Rocco Baldelli held his first press conference on Friday in nearly a week. It was a meaty one, as nearly a quarter of his Twins roster was off on rehabilitation assignments in St. Paul and a room full of intrepid reporters needed updates.
Baldelli was stumped when someone asked what would happen to outfielder Byron Buxton after Sunday, when the minor league season ends, while he still needs rehab games.
"What day is it today?" the Twins manager asked. When told it was Friday, he leaned back in his chair. "Oh, shoot. Honest to God, I had no idea."
Baldelli's desk included caps, notes, air freshener, a soccer ball, coffee mugs, reporters' recording devices and an explanation for his absent-mindedness.
A cigar. And a quality cigar at that: a Rocky Patel model.
"Is that a good one?" Baldelli asked a cigar aficionado in his office. The answer was "yes," and Baldelli looked forward to lighting up the present he received for becoming a father for the second — and third — time.
This cigar tradition recently has been twisted; instead of the proud papa handing out stogies, some now receive them. But this gift-giver should have handed Rocco two cigars, one for each of the boys his wife, Allie, gave birth to on Sunday.
Welcome, Enzo. Welcome, Nino.
Much later Friday, Baldelli had a second reason to celebrate inside Target Field: A victory over the Angels made his Twins the American League Central champions. Champagne to go along with his cigar.
Yes, the Twins manager is now managing twins, in addition to 2-year-old daughter Louisa. Louisa became a media star earlier in the season when she repeatedly handed him baseballs during his postgame press conference. Now she has two brothers.
There is a wash, rinse, repeat feel to a baseball season. The routine of early batting practice, regular batting practice, fielding work, bullpen sessions, national anthem, walkup music, pitching moves, seventh inning stretch, stepping on sunflower seed shells in the dugout, grabbing the home run vest and being invaded by the media horde after games is part of baseball's unique rhythm.
There is no better reason to have this routine upended — and be reminded of life's priorities — than family expansion. Buxton, Griffin Jax and Willi Castro left the team this season to be present for babies being born, and now it was Baldelli's turn.
Did you really not know what day it was, skip?
"I have no concept of what is going on," Baldelli said. "In the night-is-day and day-is-night sense. I wore the same clothes for four days. I'm picking up dinner at places in the same area and walking around with the same clothes on."
The Twins were in Chicago and facing the White Sox when Baldelli was summoned back to the Twin Cities on Sept. 16. He basically moved into Abbott Northwestern for a few days to join Allie, who remained in the hospital for a time after giving birth. Papa Baldelli logged long hours at the hospital before heading home to be with Louisa. Baldelli called it the one-two zone: one child at home, two at the hospital.
Baldelli was able to watch every game while he was away and remained in contact with the coaching staff to craft lineups while receiving updates on players. Watching games on television when he had a vested interest, he discovered, was tougher than being in the dugout.
Meanwhile, the Twins threatened to win the AL Central title while he was at the Mother Baby Center at Abbott. Celebratory beer and other beverages had been ordered in Cincinnati in case they swept the Reds and clinched the title there. Taking two out of three there wasn't bad. Neither Detroit nor Cleveland lost on Thursday, leaving the magic number at one on Friday. That allowed Baldelli to be with his team — and in front of Twins fans — this weekend for the series against the Angels. That's the way he wanted to clinch: in front of an energized Target Field crowd.
While his cheering section at home had grown by two.
"It's a great week. What else do you want in life?" Baldelli said. "I have two new beautiful baby boys and a team that is playing great baseball right now."