Twins honor 2002 team in pregame ceremony

Twins honor 2002 team in pregame ceremony

Twins honor 2002 team in pregame ceremony
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins opened up their third season at Target Field by honoring the 2002 club that won the American League Central in a pregame ceremony prior to Monday's contest against the Angels.

Despite contraction talk prior to that season, the Twins ended up winning the AL Central for the first time in franchise history and advanced to the AL Championship Series under first-year manager Ron Gardenhire.

Gardenhire was hired by general manager Terry Ryan that January, and they're both still in the same roles, although Ryan stepped down as GM in '07 before returning this year.

"This is a nice tribute to them," Ryan said. "Obviously, these guys mean a lot to this franchise and what we stand for and what we accomplished. It'll be a joy to see quite a few of those guys. I know all of them aren't here, but a lot of them are, so that's a good thing."

Several players from that team were honored before the game in a special ceremony that included video highlights from the season. Players from that team at the ceremony included current Angels players Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins as well as Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Joe Mays, Doug Mientkiewicz, Denny Hocking, Brad Radke and Eddie Guardado.

Hunter recalled the '02 season fondly, saying it was his favorite while with the Twins from 1997-07.

"The 2002 season was No. 1 to me," Hunter said. "All those guys on the team were like family. We came up together, we knew each other, knew what we can and can't do, on and off the field. We were like brothers, man. We had a lot of fun."

Jones, who is now serving as hitting coach for Class A Fort Wayne in the Padres' organization, said the team was especially tight because many of them played together in the Minors.

"We came up together all the way from [Class] A ball, so we spent a lot of time together before we got up here," Jones said. "It just continued through the big leagues. In our baseball lives, we pretty much learned everything together."

Gardenhire said the thing he remembers most about that season was that he took the job not knowing if the club would be contracted, but he ended up managing a team all the way to the ALCS before falling to the Angels in five games.

"The big if was there -- if we had a team," Gardenhire said. "We all believed we would. So it was pretty neat once we got going. We had a pretty neat group of guys I'd been around as a coach. It was a pretty special group. They didn't need any coaxing. They came to play, and they came to play hard. We had a lot of fun that summer. Unfortunately, we couldn't get to the World Series and finish it, but we had a lot of fun."