Steinbach taking on new role with Twins
MINNEAPOLIS — Until this past year, former Minnesota Twins catcher Terry Steinbach was still playing baseball, even at age 50. The New Ulm, Minn., native was staying active in a senior men's league in his home state.
But after hanging up his catcher's gear for good, Steinbach is back in the game again — this time as the bench coach and catching instructor for the Twins. Steinbach was one of several new additions to manager Ron Gardenhire's staff this offseason.
"I'm excited about, No. 1, getting back into the game at the major league level," Steinbach said this week during a stop on the Twins' Winter Caravan.
Steinbach spent 14 seasons in the majors, including his final three years with the Twins from 1997-99. He also played 11 seasons with the Oakland Athletics and was a three-time All-Star while with Oakland. Steinbach finished his career with a .271 batting average, 162 home runs and 745 RBI.
Since retiring, Steinbach has spent the past 13 seasons helping the Twins during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Now, he'll be assisting Gardenhire and working with Minnesota's catchers — including All-Star Joe Mauer — on an everyday basis.
"You really want to monitor what's happening and look at videos and talk to the catcher and say, 'Hey, what happened in that particular situation and what could you have done?' " Steinbach said. "Hopefully this doesn't happen this year, but I was taught that it's part of the catcher's responsibility if the pitcher's struggling to get him five innings instead of three. By doing that, we're going to save on our bullpen."
Mauer is the Twins' No. 1 catcher, and Ryan Doumit and Drew Butera are other options. Steinbach believes the catchers can help Minnesota's pitching staff, which posted one of the worst ERAs in baseball last year.
"Catching's kind of fun because if a pitcher throws a no-hitter, (the media) all go to the pitcher, which (they) should. But the pitcher will come to you a day or two later and say, 'Man, you did a nice job.' It's kind of fun to get that relationship," Steinbach said. "I'm excited to do that. Joe's obviously a fantastic hitter. I really don't know a lot what they do game preparation and stuff, and that's what Gardy and I are going to talk about and that's what our catching corps is going to get established in spring training."
Added Gardenhire: "He's going to be valuable, very valuable, being able to communicate with guys and talk about game preparation and plan on hitters and all those things. Those are the things he's going to be doing."
During the Twins' Caravan stop, Steinbach recalled his days in Oakland when he played for manager Tony La Russa. After a game in which Steinbach went 3-for-4 at the plate, he was called into La Russa's office. Steinbach was a rookie at the time and was expecting his skipper to tell him he was doing a nice job.
The message La Russa delivered was far different from what Steinbach was expecting.
"I walk into Tony's office and he says, 'Hey, close the door,' " Steinbach said. "I close the door, he says, 'Sit down.' He goes, 'If you ever call as crappy of a game as you called today, you're out. We'll send you down and out of here so fast.' To me, I thought if you hit, you stay. But it was a good teaching situation because in catching, there's much more to swinging the bat."
Before Steinbach could finish telling the story, Gardenhire chimed in.
"I can't wait until you call Joe into my office and rip him right there," Gardenhire laughed. "Joe's 5-for-5 and you call him in to say, 'You stunk.'
"See, I've got something to look forward to already."
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