Photos and Stories by Gordy Jones
It was great to see Justin Morneau back in camp this week after playing for Canada in the
World Baseball Classic. I asked Justin about his experience and he said, “It (the WBC) is a good experience for anybody who has been through it, and I’ve been lucky enough to have done it three times now. Obviously we haven’t had the success that we’d like to have, but it was good. It’s a pretty tight-knit group of Canadian baseball guys; we all know each other pretty well, and we’ve played with each other various times over the years. We seem to come together pretty quick, because it can be tough in that short of a situation.” I asked him about playing against Joe Mauer. “Yeah, I faced Perk (Glen Perkins) with Joe behind the plate. That was a different experience. I talked to Joe a couple times walking up to the plate, and I saw him before-hand, and that was definitely different, but it was good.”
Justin said that a lot of hard work and practice comes with playing in the WBC, but there is a little time for fun. “We have a little bit of fun and try to get together. Whenever you can spend time with your teammates it can make a difference; away from the field you get to learn a little more, you get to see the personalities because you’re not busy doing your work. We practice for a couple of days, play a couple exhibition games, and then get right into it. There is not a lot of free time or time to get to know each other, but you learn a lot about your teammates when you’re competing.”
Justin winters in Arizona, and that’s where he was competing. He laughed and said, “I got to sleep in my own bed, which was nice. I got to see the kids out there and they got to represent their Canadian sides. They’re half-and-half, so they got to wear their Canadian gear and cheer for Daddy! That was fun and good to see, and I had my parents out there, too. It’s a long way from Vancouver to Florida, so this was an easier trip for them. They got to see me a little more than usual out there. It’s always nice when you get to see your parents, and they get to see you play.”
Speed in the Outfield!
Last year the Twins’ two fastest players were Ben Revere and Darin Mastroianni. With Ben gone it looks like this year’s speed will come from Mastroianni and from Aaron Hicks. Both players are currently trying to secure an everyday outfield position, and both would make great centerfielders. Hicks is leading at the moment because of his bat, although Darin is doing well and should surely make the team.
I know a guy named Mark Berkowitz who was a St. Paul Highland track star in the 70’s, and who measures an outfielder’s ability mostly by his speed. Ever since last season, when Mastroianni showed his amazing bursts of speed and base stealing capabilities, Berkowitz has been constantly curious about Darin’s running background. He must have said this fifty times: “That Mastroianni guy (and he butchers the name everytime) must have run track in high school.”
The other day I was hanging out with Darin at the park, so I asked him if he had ever been on a track team. He looked at me and began laughing as he explained: “I was a senior in high school, Foxboro High School in Bedford Mountain, New York. One day the baseball team was outside conditioning; we were at the track and next to us was the track team. The track team was about to run 100 yards. I lined up and ran with them; blew them all away! The track coach, who was my math teacher, tried to recruit me. He said I could come out and run some meets with them whenever I was available. But my baseball coach said I was to have no part of that. There was no way he was going to let me run track. He didn’t want me pulling my hamstring.”
The day he told me this story he was just coming back from a baseball related hamstring injury.
But the answer to the Berkowitz question: Yes! Darin Mastroianni did run track; for one day, and he has never lost a race.