I’ll be honest, until Jim Thome joined the Minnesota Twins at the beginning of the 2010 season I didn’t pay much attention to him. Of course I knew who he was, I knew the teams he had played for, and I knew he was a great power hitter, but beyond that I couldn’t have told you much about him. I think that’s a little bit reflective of the kind of player he is though. He’s never been the type of player to seek out the spotlight. He just goes about his business as best he can. So when he joined the Twins I really didn’t know what to expect, but after less than 2 seasons with the Twins I can honestly say that I’ve never been quite this disappointed to see a player leave the team.
Probably my most vivid memory of Jim Thome before he joined the Twins was something that just about made me really not like him. The 2008 Central Division title was decided by one swing of Thome’s bat and with it eliminating the Twins from playoff contention. It all came down to a decisive Game 163 between the White Sox and Twins that was held in Chicago based on a coin flip. Jim Thome’s solo home run would prove to be the game’s only run giving the White Sox the 1-0 victory crushing my hopes of seeing the Twins in the playoffs that season. So although I knew the Twins were getting a good home run hitter, I was a little reluctant to accept him as someone to cheer for. That wouldn’t take long to change though.
It wasn’t actually until Thome joined the Twins that I began to hear how nice of a guy he is and how well liked he is by his teammates. Hearing all the stories about him and seeing how humble he is during post-game interviews really started to warm me up to him…that and the baseballs landing in the outfield seats off his bat didn’t hurt either now that the runs were counting for the Twins.
Jim Thome sure knows how to put on a show with his bat. Where many players have struggled to hit home runs in the pitcher-friendly Target Field, Thome has the two longest home runs ever hit at Target Field among all players according to ESPN Homerun Tracker.
My favorite moment at Target Field in its young history is actually because of Thome in fact. On August 17, 2010 with the Twins down a run in the 10th inning to the rival Chicago White Sox, who were nipping at the Twins heels at the time for 1st place in the division, Thome launched a 2-run walk-off home run to the right field seats that set the ballpark into a frenzy that I had never seen there before and haven’t seen since.
That’s what Jim Thome really brought to the game. Any of his at-bats had the potential to get the crowd to their feet. You could see the fear in opposing teams’ eyes when he would get in the on-deck circle with the game on the line. You just knew he could change the tone of a game with one swing at any time.
Watching Jim Thome play in person is like watching a living legend. There is no doubt he will be inducted into the hall of fame at some point and I’ve thought to myself on several occasions that I’ll be able to tell my kids some day that I got to watch Jim Thome in person. One person I know said it’s probably the closest thing our generation will get to seeing Babe Ruth in terms of power and size. I wouldn’t disagree with that.
I feel very honored that Jim Thome reached 600 career home runs in a Twins uniform, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very disappointed that I couldn’t witness it in person. His 600th home run was hit on the road in Detroit on August 15th, only 3 days before the Twins would return home for an 11-game home stand. Since I had attended every home game except for 5 this season, I had pinned my hopes on being able to witness history in person. Although that was not to be, it was fun to see the team and organization celebrate his accomplishment when the team returned to Minnesota.
So in less than 2 years as a Minnesota Twin, Jim Thome undoubtedly left a lasting impression on this team and its fans. It was humbling to be able to witness him play so many games and I can honestly say that I will miss seeing him in the Twins lineup. I hope he wins a World Series championship because I can’t think of anyone that deserves it more. Good luck Thome, it was fun while it lasted!
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