Prior to Thursday's game-winning knock, Aaron Hicks has struggled mightily in 2014. Those problems have extended off the field as well, as team officials expressed dismay with Hicks' inability to fly and land the team's flight from Detroit to MSP on Sunday.
"You really want to see guys go out there and grab that opportunity by the throat," said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "With Aaron, it's been a real chore to get him to put in that time, that focus, be it on the field or in American airspace."
Hicks, who has never flown a plane nor taken an aviation class, was allegedly asked to pilot the team's jet when it was learned he had a valid driver's license and had been overheard raving about the movie Flight.
"Aaron was going on and on about Denzel Washington's performance and the flight scenes, and we made the decision to move him to the cockpit," said a front office source. "We were really hopeful that he could make that transition.
"As it turns out, we likely broke hundreds of aviation laws and narrowly avoided certain death. Aaron has to be better."
While accounts are still sketchy and no one will speak on the record, it appears that Hicks took control of the plane with coaches Tom Brunansky and Paul Molitor as his co-pilots.
"Yeah, Bruno and Molly have never flown, either," said the source. "But to their credit, they're big, team-first guys. You ask 'em to do something, they do it. They were there to help Aaron work through it, stay within himself, press those buttons and flip those switches with confidence. After that it's on Aaron."
The original pilots, who had been distracted by a game of Washington County Pepper with reliever Glen Perkins, were able to get back into the cabin, regain control of the plane and land it safely at MSP's Terminal 2. Antony was thankful for their quick work and critical of Hicks' handling of it.
"The pilots were furious, obviously, but Hicks just let them take control of the flight. His laid back attitude there makes you wonder if it's ever going to click. Show some fire, you know?"