Tyner ends record homerless streak
Twins outfielder ends 1,220 at-bat power drought
CLEVELAND -- It was a milestone home run that had been eagerly anticipated by the entire Twins ballclub.No, not Barry Bonds' 755th career homer, but rather Jason Tyner's first. The Twins outfielder had gone 1,220 career at-bats in the Majors without one long ball before seeing that streak end Saturday in his first at-bat. It came in the third inning of the Twins' 3-2 victory over the Indians at Jacobs Field. With one out in the inning, Tyner came to the plate and belted a 1-1 pitch just over the right-field wall and into the Twins bullpen. The 352-foot shot off Indians starter Jake Westbrook was so close to not going over the wall that Tyner sprinted around to second base before realizing that he had finally hit his first big league home run. And from that point on, it seemed like the smile couldn't be wiped off Tyner's face. "I'm excited," Tyner said after the win. "Every time I hit one really well, it was like the wind was blowing in or it was at the Metrodome, where I don't really have a chance. It did seem like I never was going to hit one." The excitement wasn't lost on his teammates, who greeted him with an unusual occurrence for a player's first career homer -- a celebration. Normally a player gets the silent treatment. But this was, after all, something they all felt was a special occasion. So awaiting Tyner upon his return were a bunch of high fives and a big hug from the team's unofficial cheerleader and clubhouse attendant, Wayne "Big Fella" Hattaway. "There was lots of emotions in that one," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Everyone was really, really excited." Reliever Pat Neshek retrieved the ball for Tyner and had it authenticated. It sat inside the outfielder's locker as he gave interviews while receiving a fair amount of trash-talking from his teammates. But while it was momentous to finally have hit a home run, Tyner said the stretch had gone on for so long that he was content to not have one. "If I never would have hit one, I would have been happy because 1,200 at-bats is a lot," Tyner said. "Most of the time guys that don't hit home runs don't get 1,200 at-bats in the big leagues. But this does mean a lot." So does this mean the start of a home run binge now for Tyner? "I doubt it," Tyner said with a laugh. "But they are definitely going to have to find a new stat to put up on the scoreboard when I come up on the road. It seemed like everywhere I went, they were trying to rub it in." Tyner certainly had enough of that on his own team. The teasing from the fellow Twins players was merciless at times, and on Saturday night, Johan Santana said the joke had even grown to the point where the pitchers felt they might beat Tyner to the punch -- despite their very limited chances. "We had a bet going earlier in the season that I was supposed to hit a homer before him with our Interleague games," Santana said with a laugh. "I was going to have the least chances to hit one, but I was going to try." Santana's bet wasn't the only one that involved Tyner's drought. A wager took place between Tyner and Gardenhire earlier in the year regarding the elusive homer. Gardenhire, a proud University of Texas alum, had told Tyner, a Texas A&M alum, that he would wear an Aggies shirt should Tyner blast one. So the skipper admitted that while everyone else in the dugout was cheering, his first reaction was a little different -- more like, "Oh, no." But Gardenhire said he will stick to the bet and don the Aggies apparel. While the Twins may have gotten rid of Tyner's streak, the title of the longest homerless drought didn't move very far. The position player now holding the distinction of the longest active streak without a homer is the team's second baseman, Luis Castillo, who has gone 609 at-bats without one. Tyner admitted that he apologized to Castillo following the home run, but he made sure to point out there is a big difference between the two of them. "He's hit one before in his career, so I think it was a bigger deal with me," Tyner said.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.