Morneau up for Hank Aaron Award

Morneau up for Hank Aaron Award

MINNEAPOLIS -- The search for a power hitter has been quite a long one for the Twins.

Since 1987, the club hasn't had a player hit 30 home runs in a season. But that appears to be changing this year, with the emergence of 25-year-old first baseman Justin Morneau.

Regarded as a potential power bat for most of his young career, Morneau has finally developed into the type of hitter the club had hoped he would become by hitting .317 with 28 home runs, 20 doubles and 86 RBIs through 97 games this season.

That type of production has placed Morneau amongst the top hitters in the American League and made him a candidate for this year's Hank Aaron Award.

Since 1999, the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, Major League Baseball has recognized the best offensive performer from each league with the Hank Aaron Award, presented by Century 21. Past recipients include Barry Bonds (three times), Alex Rodriguez (three times), Manny Ramirez (twice), Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa and Carlos Delgado. Last year's winners, selected in balloting during the regular season's final month on, were Boston's David Ortiz and Atlanta's Andruw Jones.

It's long been predicted that Morneau would be the type of hitter who could carry a club, but those expectations hindered the young player early on.

Morneau got off to a rough start this season, but after coming back from an awful 3-7 road trip on the West Coast, things finally started to click for the first baseman.

During an early batting practice on June 9 when the club returned home from the trip, Morneau realized the solution to his problems. He placed his focus on staying on his backside, and Morneau went on to blast six of the eight balls he hit over the wall.

"The biggest problem was that I was thinking way too much when I was hitting," Morneau said. "I was thinking about my mechanics, and any time you stand in the batter's box and think about mechanics, you aren't going to be able to pick up the ball."

Morneau's numbers have changed dramatically since making that change. Since June 9, Morneau has hit .413 with 17 home runs and 48 RBIs.

But Morneau hasn't surprised his teammates, who have expected these types of numbers all along.

"He's really helped turn us around and get us going in the right direction," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I hate to say it's what we've all been waiting for, but we've all been hoping he'd get there and start driving in runs. This is what we anticipated, and it's happening and it's great."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.