MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not often a Twins player is coaxed out of the dugout for a curtain call from the fans at Target Field. Then again, not many Twins players have done what rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks did Monday as he hit two home runs and robbed another in Minnesota’s 10-3 win over Chicago.
But since this was the first time Hicks received a curtain call in his young career, he can be forgiven for not knowing exactly how to handle the situation.
“I heard them,” Hicks said of the fans after Monday’s game, “but it’s my first one, so I don’t really know.”
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After Hicks launched his second home run of the night — a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth inning — the Twins faithful at Target Field remained on their feet. It wasn’t until after shortstop Pedro Florimon popped out to first base that the 23-year-old Hicks took a step out of the home dugout. He raised his helmet to the fans, who were cheering Hicks’ heroics.
“Normally, you do a curtain call before they get an out,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t think he really knew which way to go. Everybody was screaming at him in the dugout. He was kind of going up and down and in our dugout you go out one end or the other and he was stuck in the middle. But as curtain calls go, if you’re fortunate enough to get a curtain call in the big leagues, no matter when it happens, it’s worth it.
“But he did hold it for a long time. He might get fined for that.”
It’s been an interesting month and a half for Hicks, who made the Twins’ roster out of spring training after a blistering performance in Fort Myers. Entering Monday’s game, though, he was batting just .137 with 13 RBI in 30 games. He had yet to put together a multi-hit game in his young career.
Hicks crossed that item off the list Monday. Not only did he pick up his first multi-hit game, but it was also a multi-homer game. Hicks’ solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning put Minnesota up 5-2 as he sent his second home run of the year over the wall in straightaway center. Two innings later — and just a few minutes after he robbed Adam Dunn of a home run — Hicks smashed another, this time planting it in the bullpen in left-center field.
Hicks came up to bat in the eighth inning for a chance at a three-homer game, something he accomplished this spring to turn a few heads in Florida. Instead, Hicks worked a walk and later came around to score in a four-run inning.
The catch to rob Dunn of a two-run homer in the top of the sixth was certainly the best defensive play Hicks has made this season as it ended the inning and stopped Chicago’s threat. It also gave Twins fans flashbacks to center fielders past. The leaping grab at the wall was reminiscent of what Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, Denard Span and Ben Revere did over the years for Minnesota.
Monday, Hicks showed he, too, is capable of making that type of highlight reel catch.
“That catch was spectacular in a big situation like that,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve definitely had our share of great ones here, and that ranks right up there with the boys that have done that before him.”
For a young player still trying to find his way in the majors, Monday’s performance can go a long way as far as Hicks’ confidence. At the same time, Gardenhire cautioned, it’s still just one game.
“It put a big smile on his face, and I saw our fans and they were pretty fired up,” Gardenhire said. “It was a big moment. The great part about it, you get to enjoy it all night. The worst part about it, tomorrow it doesn’t mean anything. Now he’s got to go out there and do it all over again and continue the process here. But that was huge.
“It was fun for everybody involved to watch because we’ve been watching him go through these things and trying to help this team out.”
After the game, the celebration wasn’t done for Hicks as he got both a Gatorade bath and shaving cream pie to the face during his postgame interview on the field. Hicks said he didn’t see the culprit who got him with the Gatorade but suspected third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who was guilty of getting Hicks when the rookie got his first career hit. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez followed up Monday’s Gatorade bath with the shaving cream pie.
“I kind of let my guard down,” Hicks said. “We felt Wilkin coming. I kind of saw it right before it came.”
Even though he fell victim to those postgame pranks, Hicks couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear after the night he had.
“I’ve just been battling every day,” Hicks said. “That’s the thing you’ve got to do in this league. I just made some plays today and had fun.”