Justin Morneau was at his Lake Minnetonka home earlier this month when he received a message from Dustin Morse, Twins director of baseball communications.
“Pick up the phone,” it read.
The 2006 AL MVP knew something was up then. But even though he attempted to prepare himself for the moment, when Rod Carew calls it’s hard to get over the fact that Rod Carew is calling.
So Morneau battled bouts of shock and euphoria as Carew welcomed him into the Twins Hall of Fame.
“Just to hear him on the other end of the phone saying, ‘Welcome to the Hall of Fame,’ ” Morneau said. “It’s one of the conversations when I said thank you over and over. What do you say? One of the greatest players in the history of the game calling to tell you that you are going into the team’s Hall of Fame is just unreal.”
Morneau will become the 34th member of the Twins Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on May 23 at Target Field before a game against the White Sox. Morneau finished his career with one season in Chicago on 2016.
The Vancouver-raised Morneau played 11 seasons at first base in Minnesota and retired in 2016 at age 35 after a career partly derailed because of concussions. A four-time All-Star, he won the 2008 Home Run Derby and was a National League batting champion for Colorado in 2014.
“I played one game of junior hockey as a 16-year-old,” Morneau said, who had a tryout with the Portland Winterhawks, a team that included Marian Hossa. “I was supposed to leave home and play for them when I was 17, but I didn’t want to do that. Later on the baseball scouts said that’s the direction I should go, and it worked out.”
He also spoke at length about how much the election of fellow Canadian Larry Walker to the National Baseball Hall of Fame meant to his country.
“If it wouldn’t have been for the success Larry was having in the 1990s, I don’t know if teams would have sent scouts out to places where I played,” said Morneau, who plans to attend Walker’s induction in Cooperstown in July. “You don’t know how much that means for Canada to see him go into the Hall of Fame.”
When asked if there’s a chance Walker would show up for his ceremony, Morneau smirked and said: “I was going to ask him, but I think he’s going to be a little busy this summer.”
Get ready to see more of Morneau on Twins broadcasts this season.
Morneau said he’s scheduled to work 60 games this season, as his young career as a television analyst has received good reviews.
Hall of Famer and longtime FSN analyst Bert Blyleven is scheduled to do 30 games this season, as part of a plan in 2018 to reduce his games from 80 that season to 50 in 2019 then 30 this season.
Interest in Walker
The Twins are finalizing their list of nonroster invites to spring training. One pitcher they are interested in bringing in is a former highly touted righthander: Taijuan Walker.
Walker, 27, has thrown just 14 innings over the past two seasons because of Tommy John surgery in April 2018. He was picked 43rd overall by the Mariners in 2010, and touched 98 miles per hour before surgery.
The Twins view him as a bounce-back candidate who could help the rotation while Michael Pineda serves his suspension for taking a banned substance and Rich Hill completes his rehabilitation from elbow surgery. Walker would have to prove his health first, then work on his command and secondary pitches, issues he dealt with before he was injured.
Walker is 31-31 with a 3.95 ERA in 97 career games, 94 of them starts.
The Twins hoped for 2.25 million fans in 2018 but drew 1.9 million. They hoped for 2 million last season, but the birth of the Bomba Squad led to 2.29 million fans entering Target Field.
This season, team President Dave St. Peter said Friday that the goal is to top 2.3 million fans in 2020.
St. Peter also said season ticket renewals are running around 90 percent, up from last season. And they expect more than 13,000 season tickets to be sold, a 15% increase from 2019.
• Righthander Ryne Harper was designated for assignment Friday to make room for Josh Donaldson on the 40-man roster.