Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 43, Rick Stelmaszek
By Nate Palmer
The Minnesota Twins are just 43 days away from Opening Day in Baltimore. As we near that day, here is more Twins history related to that number!
The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectation after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card team. We will highlight numbers from team history that represent the number of days until Opening Day on March 29th in Baltimore.
Today as we continue the countdown to Opening Day we do so by remembering one of the treasured human beings in Twins history, former bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek. As we will explore, Stelmaszek had quite the tenure in baseball and with the Twins before losing his battle with Pancreatic Cancer on November 6, 2017.
As a player, the catcher Stelmaszek was drafted in the 11th round of the 1967 draft by the Washington Senators. Stelmaszek spent some time bouncing around the minor leagues. It was June 25th, 1971 when he made his major league debut with the Senators.
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Stelmaszek spent the next several seasons bouncing around the majors with the Texas Rangers, California Angels, and Chicago Cubs. 1978 was his last season as a pro baseball player and he spent in the Twins minor league system. Stelmaszek ended his major league career with 88 at-bats a .170 batting average, 1 home run, and 10 RBIs.
After retiring as a player, Stelmaszek transitioned into a coaching role with the team he finished his playing career with, the Twins Single-A affiliate Wisconsin Rapids. He then joined the Twins major league staff in 1981 under manager Johnny Goryl.
Stelmaszek was with the Twins under the leadership of five different major league managers, Goryl, Billy Gardner, Ray Miller, Tom Kelly, and Ron Gardenhire. No matter the number of years, it is impressive he was able to withstand that much turnover in the leadership above him and not one of those managers wanted to or were given the authority to replace Stelmaszek.
It wasn’t until following the 2012 season that Stelmaszek was fired from his position as bullpen coach. From 1981-2012, 32 seasons, Stelmaszek was the man leading the Twins bullpen. That stretch makes Stelmaszek the longest tenured coach in Minnesota history and only puts him behind Nick Altrock (42 years with the old Senators) and Manny Mota (34 years, Los Angeles Dodgers) as longest, continuous tenure with a baseball club.
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After Stelmaszek’s passing, it was clear that his impact on the Twins had been not just about baseball, but about shaping men who happened to be baseball players. There was an outpouring of fond memories of Stelmaszek after the news of his passing came out. None maybe captures the meaning of this #43 to the Twins than the words of Glen Perkins, “My Grandpa taught me to throw lefty. Todd Oakes taught me how to be a man. Stelly taught me how to be a pro. Cancer took all 3.”