Thome wanted to play near Chicago home

Jim Thome said the Rangers offered him more money than the Twins. But for Thome, who on Friday signed a one-year, $3 million free-agent contract to return to Minnesota, there were more important considerations.

His teammates. His desire to remain in the AL Central. His fondness for Minnesota and the Twins’ organization.

And yes, his family, too.

Thome’s wife, Andrea, and children, Lila, 8 and Landon, 3, live in Chicago. He lost his mother, Joyce, to lung cancer in January 2005. His father, Chuck, still lives in Peoria, Ill.

The bottom line: Minneapolis-St. Paul is an easier commute for Thome and his family than Dallas-Ft. Worth.

“If we’ve got a day game at home (on a Sunday), and we’re going from Minnesota to Detroit, Cleveland or Kansas City — or Chicago, of course — it gives me an opportunity to slip home on a Monday off-day instead of not seeing my kids for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks,” Thome told FOXSports.com.

Still, Thome said his decision was not easy.

The Twins had an inhertent advantage — Thome said he developed “a special bond” with his teammates last season and relished the intensity of the team’s rivalries in the AL Central, particularly against the White Sox.

The Rangers, though, are the defending American League champions. They, too, had a need for a left-handed hitting slugger. And Thome spoke highly of team president Nolan Ryan and the other Rangers officials who recruited him.

“It was difficult,” Thome said. “Nolan Ryan is a legend. Getting the opportunity to have a conversation with him is something I’ll never forget in my life.

“I talked to (manager) Ron Washington. He’s a class act. (General manager) Jon Daniels, (assistant GM Thad) Levine, both those guys are wonderful guys. They did a terrific job. It’s a class, class organization.

“Minnesota is the same. You know Gardy (manager Ron Gardenhire). You know (GM) Bill Smith. What you see is what you get. We’re going to go out and play hard. That’s the way they do it.”

Thome, 40, batted .283/.412/.627 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs in 340 plate appearances for the Twins last season. He is 11 home runs short of becoming the eighth player to reach 600 for his career.