Before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, Justin Morneau penned an open thank you letter to Twins fans and the only organization he has ever known. He discussed how he has grown up in the organization from a "wide-eyed 22-year old kid" to now being "someone my friends and family could be proud of." Minnesota has become his "second home" and he will always have connections here because his "wife, kids, and family are Minnesotans."
In the end, he apologized for never winning a World Series in a Twins uniform but this was really something that he couldn't fully control. He will have a good chance to play on a playoff team for the first time since the 2006 season and the Twins were able to get a couple of serviceable players for what was left on Morneau's expiring contract.
Morneau took time to thank Twins fans and it seemed only appropriate that fans write their own thank you back to the slugging Canadian first baseman. Here's an open letter from myself to and about Morneau as he exits the organization:
A certain type of player seems to come along once in a generation to grace the baseball diamond. Lucky enough for Twins fans there have often been times when two of these players were in the line-up on the same day. From Killebrew to Oliva and Puckett to Hrbek, great duos have called Minnesota home. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were one of these duos and sadly those duos can't last forever.
Morneau's play on the field seemed to be on track for legendary status. He won the American League MVP in 2006 and two years later he would finish runner-up to Dustin Pedoria for the same award. He would be selected to four straight All-Star Games from 2007-2010. In 2008, he won the Home Run Derby Championship and the next night he scored the winning run in the 15th inning of the Mid-Summer Classic.
Things didn't seem like they could get any higher.
In the summer of 2010, it looked like Morneau might be well on his way to his second MVP trophy. His monster first half had helped the Twins to be near the top of the AL Central. All of Twins Territory felt the pain of what happened from that point moving forward. John McDonald accidentally kneed Morneau in the head on a play at second base in Toronto. It would take large chunks of the next two seasons for Justin to try and recover from post-concussion syndrome and a variety of other injuries.
His last month in a Twins uniform seemed to finally look closer to the Justin of old. He hit nine home runs in the month of August but he saved one of his most memorable home runs for his last game. With the Twins facing off against Yu Darvish, a candidate for the AL Cy Young, Morneau smacked the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning. It was a home run that moved him past Tony Oliva on the franchise's all-time home run list.
Justin's mark on the field isn't the only remnant of his 14 years in the Twins organization. He was a two-time winner of the Bob Allison Award that is given to the Twins player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. Morneau and his wife Krista are active members in trying to make a difference in the community.
To say thank you to Justin for his time in Minnesota would not be enough.
He gave 110% for this franchise from the time he was drafted in 1999 to his last game in 2013. Morneau has left his mark on Twins Territory and it is hard to imagine this team without number 33 in the line-up. My connection to the Minnesota Twins was strengthened because of the man Morneau was on and off the field. When my future kids ask me about players I loved to watch, the short list will include a slugging Canadian first baseman.
Good luck to Justin as he gets a chance to pursue the ultimate goal of winning a World Series. And even though it doesn't seem like nearly enough...