July 5, 2022

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Unique homecoming for a 2-day Twin

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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.

On March 12, the Twins acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers in a trade that sent Mitch Garver to Texas, then proclaimed that he would be their starting shortstop. The Twins got him on speakerphone with the media for a makeshift press conference; they flew him to the club’s Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.; he had to get all of his cars from Arizona to Southwest Florida; and he even had to scramble to arrange a private jet to get him to his new clubhouse.

By March 14, Kiner-Falefa was gone, flipped to the Yankees in a blockbuster trade that also saw Josh Donaldson, Ben Rortvedt, Gio Urshela and Gary Sánchez swap teams.

Kiner-Falefa was caught in the middle of all that chaos, having to meet new teammates and a new coaching staff then immediately needing to say goodbye. But there aren’t any hard feelings, he promises. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I’m really, really thankful for this organization, even though I didn’t get to play,” Kiner-Falefa explained on Tuesday. “They gave me this situation [with the Yankees]. I wouldn’t be in this if it weren’t for Minnesota. I’m very thankful. It’s good that it worked out for them as well.”

Kiner-Falefa was a very unhappy man during the MLB lockout last winter. He felt like he’d put his best foot forward at shortstop for the Rangers, and he wanted to stay there. Then, the Rangers went out and signed both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, leaving Kiner-Falefa in limbo. He wanted out — in a bad way.

Now, he finds himself starting at shortstop every day for the Yankees, the club with the best record in baseball. He understands that this couldn’t have happened without the Twins first putting their faith in him and going out of their way to acquire him — and he reiterated, over and over again, how much he still appreciates that.

“To get traded twice, for me, it made me feel good that two teams wanted me,” Kiner-Falefa said. “That was the biggest takeaway that I had through that situation.”

Here’s how it all went down from Kiner-Falefa’s point of view: He said he found out about the trade the morning of March 12, at about 10 a.m. in Arizona. He had to scramble to get all of his stuff to Florida, arrange for the jet and actually make his way across the country on March 13. He went directly to Hammond Stadium, where he met his new teammates, unpacked in his locker, started his physical exam and had one photo taken with manager Rocco Baldelli — and he went home.

At around 11 p.m., Kiner-Falefa got another call from general manager Thad Levine, informing him of the second trade. Fortunately, this was only about a two-hour drive north on Interstate 75 to Tampa, where the Yankees host their Spring Training.

It was chaotic at the time — but he’s always been appreciative. And he’ll enjoy his unorthodox place in Twins history for the rest of his career.

“I was a Twin for a couple of hours,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I think that’s a cool fun fact. I don’t know if anybody’s gotten traded like that. It was pretty cool.”

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