MINNEAPOLIS — Jim Rantz, the Minnesota Twins’ senior director of minor league operations, announced last week that he will be retiring at the end of the year. The 75-year-old Rantz joined the Twins’ front office in 1965 as an assistant public relations director and later moved into the minor league and scouting department before earning his current title in 1986. Below is a Q&A with Rantz as he reflects on his nearly 50 years in the Twins’ organization.
Q: How did you make the transition from minor league player to the Twins’ front office? A: “I’ve always had thoughts of staying in the game as a career. Obviously, when it didn’t work out as a player, I took on managing for a year. Timing was everything, as usual. The Twins were in the World Series in 1965 and after I got through managing up in St. Cloud (in the Northern League), I had asked George Brophy, (who) at that time was my boss, if they needed any help in the front office because I knew it was a busy time. He got back to me that the media department needed somebody to help them over the time frame of the World Series. It was a way for me to keep my foot in the door. I took it as an intern-type deal. I always wanted to be in the game and also be in the player development. Four years later, I got to be in the player development with George Brophy.”
Q: You worked for one organization for your entire career. How gratifying was that? A: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of that fact. Obviously, it’s been a thrill for me and my family to be connected with just one organization — only two ownerships over the time frame that I’ve been here. The continuity and the consistency that we have goes throughout the ball club. We have a lot of long-time people that have worked with the ball club a number of years. For me to be here as long as I have, I take a lot of pride in that and a lot of satisfaction.”
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Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the game since joining the Twins’ front office in 1965? A: “Well, we could talk a long time about what’s changed. As far as player-wise, just the overall playing of the game is the same, obviously. But the equipment and what’s available for players to get better and to improve on their skills. We have more coaches. In the early years, all you had was the manager. Every club in the minor leagues — I’m talking minor leagues, now — all you had was a manager. You didn’t have a coach. You didn’t have a pitching coach. You didn’t have a trainer. You didn’t have a strength coach. Now we’ve got all of those support people, along with psychologists that visit us. We have nutritionists that visit us. So we have a number of things that way.
“Now the game itself, the rules have changed. Free agency has really changed how you operate from a business standpoint. There’s a lot of freedom for players now. In the earlier years, you never had to worry about free agency. Players now can move on, and a lot of multi-year contracts keep them in place. But it was a lot of difference and a lot of changes in those days. The travel is better. The facilities are much, much better, all the way from rookie ball all the way to the major leagues. And of course the salaries are a lot better. So there’s a lot of things that go into what’s changed. It’s hard to say. On the field, though, I think with just adding all the support people and the specialized coaches, a player has a chance and an opportunity to develop his skills. Back when I joined the ball club and the front office in ’65, there were only 16 Major League clubs. Now there’s 30, so there’s an opportunity for players to get to the big leagues because there are more clubs and there’s a chance for them to get up here.”
Q: Speaking of change, how has the Twins organization changed since you came aboard? A: “Our philosophies have always been pretty consistent. We try to promote within, not only the administrative part but obviously we believe in our farm system. Our philosophies haven’t changed. We try to develop our own people. The changes that happen sometimes dictate. If you have a vacancy, you might have to get out there and play that free agent game. But other than that, we like to keep our own people. I don’t think our philosophy has changed that much over the years. We really try to develop our own people.”
Q: You pitched for the University of Minnesota in the 1960 College World Series. Where does that rank among career highlights? A: “Obviously that’s going back a few years. It definitely ranks up there. I didn’t start to really get regular pitching until we got to the playoffs, and then of course the championship game was my only start in college ball. In fact, it was my only start in pro ball. I never started. I was always a relief pitcher. I started the championship game with the Gophers in 1960. Our team won 2-1 in 10 innings and I pitched a complete game. I might have thrown 200 pitches, I think. I think I walked six or seven but I still was in there. That was quite a thrill, and obviously that was a stepping stone to getting signed.”
Q: What are your highlights from your time with the Twins organization? A: “There’s a lot of those, too. On the field, you’ve got to think of the ’87 and ’91 World Series. Also, the six divisional championships our club has been involved in. A lot of gratitude goes to all the players that actually come through our farm system. Personally, I think the highlight for my career was being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame in 2007. That was very special because all the players and front office people that are in that are icons in the game, or at least in the Twins organization. One of the other highlights, I had a hand in getting (Kirby) Puckett here, so that was also very special.”
Q: Any plans for retirement? A: “I’m going to enjoy sleeping in my own bed for a while (after) the traveling part. I’m still going to be involved in spring training. I’ll be going to spring training and enjoying spring training, so that won’t change. I’m going to still continue to be here until the end of the year. It’s going to be different. I’m going to have to make some adjustments, I can tell you that. But it’s going to be a fun time. I’ve always mentioned it’ll give me a chance to see my grandkids. I’ve got nine of them. They’ll keep me busy. Other than that, just take it as it comes. Life is good. I’m going to enjoy it and enjoy the time that I’m around.”