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David Ortiz recalls 'good days' as Twins honor him before game

MINNEAPOLIS -- It wasn't quite an episode of "This Is Your Life," but the Minnesota Twins marked David Ortiz's final games in the Twin Cities by inviting several of his former teammates to participate in a pregame ceremony Friday night at Target Field.

Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, Corey Koskie, Eddie Guardado and ex-manager Ron Gardenhire were among the former Twins in attendance. Ortiz played in Minnesota for six years (1997-2002) before becoming a three-time World Series champion, franchise icon and potential Hall of Famer with the Boston Red Sox.

"It means a lot," Ortiz said of seeing his former teammates. "We don't get together much. I mean, we will when I retire after this season. They were talking to me about how does it feel to be retired. It kind of motivated me a little bit."

Ortiz's final visit to Minnesota was tinged with some awkwardness, considering the Twins released him after the 2002 season. General manager Terry Ryan has lamented the loss of Ortiz for years, claiming it was the worst baseball decision he has made.

The Twins let Ortiz's former teammates lead Friday's tribute. They showed a video that interspersed his greatest Red Sox hits with Minnesota highlights, including dugout dances with Hunter, and donated $10,000 in Ortiz's name to late Twins great Kirby Puckett's scholarship program.

Hunter, Koskie, Hawkins and Guardado presented Ortiz with a custom 64-ounce jar of peanut butter, an homage to an old clubhouse prank in which Koskie lined Ortiz's underwear with Skippy.

"Corey is not allowed in my clubhouse," Ortiz said, chuckling. "It was fun. Those days were fun. We were kids. We knew that we were going to be together for a while, so it was some really good days back then."

Just imagine, though, how much different things might have been if Ortiz had never left Minnesota. Instead, he spent part of the Red Sox's off day Thursday walking around downtown Minneapolis in stunning anonymity for a hitter with more than 500 career home runs.

"Nobody knows who I am," Ortiz said. "It's good. My driver, she thought I was David Ortiz, but she wasn't sure."

Ortiz's career took off once he joined the Red Sox, in large part because he was put in a better position to succeed. He was never a favorite of former Twins manager Tom Kelly, who hounded him to move runners over by hitting the ball the other way, to left field, rather than playing to his strengths by pulling home runs to right.

But Ortiz insists he doesn't harbor any ill feelings for the Twins. If anything, his early-career setbacks, including getting released by the Twins, pushed him to get better.

"Things happen for a reason, you know?" Ortiz said. "I always really appreciate the fact that the Twins gave me an opportunity to come to the big leagues and experience what this is all about. The one thing I can tell you about the Twins organization is the way they teach us how to play the game. They're respectful and want you to get prepared every day. Fundamentals, something that never walked away from me and something I really appreciate."