‘I will never forget how hard this game is.’ All he asks is that you play hard, grind, fight, and if he sees that, he has no problem with you win or lose. That’s what I love about him.”
Hunter didn’t know about the guitars. Both are Fender Telecasters. The yellow one is signed by Springsteen. The one that looks like it survived a house fire is a Joe Strummer signature model and is signed by Vedder.
During his playing career, Molitor became friends with Springsteen. When he finished playing, he even traveled around Europe following a Springsteen tour.
Once in New York, when Molitor was playing for the Twins, he asked manager Tom Kelly if he wanted to meet “The Boss.” Kelly declined.
Later, Kelly saw Molitor speaking with Springsteen and realized he had made a terrible mistake.
“He thought I meant George Steinbrenner,” Molitor said.
Once a clubhouse attendant at old Milwaukee County Stadium came up to Molitor after a game and said he had a visitor, a famous pop star, at the door. Molitor turned to a writer and said, “Too bad it’s not Springsteen.”
“He’s Springsteen everything,” Hunter said.
Hunter didn’t know, though, that two guitars hang in Molitor’s office.
“I don’t go in his office,” Hunter said. “It’s the principal’s office. I do know that his wife decorated it. His wife is the creative one.”
The Twins lost six of their first seven games. They are 20-10 since. The husband has done some creative things in that office, too.