Kurt Suzuki walked into the home clubhouse at Target Field early Wednesday and immediately took a right. Eduardo Escobar was sitting parallel to a locker and Suzuki gave him a gentle slap to the back of the head.
“It’s too early, man … 9:21,” said Escobar, pointing to the large digital clock across the room. “Get a cup of coffee first.”
Escobar had played left field in Tuesday night’s rain-delayed game, slid around on the wet warning track and played David Ortiz’s second-inning fly ball into a double. The fact that Ortiz eventually scored Boston’s lone run in the Twins’ 2-1 victory made Escobar’s adventure fair game Wednesday morning.
“Are you playing today?” Suzuki asked.
Escobar hung his head in dramatic concern and said: “I don’t know, man … I don’t know.”
Suzuki said: “Be sure to wear spikes. Don’t put on ice skates again.”
A couple of minutes earlier, Escobar had labeled the catcher as his “best friend” in a conversation with a reporter and Twins director of communications Dustin Morse.
Suzuki was asked where Escobar rates with him in the circle of baseball friendship.
“One … uno,” he said, with another slap to the back of Escobar’s head.
On Sunday, the Twins were late in an 8-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago. The Fox Sports North cameras pointed into the visitor’s dugout and there was chaos surrounding Escobar.
He was sitting on the bench in the middle of what appeared to be a five-sided conversation, with slaps, punches, artificial frowns and sincere laughter.
That’s what takes place almost constantly with Escobar, 26, small in stature and an infielder by training.
Escobar grew up in poverty in Venezuela, so naturally his favorite music comes from the movie “Top Gun.”
Escobar has been known to roll up to the Twins’ spring training complex in Florida with Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” or Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” blasting on his vehicle’s sound system.
“I love those songs,” he said.
This odd musical taste for a young man from Palo Negro, Venezuela, comes from Escobar’s attempt to familiarize himself with English when he first came to play in the States for the White Sox organization in 2008.
“I watched Top Gun all the time … I watched a lot of movies,” he said.
Another favorite was the original “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Escobar said.
Kenny Loggins for music. Captain Jack Sparrow for English. Who is this character?
“He’s one of the very best teammates I’ve ever had,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “He’s full of more energy than any player you’re going to find. Watch him in batting practice. He’s either hitting or dancing.
“He has these catchphrases that might not seem like much on the surface. Yet, when Eddie says them over and over, in that broken English, everyone cracks up.”
The unexpected slap on the back of Escobar’s head or the soft punch brings a cry of “Are you serious?” On the bench, he offers “come on” in a high-pitched series intended as encouragement for teammates.
Escobar’s “come on” became so familiar with the Twins that former manager Ron Gardenhire was known to mimic it in conversation.
“Eduardo takes a lot of grief from his teammates, but I don’t think you can do anything to take the smile away from that kid,” current manager Paul Molitor said.
There is one thing: cats.
“Eddie doesn’t like cats,” Morse said. “And he doesn’t like anything that reminds him of cats.”
Of course, that means any cat knickknack found by a teammate is likely to wind up in Escobar’s vicinity.
What’s with you and cats, Eduardo?
“Someone told you about me and cats?” he said. “I don’t know, man … I don’t want to be near them. I was going to where Rod Carew was staying in Florida this spring. There was this cat walking around outside.”
Escobar put his hands three feet apart and said, “It was this big. I was scared.”
The Twins traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox on July 28, 2012, for Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez (now with the St. Paul Saints). Escobar was batting .207 in limited duty in Chicago, yet the White Sox players were saddened by his departure.
When the Twins were in Chicago last weekend, the White Sox approached Escobar one after another for conversation, laughs and mutual agitation.
Torii Hunter, back in the outfield for the Twins, and Eddie Guardado, the new bullpen coach, were vital parts of the Turnaround Twins of 2001-03 — the bunch that changed the franchise’s fate and did so in a clubhouse filled with good-natured chaos.
Would Escobar have fit in that group?
“He would’ve been in the middle of everything,” Hunter said. “Him and [Corey] Koskie and Papi [David Ortiz] and the rest of us … I can only imagine.”
Guardado took a sip of his morning coffee, smiled and said: “Perfect. Escobar would’ve been perfect. He loves to play and loves to have fun. And that’s what it’s all about.”
There’s also family. Escobar has a new baby, giving him three sons: Raul, Eduardo Jr. and Jose Manuel.
“Second base, third base and shortstop,” he said.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org