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10/12/09 5:30 PM EST

Twins reflect on season's final flurry

Players clear out Metrodome clubhouse for final time

MINNEAPOLIS -- As Twins players drove to the Metrodome on Monday morning to clean out their lockers, the unseasonably early snowfall was a reminder of just how quickly things can change.

Less than a week ago, Minnesota celebrated its fifth American League Central title in the past eight seasons following a thrilling win over the Detroit Tigers in a one-game tiebreaker. But lockers began to empty out on Monday, not even 24 hours after the Twins' season ended in a 4-1 Game 3 loss in the AL Division Series.

"It's been a long week," Twins outfielder Denard Span said. "A real high, then a real low. You barely had time to enjoy clinching the division -- and then getting swept. Everything happened fast."

"Coming in here, seeing guys boxing things up isn't a good feeling," catcher Joe Mauer said. "It's just kind of a shock. It kind of snuck up on us pretty quick here."

An empty champagne bottle remaining from Tuesday's celebration sat in Mauer's locker, serving as a reminder of how good things had been for Minnesota as recently as last week. But with the sting of Sunday's loss to New York still lingering, Mauer and his teammates piled their belongings into cardboard boxes while reflecting back on the season that was.

"We've had a lot of obstacles to overcome," Mauer said. "These guys just never stopped fighting. We found ourselves in the playoffs. You just wish we could have gotten a little further. I'm starting to realize how special the year was."

"It was tough obviously last night," said Michael Cuddyer. "You go home and you reflect and realize we had a great year. That's about all you can do."

Minnesota had its chances against New York, but lost twice at Yankee Stadium and Game 3 at home, the last baseball game played in the Metrodome before the Twins move to Target Field next season.

Some players will be taking keepsakes from the Metrodome. Joe Nathan got his teammates to sign the nameplate that hung above his locker. Others said they hadn't thought about what -- if anything -- they'll take from the clubhouse.

Still, they'll all take away the many memories.

"The main thing I'm going to miss from the Metrodome is the crowd -- the loudness of the crowd," Cuddyer said. "It's going to be loud over [at Target Field], but I don't think even Yankee Stadium can duplicate the loudness here."

"I don't know how many people told me that at that three-week mark, when we were seven games back, how many people said we just came up a little short," said Twins pitcher Scott Baker, who was scheduled to pitch Game 4 against the Yankees. "Little did they know we'd be right in it toward the end and eventually make the postseason. ... That's something we can definitely be proud of."

With the season finally over, the Twins will go their separate ways before those players rejoining the club meet again in Fort Meyers, Fla., for Spring Training. For Mauer, though, the offseason will be one spent answering questions about his expiring contract, which ends after the 2010 season.

But the All-Star catcher has more pressing issues to attend to first, like his friend's wedding this weekend.

"I was hoping we'd miss it," said Mauer.

The accumulating snow outside the Metrodome had Span longing to return to his hometown of Tampa, where the temperature Monday was nearly 60 degrees warmer than Minneapolis -- and snow-free.

"The more I look outside, the more I'm ready to get out of here," Span said. "I'm going to take some time off. I think I deserve some time off. I've had a long year. We've all had a long year."

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.