Welcome Back, Ron Gardenhire
After being fired by the Twins following last season, Ron Gardenhire made a surprise visit at Minnesota camp today
Written by Jake Elman
In the footsteps of Bon Jovi, Kanye West, and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy/Sergio Roma/whatever he’s calling himself today, former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made a return home on Tuesday. But, by home, we’re not talking about Germany.
This is the first spring since 2001 that Gardenhire isn’t managing the Minnesota Twins, as the one-time Mets shortstop was let go following his fourth straight sub .500 season in 2011; now, former Twins star Paul Molitor is in charge in Minnesota, trying to bring the team back to the postseason for the first time since 2010. Things were stressful and rough in Gardenhire’s last few seasons, but if today was anything to go by, then things between him and the Twins organization are still good.
Dressed in a W-Stout Blue Devils Dad shirt, golf hat, sunglasses, the watch and what look like cargo shorts with a water bottle in his pocket, the 2010 AL Manager of the Year made a visit to Twins camp in Fort Myers, Florida on Tuesday. Complete with a cigar in his mouth and another cigar in a ziploc bag, Gardenhire was actually down in Florida watching his son, Toby, coach the University of Wisconsin-Stout against the Twins Gulf Coast League team, and then decided to make the short journey over to Twins camp.
“I’ve missed a lot of these guys,” Gardenhire, who managed thirteen years with the Twins from 2002-2014, told the Star Tribune on Tuesday. “It’s great to say hello and see how everyone is doing.”
Spring training visits by former players and coaches are routine, tradition even, but it’s interesting to see the manager who was fired not even six full months ago return to his former team’s camp. There’s often feelings of awkwardness, maybe even a bit of resentment or anger, that can last for years between both the manager and the former employer.
Gardenhire, who has admitted to staying in the background as to not be a distraction for Molitor and the Twins, seems not to have gotten that memo…and all is good. In fact, all’s been good since Gardenhire was fired following the season, as he even attended the press conference that announced his dismissal.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan, a longtime friend of Gardenhire, said at the start of camp that he had a wide range of positions for his former manager would he be interested.
“If he wanted to do something, I’m in. What do you want to do, Gardy? You want to talk to the minor league players? You want to visit the [minor league] affiliates? You want to go out and teach some infield? You want to help this guy with his hitting? He can do a lot of things,” Ryan said a month ago, and it’s hard to find any problem with that. This is one of the most successful managers in franchise history, and they want to keep him in the fold any way that they can.
Good on the Minnesota Twins for maintaining such a good relationship with their former manager, and the same goes for Gardenhire and his former organization. Even if the Twins struggle this year in what appears to be yet another rebuilding year, they can pat themselves on the back for a job well done when it comes to their relationship with the man who managed them for nearly a decade and a half.
If you want to talk baseball, you can tweet me at @JakeElman.