Sports Odds & Ends
Now that we learned last week that Carlos Correa more than likely will be playing elsewhere next season, we asked a question during a recent “informal end-of-season” meeting with the local press: “Will Tommy Watkins return to the Minnesota Twins in 2023?”
“We fully anticipate him coming back,” declared Minnesota President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey on Oct. 10 while meeting with reporters, including the MSR, inside the Twins’ clubhouse.
Watkins was hired by the Twins in 2019. He finished his 13th season coaching or managing in the Twins organization. But the 2022 season was his first as third base coach, where at times during the season the veteran coach caught occasional flak when a runner got tagged out at home trying to score.
The third base coach typically is a human stop-and-go sign for the base runner. “I will say [that] when you coach third,” explained Falvey, “as soon as you stand over there, you sign up for a certain amount of criticism [for] not sending or sending a runner. Everybody in the ballpark has an opinion.
“When it goes well, no one talks about it,” continued the baseball operations prez. “When it doesn’t go well, it’s tough. No one has felt worse about some of those moments when they didn’t go well [than Watkins], and maybe he looks back and regrets having sent a player. He’s going to be the first one to take ownership and say, ‘I missed on that one.’”
Watkins is the team’s only Black coach and the first Black third base coach since Al Newman, who’s also Black. Like the former, Newman often got grilled for his work at the hot corner.
Third base coach “is a tough position to get better at,” said Falvey. “It’s the experience and the time, and understanding ballparks and [outfielder] arms and your own runners and what that looks like.”
Falvey also was asked for his assessment on Twins utility player Nick Gordon and pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson, a September call-up from St. Paul. The latter became the youngest starting pitcher (22 years old) in the majors this season and was impressive in his only start in the season’s final week.
“I think he’s a mature kid,” said Falvey of Woods Richardson. “I think he’s handled it really well. His slider got better and his secondary pitches all together got better. It’s fun to see him come up at the end of the year.”
As for Gordon, who played his first MLB season in 2021, he saw action in 73 games after starting the year in St. Paul. Like a season ago, he played multiple positions—shortstop, second base, left field, centerfield, pitcher and DH.
Falvey said he couldn’t have been prouder on the 26-year-old player: “He and Carlos [Correa] played as much as anybody down the stretch. He made himself into an outfielder.
To see him actually grow into what he has become…he made himself into an outfielder in a way that he never had before. I am just really proud of the work he’s put in and what he’s been able to become,” said Falvey.
On the subject of diversity, the Twins have one Black coach, and its St. Paul affiliate had no Black coaches this season. Gordon, Woods Richardson, Chris Archer, Byron Buxton and Billy Hamilton, a late-season call-up, were the only U.S.-born Blacks on the roster.
“I think we have to find a way to make that a priority,” concluded Falvey on the subject, “and continue to get better and continue to add to a diverse group in our front office…and ultimately in the coaching staff.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.