Detroit —The apple did not fall far from the tree in the Gardenhire family.
Toby Gardenhire, who managed the Twins Class-A team in Cedar Rapids, is up with the Twins serving and learning under manager Paul Molitor during this series against the Tigers. He was asked if he tried to apply things his father has told him over the years.
And with perfect comedic timing, he said, “I try to forget all the stuff he’s taught me. I remember a little bit of it, but I try to forget most of it.”
Molitor let Toby bring up the lineup card. So he and his father, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, got to exchange lineups and shake hands at home plate before the game.
And then when Toby Gardenhire looked into the Tigers’ dugout, it had to be like looking at a photo from a family reunion. Besides his father, who will be on the top step, were Steve Liddle, Joe Vavra and Rick Anderson — coaches who were with his father in Minnesota and were like surrogate uncles when he was growing up.
“I was just thinking about that last night,” he said. “It should be real interesting looking over there and seeing all those guys. I know all of them really well, too. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The last time Toby was in the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park, he was the Twins bat boy. He spent most of his young life going to the ballpark with his father. His baby-sitters were major-league ballplayers.
“It was just good to see him,” the elder Gardenhire said. “I saw him last night. He came by the house. All my family came up for this. Not for me, for him. They are all at the house, the grandbabies, the whole package.
“He’s excited. This is a great opportunity the Twins are giving him, to be on the field in the big leagues. He’s worked really hard. He had a good year as a manager. Good for him. Now we’ll see who the family roots for.”
Ron Gardenhire is sure he’s got no backers in this one.
“Maybe my seven-month-old grandbaby will root for me,” he said. “I don’t know about the wife or anybody else. I have my doubts.”
Wrong, Toby said.
“They all have Tigers gear on,” he said. “My girlfriend is here. She’s got the Twins stuff on. Everybody else is wearing Tigers gear. I talked to my little nephew Ronnie and he said, ‘Tigers, Tigers, Tigers.’ So I can’t fight that.”
Ron Gardenhire was able to watch a lot of Toby’s games on the internet and Toby got ribbed mercilessly in Cedar Rapids for always having the Tigers games on. The two talked often before and after games.
“This was my first (professional) managing gig for a full season, so I talked to him quite a bit,” Toby said. “We had a lot of talented guys come through A-ball this year and he was asking me questions about some of our guys.
“I didn’t give too much away.”
Toby got ejected twice this season, so he’s got a ways to go before he fully emulates his father in that sense.
“He’s so much more calm than I am,” Ron said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s a baseball kid. He’s been around baseball his whole life from the times being in the clubhouse when I was managing and even when I was coaching under Tom Kelly.
“He’s always been around the ballpark. He’s a baseball rat. He played college ball. It’s all he knows and he loves it. He absolutely loves it. He’s good with people and he handles himself well.”
Chip off the old block, for sure. Ron Gardenhire was asked if he envisioned coaching with his son someday?
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe if he’s managing one day and I’ll be his special coach for about five days. That might work. I hope he gets an opportunity someday, if he’s good enough. That would be a wonderful thing.
“But he’s really happy where he’s at right now. The Twins have done a great thing and he’s had a good year managing. And he really likes it.”