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Payroll: 2014 and moving forward. Time to examine.

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:28 PM
Will Gardy be dismissed? Will he be kept for the final year on his contract? Will the Twins FO let him keep his staff intact if he stays?...
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Trade rumors

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:19 PM
LEN recently wrote that he thought the Twins and Diamondbacks might pursue a trade in the offseason for a pitcher.  MLB traderumors...
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Ryan on Nolasco for 2015

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:11 PM
Apparently Terry Ryan understands the idea of "sunk cost".  From the StarTrib:   “I take exception to that statement. If he’s o...
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Game Thread: Twins v Diamondbacks, 9/22 @ 7:10pm CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:11 PM
Game-time forecast: Clear. Winds blowing from right to left field at 1-5 m.p.h. Temperature around 65.   DIAMONDBACKS: SP, Coll...
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Pinto or Gardy

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:11 PM
Unless I missed an injury, last night Gardy put in Fryer, and not Pinto......if so, I guess this might not be a topic.   It sure app...
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Get to Know: The Mayor, Tommy Watkins

A fan/writer in the stands at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids was watching a group of six or seven Kernels players working in the batting cage on bunting for hits. It was five hours before game time. Manager Jake Mauer was observing. Twins minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman was feeding the pitching machine.

Hitting coach Tommy Watkins was joyfully encouraging the players, but the 34-year-old former Twins infielder put his money where his mouth was. He took a regular spot in the group and managed to bunt the ball three feet in from the third base foul line every time. Only twice did he bunt the ball elsewhere, and those were the two times he pushed a bunt to within two feet of the first base line.

Attached Image: Watkins2014e.jpg

[SIZE=2]all Tommy Watkins photos by Steve Buhr[/SIZE]



All the while, Watkins exuding passion for the game, encouraging the players to work but be sure to have fun as they’re doing it.

As his friend and Kernels manager Jake Mauer said, “I wish these guys would have had a chance to see him play, the energy and how he went about his business, and just his overall attitude to the game. It’s the reason he got there, without a doubt.”

Watkins’ career path has been rather non-traditional. That he became a big leaguers, even if just for two weeks, is remarkable. He grew up in Ft. Myers where baseball can be played all year long. However, it wasn't his lone priority growing up.

Watkins said, "There is a lot of baseball in Florida, but I played football in high school, so I never got a chance to play year round like a lot of people do. I played football and I had a job. I worked in the summer. So I never played in the fall or the summer. I just played during the (high school) baseball season. I actually got a chance my senior year to play in a couple of tournament games, maybe a weekend or two. Now they go every weekend and play all the time. Definitely I think the people in Florida take advantage of being able to play baseball year round."

On the gridiron, Watkins said he played wide receiver and linebacker, "two positions that don't go together."

The Twins used their 38th round pick in June of 1998 on the infielder. He recalled, "I didn't hear much about it. I really didn't have any offers to go to college. I ended up getting a call the day of the draft in school. I had in my mind that I wanted to sign. I thought that's what I wanted to do."

He signed just a couple of days later. "I didn't know much about minor league baseball when I signed. I thought I was going to Minnesota. Little did I know... "

Little did he know the journey he was about to embark on. It began with two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. In 2000, he moved up to Elizabethton, Tennessee. In 2001, he was a 21 year old playing for Quad Cities in the Midwest League. He spent two full seasons with the Ft. Myers Miracle. He spent 2004 and 2005 with the New Britain Rock Cats. He began 2006 back in New Britain before getting a callup to Rochester in mid-June. He became a very popular personality wherever he played.

Attached Image: Watkins2014c.jpg Morrie Silver, who is in the Red Wings front office was happy to talk about Tommy Watkins, "Tommy was known as The Mayor in Rochester. His efforts in the community were truly unbelievable. Besides his countless Little League visits, I remember Tommy coming into our front offices here in Rochester and getting on the phone to sell tickets after bringing our staff Dunkin' Donuts. Tommy cared for everyone in Rochester. It didn't matter who you were. He treated everyone like he was the most important person there. Tommy comes to Thanksgiving at my house and he just brings a different vibe to Rochester. It's truly amazing. When he had his shoulder surgery, he stayed at our house and still did everything he could in the community. Tommy Watkins is a one of a kind. He's the kind of person that doesn't come around."

Similar stories about Watkins are told everywhere he has played or coached.

He spent 2007 with the Red Wings. In early August, he made a phone call to his dad. He recalled, "I wasn't struggling, but I wasn't feeling right at the plate. 'I'm never going to get a chance.' He said 'Just keep playing and having fun.'"

The Red Wings were in Syracuse, and GM Terry Ryan happened to be in town. Watkins and most of his teammates were at the batting cage taking some cuts before the game. The team's trainer came to the cage with a message for the players. They had a team meeting right away. As Watkins tells it, "We used to try to have one once a month. We had a meeting a couple of days before."

They picked up the baseballs and headed to the clubhouse where the manager spoke. As Watkins continued, "Stan (Cliburn), our manager, was talking to everybody about baseball and how time flies. He remembered Barry Bonds in winter ball or something and he had just hit his 650th home run the night before. Terry Ryan's in town, and he's got something he'd like to say to you guys."

Watkins continued to recount the story, "So Terry started talking to us about the Twins organization and how they like to promote from within. He said that Brian Buscher was going going on the DL, and one of you guys is going to the big leagues. It felt like an hour before he said it. So when he said it, my heart just kind of sank. He said, 'Tommy Watkins, you're going to the big leagues.' Everybody in the clubhouse started screaming and yelling and clapping. They all came over and I was just bawling, crying."

