Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, and Terry Steinbach are three Minnesotans who came back home to play for the Twins. And they may represent a competitive advantage for the beleaguered American League ball club, as the Twins fight to remain in Minnesota.
"This is a crowded market," says Pat Forciea, who heads sales and marketing efforts for the Twins. "It's arguably the smallest market in the country where you have all four major-league sports and a major university. So, when we can bring back one of our own, we try."
(St. Paul recently acquired a National Hockey League franchise, replacing the Minnesota North Stars, who moved to Dallas. In the 1950s Minneapolis lost the Lakers to Los Angeles.)
Forciea says that the Twins and similar "small market" major-league baseball teams need 2 million fans per year to be profitable. Last year, the Twins drew slightly less than 1.5 million, with 40 percent of attendance by fans outside the Twin Cities.
Molitor, like Winfield a native of St. Paul, is an almost-certain future Hall of Famer. Molitor holds 15th spot for career hits. Ironically, Winfield is No. 16. Steinbach is one of the premier catchers in the majors.
In all, 22 native Minnesotans have come back to play for the Twins - not counting manager Tom Kelly, who played briefly for the team in 1975. Kelly was born in Graceville, Minn. "But my folks moved back to New Jersey a month later," he acknowledges with a laugh, "so I don't count."
What's the attraction? Molitor says, "I felt somewhat indebted to the various organizations ... that were very helpful - and critical, really - in me getting to the major leagues. To come back and play in my hometown in front of those people and my friends and family was something that weighed heavily when I had the opportunity. After 18 years of playing in other cities, it's a joy to come back and finish my career at home."