The heroes of the 2008 Minnesota Twins

Published 8:24 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

There are many kinds of heroes. There are immediate heroes, such as a person catching a baby falling from a third story window. Policeman, fireman and soldiers easily fall into this category.

There are fathers who are heroes to their son or daughter. This is achieved by being a decent, fair and loving man. Such hero status is easily gained and not so easily lost, but it can happen. Then there are heroes that gained that distinction by striving for many years to try to do the right thing for a group or country, sometimes at personal sacrifice. George Washington comes to mind.

I think also there can be heroes on a baseball team — at least to fans that root for them. One learns the character of a team and individual players as you watch them over a 162-game season. That’s not even counting spring training and postseason.

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There are heroes on our Minnesota Twins. Joe Mauer comes to mind, although it has been somewhat fashionable to disparage Joe. We have the tendency to build up a hero and then tear him down. (He hits into far too many double plays.)

We have to sit back, look at Joe and realize what he brings to the Twins. Perhaps the biggest plus, but most difficult to quantify, is the job he does behind the plate. The pitch calls, the blocked wild pitches and the base stealing discouragement. Mauer could hit 100 points lower and still be a starter. He plays the most difficult position on the field and bats third. What more can you ask?

A couple of years ago I interviewed the Twins’ batboy and asked him who he liked best on the team. He said that he really couldn’t answer that type of question. I then asked him who he thought were the nicest guys on the team. He said, Joe Mauer, he’s a nice guy and doesn’t change from day to day. When you think of some of the other teams and their star’s attitudes, we are fortunate to have Joe. He is a Twins’ hero.

Another hero is an easy choice. Justin Morneau is in a slump and it’s easy to criticize him until one realizes that he carried the team the whole season. He has come through time after time and if it wasn’t for Morneau the team would be a .500 ball club, fighting for second place.

Justin has to be tired. He has played in every game and given his all, but he is still running to first base as hard as he can. How many big leaguers do that, particularly a star of Morneau’s magnitude. What a great example he is to youngsters, not only on the team, but those watching.

Another hero is Nick Punto. I know I have been hard on Nick, called him a showboat and said that he made difficult plays look harder in order to be cheered. I’ve changed my mind after the Chicago series. He made a great play in a crucial situation when he noticed second base was not covered and threw to first. A good play and a smart play. We all know that Alexi Casilla got the game-winning hit, but Punto was the man he knocked in after walking and working his way to third. He proved to me that he was willing to look bad to make the team look good. You can’t ask anybody to try harder than Nick Punto.

There are many heroes on the team this year — Carlos Gomez when he could have lost heart and didn’t. He continued to play with great enthusiasm. He is one of many others and you could say that the Twins are a team of heroes. My hat is off to them.