Rocco Baldelli leaned back and looked over the top of the dugout. He smiled from ear-to-ear and shook his head from side-to-side in delight as another group of kids went running and screaming through the sprinklers set up along the baselines on a typical steamy hot summer morning in Charleston, South Carolina.
“This game is so much fun,” he said.
Baldelli, at the time, was just 20 years old himself. He was a fresh-faced prospect selected by the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays as the sixth overall pick in the June amateur draft.
Nearly two decades have passed, and with it his seven year MLB career between Tampa and Boston. Baldelli, now 38, still looks young and energetic, but he has been getting schooled on life as a rookie manager. The last 10 days have been extreme, from the giddiness of reaching the postseason to the dark reality of the franchises recent October nightmares.
As ESPN — and many other outlets — have reported, the Minnesota Twins have not won a postseason game in their last 15 attempts. The 0-15 mark stretches back to this date — October 6 — in 2004 when the Twins dropped a 7-6 decision to the New York Yankees in 12 innings.
It was that lose that set the streak in motion. Over the next 15 years the Twins have lost 12 of the games to the Yankees including the final three games of the 2004 American League Divisional Series and series sweeps in the 2009 and 2010 ALDS and a single game loss in the 2017 Wild Card to the Yankees and the 2006 ALDS to the Oakland Athletics.
Down 2-0 in 2019 series, the Twins are on the verge of being swept, again, by the Yankees. The Yankees have outscored the Twins 18-6 in the latest series, and if history is any indication, the Twins are in for more embarrassment in front of their home fans.
After another lopsided 8-2 loss on Friday, Baldelli was asked “what do you have to do to turn this around?”
“The message that our guys really understand, they don’t always need to hear it all the time. They hear it occasionally — is that we handle our business and do what we do in a very particular way, and we’ve done it our way all year long, from the first day we showed up to Spring Training until now, and we’re not going to change that for anyone. We’re not going to change that because we’re down 0-2 in a playoff series or for any other reason.
“We rely on ourselves. We pick ourselves up. We’ve done a great job with that all year long. Any sort of stretch where things aren’t going well, that’s fine. We’re going to be perfectly okay, and we’re going to come out fighting and ready to go.I don’t think becoming reactionary in any way — staff-wise, roster-wise — is going to help us where we want to be. I think relying on who we are is going to get us where we want to be.”
I wonder if Baldelli is still having fun.