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Ode to a Legend: The 2023 Twins LNP Awards

And Awards in His Name

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Williamson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

A baseball team is made up of a cast of characters. From the veterans to the rookies, there’s a gamut of roles. The Minnesota Twins are no different. They have had their share of stars and, thanks to Zach‘s article series (Greatest Minnesota Twins), we have a decent idea of who makes up the Minnesota Twins Mount Rushmore. My previous article (link) took a look at this season’s captain (and makes you wonder about previous captains). There’s been top prospects, fan favorites, beloved journeymen, and other players that all fans think of. Each of those players, deservedly, has a spot in our memories.

But when I think of the Minnesota Twins, there is one player who has earned a special place in all of our hearts. He may not have the accolades of previous Twins greats, but his name will always be remembered in the history of the franchise. His name? Nicholas Paul Punto. For those who need a refresher, Punto was drafted by the Twins in 1997 but did not sign. Fortunately, six years later (to the day!), the Twins acquired their guy from the Phillies for Eric Milton and the world was at peace. Punto was a living legend and was the topic of much discussion around these parts (please bask in the glory of the past: a Collection of FanPosts and Punto’s Retirement).

While we are far removed from the glory days, Punto led a revolution and became the teeth of the mid-2000s Piranhas. So, today, we raise a glass to the 20-year anniversary of “The Trade,’’ always remembering his headfirst slides into first base. Though we’ll celebrate, we must also acknowledge the days of small ball are all but gone and baseball has turned its focus to the three true outcomes. In the last five seasons, the Twins earned the nickname Bomba Squad and have broken both the MLB record for the number of homeruns in a season (307 in 2019) and strikeouts in a season (1,654 in 2023).

Though it may be true that baseball is not going back to the days of our 5’9” wunderkind, if we look closely, it’s still possible to see hints of the past. I scoured the 2023 roster and was able to find a handful of Twins who exemplified a trait, characteristic, or skill of Punto. So, without further ado, my LNP awards:

Donovan Solano: “Keep it in the Park”

  • Punto had 19 career home runs in 14 seasons. His most in a season was 4. Solano comes the closest with a whopping 32 home runs in 10 seasons.

Kyle Farmer: “Put me in, Coach”

  • Punto was willing to play everywhere, appearing in games everywhere except catcher and pitcher during his career. Farmer spent the majority of 2023 at 3B, SS, and 2B but jumped into 1B and LF (and even has experience on the mound and behind the plate).

Michael A. Taylor: “Let’s Steal (but not too much)”

  • As a regular, Punto stole between 13 and 17 bases a year. Taylor typically falls in the same range and hit that mark this year with 13 stolen bases (albeit, with a much higher success rate).

Edouard Julien: “Walks > Strikeouts”

  • Punto typically walked more than half as much as he struck out in a given season (in 2009, he walked 61 times and struck out 70 times!). Julien’s plate discipline is a strength, but he still struck out twice as many times as he walked this year (128 to 64).

Royce Lewis: “Look Mom, Headfirst”

  • Punto’s signature move was his headfirst slide into first base. While Lewis didn’t do this, his “at all costs” mentality could see this happen at some point in his career (*if you are aware of any players who have slid headfirst into first, please let me know*)

Did I miss any awards? Who was the most “Nick Punto” on the 2023 roster? Who in Twins history is a “Nick Punto”?