The Minnesota Twins are just 23 days away from spring training. As we celebrate the end of the blustery temps and the return of the game we love, let’s look at team history surrounding that number.
The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectations after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card. We will have bring out numbers from team history that represent the number of days until spring training from now until pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.
A number of players have worn the #23 jersey in Twins history, but in 2003, one of the more interesting trades happened when one player wearing the jersey was traded, and the new player came in to wear the same number, making up a half-dozen seasons of #23 between Bobby Kielty and Shannon Stewart.
The 23 intersection
Kielty was a major win for the Minnesota Twins scouting department, signed as an undrafted free agent. After just a couple of seasons, he worked his way up to the major leagues.
In 2002 and 2003, Kielty was the starting right fielder for the Twins, and in his time with the team, he showed tremendous ability, hitting .269/.375/.444 with 23 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 224 games.
On July 16th of 2003, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for their left fielder Shannon Stewart. Due to Stewart being more expensive, the Twins also received a player to be named later in the deal.
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While Kielty was a solid player in his own right, Stewart was exactly what the 2003 team needed – a shot in the arm at the top of the lineup. He was no longer the player who had once stolen 51 bases in a season, but Stewart was still an excellent base runner, and he consistently posted high on base percentages.
Stewart went beyond his typical performances in the second half of 2003 with the Twins, sitting atop the lineup and hitting .322/.384/.470 with 22 doubles, 6 home runs, and 3 steals in just 65 games. His offensive surge helped to power the Twins to a division title, and for his efforts, he finished 4th in the AL MVP voting.
The Twins would bring back Stewartfor another 3 seasons, but injuries would limit him to just 268 games over the three seasons. He was productive while on the field, hitting .287/.347/.405 with 23 home runs and 16 steals, but his injury issues made him more of a liability than an asset and the Twins let him leave to free agency after the 2006 season.
For 23 days to spring training, we’ll remember a pair of outfielders who gave Twins fans great memories and were traded for one another once upon a time.
Come soon, spring!!