FORT MYERS, Fla -- Ron Gardenhire finally got his chance to be in charge.
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," the Minnesota Twins' new manager said Monday after the first official spring training workout for pitchers and catchers.
"It was pretty exciting when I actually walked out there and said, 'Hey, listen up boys,"' Gardenhire said. "I've said that in the past, as a coach, but nobody ever listened."
As one of the team's top choices to replace the retired Tom Kelly, Gardenhire endured a frustrating offseason waiting to see whether the Twins would survive baseball's contraction plan and play another year.
"We got slapped around a little bit, so this is a day we've been looking forward to for along time," Gardenhire said. "Getting out on the field is pretty exciting for me and this coaching staff. I've got some good friends on this coaching staff that I've known for along time."
Bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, hitting coach Scott Ullger and first base coach Jerry White were retained from Kelly's staff, and Minnesota added Rick Anderson as pitching coach, Al Newman as third-base coach -- Gardenhire's old job -- and Steve Liddle as bench coach.
Anderson, Liddle and Newman all came from the Twins' system, and little turnover from last year's roster provides a wealth of familiarity among the players and coaches. Gardenhire, who was a coach under Kelly for 11 seasons before being named manager in January, is a big fan of continuity.
"I interviewed for a lot of jobs," said Gardenhire, a candidate for open jobs in Colorado, Chicago and Kansas City. "It's been a long time coming. Something I've been wanting to do for a long time. These are guys I've been with for a while, so it's pretty entertaining."
On Monday, in his first formal post-practice talk with the media, Gardenhire was the one who was entertaining.
Asked if he was surprised by the size of the crowd gathered around the fields at the Lee County Sports Complex, Gardenhire showed off his quick wit.
"I'm a big draw," he deadpanned. "You didn't see me when I played with the Mets. People used to come and sit right behind the first base dugout knowing they were going to get a ball thrown to them."
Responding to a question on the emergence of Joe Mays into the top of the starting rotation with Eric Milton and Brad Radke, Gardenhire asked why the reporter mentioned Radke last, after Mays and Milton. The reporter defended himself, saying he had merely alphabetized the list.
"Alphabetical for me on that pitching staff is Radke, Milton, Mays," Gardenhire shot back. "That's the way I look at it."
As the session was ending, Gardenhire said he wanted to save some material for the rest of the season.
"I'm just about done," he said. "I'm going to have to go read some more now."
Gardenhire was able to put aside the quips to discuss the start of what many -- especially the Twins themselves -- feel will be a quality season. The rest of the Twins aren't required to report to Fort Myers until Friday, but most of the team has been working out there for weeks.
"They're excited," Gardenhire said. "This is a big thing for us. We have a good ballclub. We think we can compete with a lot of teams in baseball."
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