MINNEAPOLIS — Before his team got set to take on the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked about Trevor Plouffe’s improved play in the field. But talking about his infielder’s defense before the game put Gardenhire a bit on edge, as if just discussing it may change what happened to Plouffe during the game.
“I’m going to change the lineup now, for sure,” Gardenhire joked, before later adding, “I’m not superstitious or anything.”
Gardenhire may have tried to play it off as if he indeed was not superstitious, but the fact of the matter is that baseball players — regardless of whether they admit it — are a superstitious bunch. That includes Gardenhire’s Twins.
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Minnesota recently donned its “M” caps on Memorial Day. The Twins rarely, if ever, wear that style of hat anymore, instead opting for the “TC” logo on both their road and home caps. But after winning that Memorial Day game, 5-4, against the visiting Oakland Athletics, the Twins again wore the “M” hats the following day. In fact, they’ve stuck with that style of hat since wearing them late last month and are now 9-3 since first donning the “M” caps this year.
Many of the players deny the team is wearing the same style of the previously outdated cap out of superstition, but there seems to be no other explanation.
“Somebody just picks a jersey and a hat, and I just look on a TV when I get ready to go out there,” said Twins reliever Glen Perkins.
Baseball, seemingly more than any other sport, is rooted in superstition. Players, whether subconsciously or not, almost always jump over the foul lines when entering and exiting the field of play. When a pitcher is nearing a no-hitter or complete game, his teammates can’t be found anywhere near him in the dugout for fear of jinxing the special accomplishment.
These days, there may be no Pedro Cerrano, the character from the movie “Major League” who practiced voodoo to try to cure his offensive woes. But many players have little quirks here and there.
Ask around the Twins clubhouse, and it becomes clear that first baseman Justin Morneau is perhaps the most superstitious player on Minnesota’s roster. In recent years, Morneau always had the same pregame meal of macaroni and cheese. He even set the microwave for the same time — 3 minutes, 33 seconds.
Since dealing with a concussion he suffered in 2010, however, Morneau’s diet has changed, his teammates say, so the mac and cheese ritual is no more. But others in the Twins clubhouse still have their, um, routines.
Center fielder Denard Span tries to take the field to stretch at the same time every day, although he admits that doesn’t always happen. He also has the same routine for each time he steps up to the plate.
And when he takes his spot in center field or runs back from the dugout at the end of an inning, Span makes sure he doesn’t cross through the infield dirt.
“I never step on the line. Most times, if you watch me run from the outfield, I won’t cross the dirt,” Span said. “I’ll usually go around. Unless I’m leading off or something like that and I have to run the gap to get to the dugout quicker, I’ll cross the infield. But very seldom will you see me when I’m running back into the dugout cross the dirt.”
Twins reliever Brian Duensing said he used to have a lot of superstitions but has since put them aside — or so he claims. He still drinks a Red Bull at the start of the second inning every game. If he doesn’t, he feels off.
“I feel like if you don’t do something, it makes you feel weird,” Duensing said. “If I don’t drink a Red Bull, then I feel like I forgot something. If you feel like you forgot something and the team starts doing poorly, then you find a way to blame it on that.”
So why is it that baseball players seemingly are more quirky about their superstitions? Span believes the length of baseball’s season has something to do with it.
“We play every day. It’s a monotonous game. When you’re out there on the field every day, you try to come with a routine …” Span said. “Somebody told me this once, all successful people have a routine. Whatever that routine is, they have one. I think that’s one of the reasons why. People have good days or a good game, whatever, they try to mimic that and try to get that same feeling as much as possible, whether it’s eating the same thing or trying to smell whatever they smelled that day or whatever.”
Twins closer Matt Capps, who says he doesn’t have superstitions but rather “routines,” agrees that the 162-game season plays into the reason why many baseball players do have routines.
“You get comfortable with something,” he said. “There’s already so much monotony in what we do. You find comfort in that at some point.”
Many Twins players may find comfort in routines, but it’s clear there are no Turk Wendells in Minnesota’s clubhouse. Wendell, a former Cubs and Mets reliever, was perhaps one of the most superstitious baseball players of all time. He would brush his teeth in between innings, among other odd habits.
Still, while there aren’t any as quirky as Wendell, each player has his own small rituals, even if the word superstition isn’t used.