December 5, 2022

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A look at Baldelli's road back to the dugout

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This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park’s Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Well, if any Twins players ever wanted to slap their manager in the face, they got the opportunity to do so a few times during their series sweep over Oakland earlier this week … kind of.

While Rocco Baldelli, Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy remained behind in quarantine at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore due to testing positive for COVID-19, the Twins flew back to Minnesota and took care of business against the A’s. And when they celebrated their hard work in the postgame high-five lines, longtime home clubhouse manager “Hot” Rod McCormick made sure to get the skipper on FaceTime so that Baldelli — or his face, at least — could take part.

“Oh, I liked that,” Baldelli said. “I liked that. Which one was it? One of them, I was shirt off, having a … [trails off]. I mean, you start losing it a little bit in the hotel room. Slapping fives, it’s great.”

In between binge-watching stints of “Succession” in his hotel room and watching the Twins’ games on television (“You can turn the sound down, right? Like everybody else,” play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer chimed in from the corner), Baldelli was calling into the Twins’ meetings and regularly checking in with acting manager Jayce Tingler, who never missed one of his calls, Baldelli said.

“We’re not corporate here,” Baldelli said. “We’re not that professional, either. It’s a FaceTime with some wobbly faces on FaceTime, and a lot of phone calls, and that’s it. We didn’t have the professional Zoom conference going.”

And when it came time for Baldelli, Arraez and Bundy to fly back to Minneapolis on a tiny medical charter plane on Sunday, there was one problem: There were only two passenger seats. Arraez, as the smallest (and the one with least seniority, perhaps), had to lay in a stretcher for the duration of the flight — and he proudly held up a photo of his travel accommodations in the clubhouse upon his return.

“He’s the only one I think that was going to fit in that spot,” Baldelli said. “He was basically meditating for the entire trip. He didn’t move a muscle. He literally folded his hands, closed his eyes and laid on a stretcher for the entire flight.”

The best part is that the plane couldn’t even make a nonstop journey from Baltimore to Minneapolis; they had to land briefly to refuel in Grand Rapids, Mich., to make it back.

“We were sitting on the tarmac against the building, eating snacks, eating pretzels and everything, watching the [Twins] game on telephones,” Baldelli said. “I should have taken a picture of that.”

After all that, Baldelli, out of an abundance of caution, is still living out of a hotel in Minneapolis during this homestand instead of rejoining his wife, Allie, and daughter, Louisa, at home.

But he’s finally back in the dugout — and the road back was an experience he’ll certainly never forget.

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