MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Michael Cuddyer was first called up to the Minnesota Twins in 2002. The team went to the ALCS. He hasn’t seen many difficult seasons until 2011. It’s been an interesting spring of adjustment to new circumstances and a spring where he was bestowed an honor that came in the form of a passing of a Twins great.
Harmon Killebrew provided many thrills to Twins fans when he played. He provided one more to a Twin in his death — when Michael Cuddyer was asked to be a pallbearer.
“A few years ago I had my high school coach come and ask me … when the time does come would I be a pallbearer at his funeral and I was so touched that it brought me to tears. Just that someone would think enough of me to want me to be in that service and carry him to the final resting spot. For it to be Harmon Killebrew, words can’t describe the feelings that I was going through that day and the day that they asked me to do it. Probably one of, if not the greatest honor I’ve ever bestowed upon me was being a pallbearer at Harmon Killebrew’s funeral,” said Cuddyer.
This season has been filled with moments of deep thought. It’s been a year no one could have imagined. But it’s also a reminder of what you get to do if you’re good enough to wear a uniform.
“It’s not hard to have fun playing the game because it’s still playing the game. The results are tough to swallow, yes. After the game’s over it’s tough, yes. But playing the game, going out there and competing, it’s always fun,” said Cuddyer.
“I’ve never really had team failures, personal failures, you deal with that on your own. As long as the team is winning it makes it a little bit easier, a little bit more positive light. But when the team is not performing, especially at this level, it makes it hard,” said Cuddyer. “It makes it hard to go home but at the same time what keeps you coming out is the opportunity to compete, the opportunity to continue to put on a Major League uniform and go out there and play baseball.”
Maybe Cuddyer understands at a deeper level because he’s been here longer than any other Twin. That’s why he developed a new hobby this season as a photographer taking pictures at every ball park the team visits. He understands this career doesn’t last forever but memories do.
“I just got started with it this offseason. As you get older in life I guess, you start to appreciate things more and appreciate the beauty of things. And being in the big leagues for nine years I’m starting to appreciate the cities and the stadiums that we get to see and I thought it would be cool to chronicle it and let the fans see the perspectives,” he said.
That’s what happens when you’re a veteran. You see a different game and that’s what he’s trying to teach a group of young players — that in this game, its different in the bigs.
“You just continue to preach, ‘Go out there and play baseball.’ You have to continue to try and get better every single day, you have to continue to try and learn the game. As a young player, that’s the main thing you want to do, you have to learn how to play the game at this level,” said Cuddyer. “Because it’s not easy, and it’s not the minor leagues, it’s not Triple-A, it’s not Double-A. Everything is under a microscope here and the minute you make those mistakes, those mistakes get exploited the game.”
Cuddyer also knows what Harmon would tell him.
“Keep swinging,’ that’s what he would say, ‘Keep swinging.’ Go out there and keep playing as hard as you can, keep a smile on your face at all times and go out and have fun playing the game of baseball,” Cuddyer said.