Justin Morneau came to Minnesota as a teenager — 14 or 15 — for a hockey tournament. He stayed at the University of Minnesota and, with his time off, he attended a Twins game at the Metrodome, sitting in left field.
At the time, he still thought he was going to be a hockey player. He could never have imagined then that he would one day play for the Twins, much less that he would one day be inducted into the team’s hall of fame.
But here he is, at age 40, about to experience just that. The ceremony will be held ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field after COVID-19 postponed it for more than a year.
“This is a franchise with a long, proud history and great players, lots of numbers retired up on the wall, lots of National Baseball Hall of Famers,” Morneau said. “To be in a Hall of Fame that includes Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven, Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett — if you go down the list of the greatest Twins in history, to be amongst them is a very special, humbling honor.”
Morneau will have plenty of friends and family in attendance when he becomes the 34th person ever to be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. He saw his father for the first time in nearly two years on Friday, enjoying a golf outing with him. His mother, who had only been in town once in the last year and a half, will also be on hand.
He’s excited for his five kids, especially the younger ones who don’t remember his playing days, to have a chance to see him on the field again. And he’s looking forward to sharing it all with friends, former teammates and mentors from throughout his life and playing career.
“They said that I invited more former players and the longest guest list they’ve ever had for this thing,” Morneau said. “I figured about half the people would say yes and show up. I guess a lot more people are more bored than that. … It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to share a moment like this in a stadium full of people.”
Twins starting pitcher Michael Pineda is one of just 32 pitchers who can boast that they faced both Vladimir Guerrero and his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s a fact that says more about a pitcher’s longevity than anything.
Guerrero retired after the 2011 season — and has since been inducted into the Hall of Fame — and Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays’ star, debuted in 2019 and is an American League Most Valuable Player candidate.
“I faced the Vladdy Daddy and the Vladdy Junior. This, for me, is a great thing in my career and in my life,” Pineda said. “It’s a great moment when facing Vladdy Junior, with the numbers he has this season. This is, for me, wow. I enjoy the moment.”
So, which Vlad is harder to face? For most pitchers, Pineda included, both are a challenge.
Vlad Sr. finished his career 2 for 3 against Pineda. Vlad Jr. is 2 for 5 against Pineda with a home run, as well as a walk.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said rookie starter Joe Ryan has left the team to fly back to California to deal with a family-related matter. Baldelli said they think Ryan might be back on Sunday, but it’s possible that that will affect how they line up their rotation over the next handful of days. … Max Kepler was out of the starting lineup with a non-COVID-related illness after being removed early from Thursday night’s game for the same reason. Baldelli said it’s possible Kepler might not start on Saturday, either, as the Twins give him time to recuperate.