One of the great moves the Twins made in the offseason was when they hired former Twins pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, who has done a great job as an analyst on the FSN broadcasts and from a public relations standpoint, as a special assistant for the organization.
But maybe the biggest thing he has contributed has been advising Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey to make Royce Lewis the No. 1 overall pick. Lewis has dominated early and is hitting .308 and leads the Gulf Coast League in runs scored (28), is third in stolen bases (eight), and his OPS of .895 is sixth overall in the GCL.
And while Lewis has set the world on fire, Hunter Greene, who many believed the Twins should take, hasn’t played in a game yet. Hawkins said he made three trips to see Lewis play during his senior year of high school.
Hawkins described giving his opinion on the morning of the draft and why he thinks the Twins made the right call with Lewis.
“That morning I texted [General Manager] Thad [Levine] and Derek,” Hawkins said. “Derek had asked me who I thought we should take No. 1, not saying that he put a lot into my pick, but my choice was Royce Lewis.
“I texted him that Monday morning, and that’s who we went with later that afternoon. I was just impressed with Royce and the way he played the game. I saw him three times. Like I said, I saw him get one hit but I saw him take very good, professional at-bats. His approach to the game wasn’t like a 17- or 18-year-old kid, he was already a professional. You don’t find that that often with guys that young.”
An interesting side note to Hawkins and Lewis was that Hawkins and Torii Hunter, who has also made tremendous contributions to the Twins this season in the same role as Hawkins, had gotten to know Lewis’ father, William, in 2012 while with the Los Angeles Angels.
“I knew his dad from the Winery over in Irvine, California,” Hawkins said about the restaurant where William is a part-owner and sommelier. “I used to live over there, and Torii and I, when I played with the Angels, used to go into his restaurant and eat. He never told us his son was a baseball player. That’s how I got a chance to know his dad.
“I didn’t get a chance to meet Royce until that Friday when he was in Minneapolis. I was checking out of the hotel and he and his mom and dad were down in the lobby. I had a chance to check out and sit down and chat with the young man very briefly. I think we made the best decision. He was clearly the best guy at that spot for us, and what he can bring to the Twins organization is hopefully a perennial All-Star.”
Twins meet Fleck
Twins President and Chief Executive Officer Dave St. Peter recently brought Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck to meet with members of the Twins organization as a motivational speaker.
And St. Peter said it was a great experience and he was very impressed.
“The Twins for many years have had a program called T.C. University, assisting all employees with their consistent development and growth, and we invite speakers from outside of our organization,” St. Peter said. “In the past we have had Jerry Kill and Harvey Mackay and recently we had St. Thomas coach Glen Caruso, and we were honored to have P.J. Fleck.
“He came in and told his story and coached us up, so to speak, shared his vision for the University of Minnesota football program and what ‘Row The Boat’ means and all of those things. It was fun.”
St. Peter said something stood out about Fleck.
“He brings tremendous energy,” he said. “I think there is more buzz around University of Minnesota football than there has been for a long time. I think P.J. Fleck’s presence here is a big part of that. I think it will continue. He’s a salesman. He has a reality TV show coming out on ESPN. Again I think these are all things that are going to help them connect with a younger generation of fans and certainly future recruits.”
Was St. Peter impressed?
“I’ve met P.J. a couple of times, but seeing him present the way he did, it was impressive,” he said of the Gophers’ 36-year-old coach. “You can particularly see how it could be impactful with young men. He’s a leader. There’s no doubt in my mind that that younger generation is going to follow.”
Yes, Fleck has certainly put Minnesota football on the map.
Is Moreau done?
Justin Morneau reached four All-Star Games, won a batting title, an MVP and two Silver Slugger awards. Still after two injury-shortened, if successful, seasons in 2015 and 2016, he didn’t find a playing home in 2017. He was asked if he has reached the end of his career.
“I haven’t completely decided if it’s over or not; sometimes that gets decided for you,” Morneau said. “But the experience of being able to be on winning teams and be on playoff teams is the thing I’ll remember the most, I think.”
Morneau is three seasons removed from hitting .319, which led the NL, with 17 homers, 82 RBI and 62 runs scored for the Rockies.
Can he still play?
“I think if you asked me that question in 10 years I would think I could still play,” the first baseman said. “But it doesn’t matter if I think I can, it matters if teams think I can. We’ll see if anything comes my way this winter, but I don’t know. If it doesn’t it’s been a good run, for sure.”
When asked if it’s difficult to understand why a team wouldn’t take a chance on him, Morneau said he’s simply happy to have played.
“It has to end at some point,” he said. “We all can’t work until we’re 95 or 96, so we’re all not that lucky. But you know I was lucky enough to get even one day in the big leagues. It’s a blessing to get to go out there and do something you love for a long time.”
Yes, Morneau had an incredible career and is an all-time Twins player. But, like Joe Mauer, it’s hard not to wonder what-if when it comes to Morneau’s concussion injuries starting in 2010 when he slid into second base in Toronto and got kneed in the head.
Morneau was hitting .345 with 18 homers, 56 RBI, 53 runs scored and a career high 1.055 OPS through 81 games when that injury happened. He was one of the great young, durable first basemen in baseball.
He battled back to play some great baseball but was traded by the Twins in 2013. Still, he said Minnesota will always be home.
“My wife is from here, my kids were born here. It will always be home for us,” Morneau said. “I’ll always be a Twin. That’s one of those things that that’s my team, my kids’ team, it’ll always be a part of me.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org