Jason Kubel was always one of my favorite Twins players. I mean, one can’t help but be impressed by his “origin story”: he came through the Twins’ system as a blue-chip prospect and earned a call-up at the end of the 2004 season (in which he hit .300). He then went to play in the Arizona Fall League and completely blew out his knee and missed an entire campaign. He re-emerged as a slugger in 2006 (providing this dramatic grand slam in one of the most memorable games of that year) and cemented himself as an RBI machine in the middle of the lineup.
I also identified with Kubel because he seemed so shy, socially-awkward, and completely wanting to shun any semblance of spotlight. As a very shy, reserved, oft-socially-bereft person myself, I can appreciate that lifestyle. One has to be a bit quirky to use this as his walkup music for a time...
Anyway, 2009 was perhaps Kubel’s best single campaign in a Twins uniform. He tied Justin Morneau for third place on the team in WAR (both lefty mashers clocked in at 3.5 behind Joe Mauer’s 7.8 and Denard Span’s 3.8) and put up some hefty counting numbers as well: 28 HR, 103 RBI, .300 BA, .907 OPS.
On April 17 of ‘09—exactly ten years ago today—the Twins were hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the Dome. Kubel doubled in the first inning, singled in the third, and tripled in the sixth when Angels RF-er Bobby Abreu let a ball pinball around in the right field corner. One would think this would bode well for the hometown bunch, but sadly Nick Blackburn (6.1 IP, 4 ER) was not sharp out of the gate and the “firemen” (Jesse Crain & Matt Guerrier) added fuel (5 more ER) instead of water. Heading into the home half of the eighth, the good guys were trailing 9-4.
Even worse? I wasn’t watching any of it. You see, back in 2009 I was struggling a bit career-wise. Though I was employed, it was not gainfully—the local Walmart being where I was clocking in and out. As the retail schedule dictates, I was often working the 1-10 PM shift (an experience that to this day still causes me to wake up from nightmares in a cold sweat from time to time). Not ideal for a Central time zone baseball fan, to be sure.
That night, upon (finally) completing my shift, I hopped in my 1992 Ford F-150 to head home...
When I clicked the radio on, the Twins were coming up to bat in the 8th. In the 10-15 minute drive back to my domicile, I listened to Mike Redmond and Span produce run-scoring hits, and then Angels pitcher Jason Bulger intentionally walk Morneau to load the bases for Kubel with the score 9-7 Halos. As I pulled into my driveway, I remember hearing John Gordon’s call of Jason’s final act of the night...
Cycle obtained! Twins win obtained (or would be after an easy 1-2-3 Joe Nathan inning)! Complete and utter pandemonium! I burst into the house and probably woke up most of my family members with my state of euphoria. This moment was exactly what I needed to break out of my 1-10 funk.
Somewhat remarkably, this wouldn’t be the last time Kubes would come up clutch with a granny. Just a season later, he would take Mariano Rivera deep to give the Twins a rare Yankee Stadium win.
I no longer drive that F-150. I no longer work at Walmart. Heck, I no longer even live at that house (or anywhere close to it!). But I’ll never forget that moment of pure bliss listening to Kubel & the Twins stage a late-game comeback for the ages.