Players started yelling, "Speech!"

Watkins acknowledged, "I can't! I couldn't say anything."

Terry Ryan came over to Watkins to congratulate him but also to tell him he wasn't getting called up just to be a big story. "Terry came over and said 'Congratulations, and it'll probably be a big story, you've been in the minor leagues forever. You're going up there to help the team, not to be a story. Don't worry about BP. Get out of here. Go call your dad, your mom and tell them.' So, I called my dad and my mom. I called them both."

This conversation with his father was a little different than the one several days earlier. His father said, "WHAT? You're doing what?"

Ten years in the minor leagues. All those stops. Dream fulfilled. In fact, he contributed to the team. After pinch-hitting in his debut, and going 0-3 two days later against the Angels, he made a start on August 15th in Seattle. He went 2-4. His first hit came off of Jarrod Washburn. "It was the first pitch. It was up. It was my second at-bat. Fastball up, and I hit it to centerfield."

He went on to start the next six games at third base and had at least one hit in each of them. Unfortunately, an injury put him on the disabled list and ended his season. In his nine games, he went 10-28 and hit .357/.438/.357 (.795).

He didn't get back to the big leagues again, but he knew what he wanted to do after his playing career.

"I played two more years after that year in AAA. The playing time went down a lot. I always knew when I got done playing that I wanted to coach. So, I think it was an easy transition for me to go from player to coach. I knew if I ever got the chance to coach third base, I would. I ended up going down to Florida in August and helped Jake out with the GCL. At night, I would go over to the Florida State League games. So I was doing both of those things for a month. I really got to see another part of the baseball. I still enjoyed it. It was still fun to go to the park."

So his learning continued. "I did the Instructional League that year. I left Florida and went to Arizona for scout school (where I) learned how to scout and write reports. I went back and finished Instructional League and then they offered me the job, hitting coach in Beloit."

Tommy Watkins is now in his fifth season as the Twins Low-A Midwest League hitting coach. The first three years were in Beloit, and the last two have been in Cedar Rapids.

Attached Image: Watkins2014b.jpg The last two years, he has coached with Jake Mauer. Mauer said, "Tommy keeps it simple. He doesn't try to overload guys with complex terms and really complicate things. He really keeps things simple. He works more on approach. A lot of these guys have ability, no doubt. It's how you approach it, and how you're going to be able to use that ability that is going to make the difference."

There are many difficulties in being a minor league hitting coach. The job has many roles, starting with hitting. Here are some of his thoughts on his role.

Batting Stance:

"Everybody is different. We try to stick to some basic things like getting your foot down on time, reading a pitch and reacting to it. Try to keep it simple. I think the main thing is making sure they're on time. Everybody has a different batting stance. Everybody's hands are different, but when the hands are ready to fire, they should be in a similar position. Just making sure they get to that position, being on time and they recognize the pitch."

Approach:

"I like to talk a lot about approach too. How do you approach different guys. Lefties down and away, you don't want to pull the ball, that kind of stuff. We get into mechanics a little, but it's the mental side too."

When it comes to scouting, Watkins says things are getting better:

"We'll get a lot of what they throw in different counts and stuff like that. What they throw for strikes and balls. We play a lot of these guys a lot. If a guy gets up in the bullpen, we'll say, he's got this and this, tries to do this to me."

Motivational:

"I try to be motivational. That's the way I played. I had to play like that, with a lot of energy. You try to get the guys to have a little of energy. It's fun to win. When you win, there should be a lot of energy, and I think we're getting to that point."

Watkins and Mauer have been long-time friends. As Watkins said, "We played together for five years. We used to room together a lot. He used to boss me around then, and he's still doing it again. We've become good friends over the years. I was actually in his wedding in 2008. I was still playing. He had started coaching. We've been good friends for a long time."

He also has a lot of respect for the Kernels' manager. "He does a good job of trusting his coaching staff and letting his staff work. Same thing with Ivan (Arteaga) and Gary Lucas last year. He'd tell them, you're the pitching coach. You spend the most time with them. They're your guys. He does the same with me. If he wants to work with somebody, I never have a problem with that. I trust him to do whatever. He's the boss anyway. I trust him to do whatever he's got to do."

The respect is mutual as Mauer described Watkins as a coach. "Tommy's a baseball guy. He's been around it a long time. He's very prepared for what he does. In the offseason, they'll send him down to the Dominican where they'll have him work with the kids. Tommy has been very valuable hitting guy, and he's going to be a really good manager someday too."

When asked how he evaluates himself at the end of the year, he noted that it had to be more than simply about the statistics. "It's not stats-based. I'll look at the stats a little bit. I saw we were in the top six in hitting. It's knowing that I did my job in trying to get every guy better, which is good for me. We may not be in the top of hitting, or the top of fielding, but maybe our record's not as good. If you know you left everything out there and you gave it your all, just like a player, when the season's over, when you're career's over, you don't want to be like, I wish I would have done this. I wish I would have done that."

In doing so, Watkins has become more prepared each season. He wants to continue to improve. As you would expect, he has big goals. "I'd love to coach in the big leagues. Manage. Coach first base, coach third base. Whatever it may be. It's something that I've always wanted to do, whether it's as a player or a coach."

It is a realistic goal. He has earned everyone's respect over time. He's certainly a guy to continue to root for.
 [/HR]The Twins hung on to beat Cleveland on Monday so today you can get a half-price large or extra-large pizza at PapaJohns.com by using the code 'TWINSWIN'.


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