Sitting in Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's office, encased in clear plastic, is slugger Jim Thome's 607th career home run ball.
Gardenhire had a simple message for his friend on Tuesday night, knowing that Thome would like to get his hands on that little piece of history: ''Come and get it.''
Thome hit the home run last month when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, launching the ball into the flower beds in right-center field. It took the Twins a day to dig it out, and the Phillies had left the Twin Cities by then. Thome was traded to Baltimore a few weeks ago and the Orioles returned to Target Field for a four-game series that started on Monday night.
After sitting out the opener, a 19-7 Twins victory on Monday night, Thome was back in the lineup on Tuesday night. Gardenhire, who spent two years managing Thome and considers him a good friend, joked before the game that he was holding the ball for ransom.
''Thome hasn't come in here,'' Gardenhire said while seated in his office. ''He doesn't know what we want yet, so he's afraid.''
When told of Gardenhire's remarks, Thome let out a big chuckle and said, ''I'm sure. I'm sure.''
Gardenhire hire made sure to let everyone know that he was joking, and he'd be happy to hand the ball over for nothing more than a handshake. But the manager wasn't about to walk all the down to the other end of the ballpark to hand-deliver it, even if the guy waiting for it is one of the most feared sluggers of his era.
''I'm just holding it. It's sitting right here,'' Gardenhire said. ''And it's staying here. He has to come get it. He hit it. He was the one that lost the ball. Now we've got it and he has to walk over here and say, `Mr. Gardenhire,' and then we'll go from there.''