Aguilera elected to Twins Hall of Fame

Aguilera elected to Twins Hall of Fame

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Aguilera's list of career accomplishments already reads like a pretty striking resume: the Twins' career saves leader, a three-time All-Star, and a two-time World Series champion.

And now Aguilera can add Twins Hall of Famer to that impressive list.

The Twins announced during TwinsFest this weekend that Aguilera will become the 19th member of the club's Hall of Fame this summer.

The former Twins closer was the only player selected to be inducted in this year's Hall of Fame class. He was chosen by a 57-member committee consisting of local and national media, club officials, fans and previously elected members. The rules are similar to those necessary for election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A player must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to gain entry.

Aguilera will be honored before the Twins' game against the D-backs on June 21.

"For the past few years, I've received letters that I was on the ballot and the first one I got, I thought, 'Wow, that would really be something if that was to happen,'" Aguilera said when reached at his home in California. "When I got the phone call this year saying I was getting inducted, I reflected on some of the great athletes and people that have been a part of the organization. To be considered in their company, it's a great honor."

Best known by his teammates as "Aggie," Aguilera became one of the elite closers in the game during the parts of 11 seasons he spent with the Twins.

A starter for the early part of his career with the Mets, Aguilera did not move into the closer role full-time until he arrived with the Twins. He was one of five pitchers dealt to Minnesota at the trade deadline in 1989 in exchange for left-hander Frank Viola. He spent the rest of that '89 season as a starter before moving into the closer's role, the spot he would inhabit for the rest of his career with the Twins.

"I wasn't sure what I thought about it at the very beginning," Aguilera said of the switch. "I received a phone call a month or two before Spring Training from [then Twins manager] Tom Kelly and he told me I was going to be their closer. He knew I would do what would be best for the team. I didn't have much of a say in that matter, but it turned out pretty well."

Aguilera's career took off following the move. He recorded 32 saves during the '90 season in his first year as a closer for a team that went just 74-88.

In 1991, Aguilera became an instrumental part of the Twins' surprising run to a World Series title. He saved 42 games that season, a team record that stood until Eddie Guardado's 45-save season in 2002.

The pitcher continued his dominance in the playoffs. He recorded a save in each of the Twins' three wins during the 1991 American League Championship Series against Toronto, allowing just one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

Aguilera then saved the first two games of the World Series against the Braves and in Game 2, he became the first pitcher to pinch-hit in a World Series game since Don Drysdale in 1965. He flied out in the top of the 12th with the bases loaded and two outs before he gave up the game-winning hit in the bottom of the inning. Aguilera came back to pick up the win in Game 6 that propelled the Twins to a most memorable Game 7.

"The '91 World Series was certainly the greatest and most enjoyable season I experienced throughout my entire career," Aguilera said.

Following the World Series title, Aguilera spent the next eight years pitching for the Twins -- albeit with a quick stop in Boston during the '95 season.

Along with being the Twins' career saves leader (254), Aguilera also ranks second in career appearances for the Twins with 490. He recorded 30 saves or more in five of his seasons with the Twins and established himself as one of the premier closers in the game at that time.

"He always made it interesting and probably added a few more years to our lives," former Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek said with a laugh. "If you looked up stopper in the dictionary, you wouldn't see Rick Aguilera because he didn't have all those idiosyncrasies of a closer. But he was a great team player and he loved being a Twin. And I'm happy as heck for him."

It's that sort of compliment from his former teammates that Aguilera says means the most to him.

"After a while, you forget who was the leading hitter on your team or who had the most wins or the most saves, and it comes down to players or teammates that have impacted you in a positive way," Aguilera said. "I think those are the things that go on for the rest of your life. Awards and recognitions are nice, I'm not saying those aren't worthy of notice. But more than anything else, what means the most to me is for someone to say that I was a great teammate."

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