Aguilera joins Twins' Hall of Fame
Team's all-time saves leader inducted prior to Saturday's game
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was January 1990 when Rick Aguilera got a fateful call from Twins manager Tom Kelly. After exchanging pleasantries, Kelly informed the pitcher that after thinking about his options, he had decided to make Aguilera the club's new closer."See you in a few weeks," Kelly said and then quickly hung up the phone, before the pitcher could ask any questions. Turns out Aguilera didn't have to, as he took to the role better than even Kelly could have imagined. Aguilera was inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame on Saturday before the evening's game against Arizona, in a ceremony that took place about five feet from the mound on which he became Minnesota's career saves leader and helped bring a World Series championship to the team in 1991.
Many things could have been going through Aguilera's head as he walked to the podium amidst another standing ovation at the Metrodome. He could have been thinking of the saves, the championships, his teammates or family. Actually, before the game, he anticipated that it would be none of those things."I'm just hoping I can stay composed, I get a little emotional," Aguilera said. Aguilera had 254 saves as the Twins' closer in parts of 11 seasons, making him the team's all-time saves leader. The man best known as "Aggie" was a three-time All-Star and ranks second in career appearances for the Twins, with 490. "Now that I'm done playing and out of the game, as great as the World Series was, it's the relationships that I get to enjoy now that is the most meaningful," Aguilera said. Aguilera has stayed close with many teammates over the years, including fellow pitcher Kevin Tapani. Aguilera was long a fan favorite in Minnesota. His jet-black hair is largely the same as in his time with the Twins, but his trademark beard is now a salt-and-pepper goatee. "The fans have just been so awesome for me, personally," Aguilera said. "I think they have made my time here just a great experience, not just for me, but my family as well. I am excited to be here and excited to thank them. ... They are genuine, they care about us, and they want us to win." Aguilera now coaches high school baseball in San Diego and devotes his time to being a "husband 24 hours a day and making up for time when I was away playing." The Twins played a video tribute before introducing Aguilera. He was flanked by former Twins greats, such as Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Bert Blyleven. Kelly also spoke. Aguilera said he occasionally reflects on his 1991 World Series championship, but it mostly comes up while he is coaching. Players want to hear stories, but that can be tricky. "They weren't even born yet when we won a World Series in '91, so it's hard to have them relate to some of the players," Aguilera said. As for Aguilera's pregame concern, it was a mixed bag. He made it through most of his speech with a strong voice, but it started to crack when he addressed those that had supported him as a Twins player. "Lastly, I just want to thank you fantastic fans," Aguilera said as he choked up. Just like in hundreds of appearances with the Twins, however, Aggie composed himself and finished strong.
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.