The Minnesota Twins are eagerly anticipating the return of one of its former players -- first baseman Justin Morneau, who now plays for the Colorado Rockies -- in the upcoming 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby on July 14 at Target Field.
Moreneau is a first baseman who suited up for the Twins from 2003-2013 and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates last August before signing with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent prior to the 2014 MLB season. His participation in the Home Run Derby will be his first time to show up at Target Field since the trade, per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger:
"Justin Morneau is heading back to Target Field.
"Morneau lost out in the MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian to (Chicago) Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on Thursday, but he will still be returning to Minnesota to participate in the Gillette Home Run Derby on Monday at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
"It marks the first time back to Target Field for Morneau since he was traded to the Pirates last August. He joined the Rockies as a free agent this offseason.
"'I know it means a lot to him,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'I know he talked about tipping his hat to the fans. Now he has a chance to play in front of the fans, so I'm happy for him. I wish he would've made the team. I thought that would've been cool to see him on that line. But coming back fro the home run contest there will be a lot of people rooting for him, and we all know what he means to this organization.'
"Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who is also participating in the Home Run Derby, was equally excited to hear that his former teammate would be joining him in the event.
"'He deserves to be an All-Star and is one of the best first baseman in the National League, but at the same time, for him to be back at Target Field, I know the fans are probably more excited about that than anything,' Dozier said. 'It's pretty cool.'
"Morneau, 33, played 11 years with the Twins, winning the AL MVP Award in 2006 and being named an All-Star four straight years ('07-10). He also participated in the Home Run Derby in '07 and '08, winning the event in '08 at Yankee Stadium.
"The Twins will get to see Morneau firsthand this weekend in Colorado for a three-game series against the Rockies before the All-Star break, causing Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony to joke that he would not mind seeing Morneau save his energy for the Derby.
"'I'm glad he's participating,' Antony said. 'I know it was disappointing for a lot of Twins fans and a lot of guys in that clubhouse were hoping he'd make that club. So it'll be good to see him back in Minnesota and Target Field. Hopefully, he does absolutely nothing this weekend and rests up.'"
The Minnesota Star Tribune's Jim Souhan vouches for Morneau in the All-Star Game:
"Justin Morneau never played in a playoff game at Target Field, and he spent his last 3 1/2 seasons as a Twin trying to overcome the concussion that interrupted his reign as one of baseball's best hitters.
"The celebrity marriage of Target Field's inviting right field wall and Morneau's powerful swing was annulled by a knee to the head in July 2010. If he had avoided injury, Morneau would have become a candidate for a statue outside the ballpark's limestone walls.
"On Thursday, Morneau lost an opportunity to play for the National League All-Stars at Target Field, but was added to the Home Run Derby. It's a half-measure that is better than none.
"The prodigious son returns, in an appearance that, for Minnesotans, could trump Derek Jeter playing in his last All-Star Game.
"Morneau should be here. That is the way All-Star Games are supposed to work. They are supposed to conjure emotions. They are supposed to conjure emotions. They are supposed to place Tony Gwynn and Ted Williams near the Fenway Park mound as all of Boston stands and cheers, and they are supposed to allow Cal Ripken to shift from shortstop to third base before the first pitch of his last appearance."
Morneau has amassed 1,438 hits, 234 home runs and 922 RBIs on a .279 batting average in 1,389 career games through July 11, per ESPN stats.