The Baseball Hall of Fame has announced a partial list of participants in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic. The Classic, which replaced the Hall of Fame Game after the 2008 season, features two teams of former players from all 30 MLB squads facing off on Doubleday Field, two blocks away from the Hall. Teams are managed by living Hall of Famers, as deceased Hall of Famers tend to make poor in-game decisions.
Former Twins pitcher and current team broadcaster Bert Blyleven will be one of the coaches of this year’s teams, per the Hall’s announcement. Blyleven’s 22-year career (1970-92) included two stints in Minnesota, covering 11 seasons. As a Twin, his curveball helped him finish those 11 seasons with a 3.28 ERA, slightly better than his 3.31 career mark, and aided the Twins on their way to the 1987 World Series title. He struck out 3,701 batters in his career, still the fifth-highest mark of all time. Blyleven’s path to Cooperstown was a tedious one, lasting 14 ballots while the sabermetric boom helped his case. When he finally topped the 75 percent threshold in 2011, he held the 13th-highest Wins Above Replacement by any pitcher, according to Baseball Reference.
While the former players who will be participating in the game represent all 30 teams, five have Twins ties. The most prominent name is closer Joe Nathan, who will be representing the Minnesota Twins on the field. Nathan pitched for Minnesota from 2004 through 2011, shutting down ninth-inning hitters to the tune of a 2.16 ERA and 260 saves. He made four All-Star Games as a Twin, and in 2009 set a career high with 47 saves.
The other Twins who will travel to Cooperstown this May are:
- A.J. Pierzynski (MLB: 1998-2016), representing the Chicago White Sox, came up through the Twins’ minor league system and debuted wearing a Minnesota uniform, a uniform he would don through the 2003 season. Pierzynski batted .301 in his six years in the Metrodome, with a .341 OBP and .447 SLG to fill out his plate percentages. But Pierzynski is best known in Minnesota for his departure, which came via trade to the Giants, a trade which brought the Twins Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser.
- Grant Balfour (MLB: 2001-15), representing the Tampa Bay Rays, also debuted with the Twins, pitching for them for just three seasons before injuries put his career on hiatus. Balfour pitched in 55 games as a Twin, giving up 61 hits and walking 38 over 68 innings. His 4.63 ERA in Minnesota was not, however, an omen for the rest of his career, as Balfour would become a reliable reliever for the Rays and Oakland Athletics, recording a sub-3.00 ERA for five seasons out of a six-year stretch.
- Orlando Cabrera (MLB: 1997-2011), representing the Los Angeles Angels, spent only one season in Minnesota, the 2009 campaign. In that season, he batted .289 with just five home runs, one a two-run shot in Game 163. Though representing the Angels in the Hall of Fame Classic, Cabrera actually spent most of his career with the Montreal Expos, where he began his time in the major leagues and played eight seasons.
- Orlando Hudson (MLB: 2002-12), representing the Toronto Blue Jays, replaced Cabrera in the Twins’ infield for the 2010 season providing, like his Orlando predecessor, capable defense and a bat that produced some average but not much power. That season, Hudson batted .268 with an OBP of .338 and a slugging mark of .372, hitting six home runs but also swatting one during the ALDS.
The rosters are not complete, as the Hall’s announcement included representatives from 27 of the 30 teams, but it’s certain there will be a sizable contingent of ex-Twins present. Best of luck to all of them.