Justin Morneau

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Justin Morneau
0923 398c Justin Morneau.jpg
Morneau with the Minnesota Twins in 2006
First baseman
Born: (1981-05-15) May 15, 1981 (age 37)
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Batted: LeftThrew: Right
MLB debut
June 10, 2003, for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 2016, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average .281
Home runs 247
Runs batted in 985
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Justin Ernest George Morneau (born May 15, 1981) is a Canadian former professional baseball first baseman. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, and Chicago White Sox. At 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and 220 pounds (100 kg), Morneau was drafted as a catcher by the Twins in 1999. He converted to first base in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2003. Morneau held that position throughout his career and in 2007 became the first Twin since Gary Gaetti in 19871988 to hit 30 home runs in consecutive seasons. He is now a special assistant for the Minnesota Twins.

Professional baseball is played in leagues throughout the world. In these leagues and associated farm teams, baseball players are selected for their talents and are paid to play for a specific team or club system.

First baseman defensive position in baseball and softball, played on the far right side of the infield at or near first base

First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a baserunner to score a run for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense who fields the area nearest first base, and is responsible for the majority of plays made at that base. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901 respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Contents

A four-time All-Star despite an injury-riddled career, Morneau was named the 2006 American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP), finished runner-up for MVP in 2008, and won two Silver Slugger Awards. Additionally, Morneau won the 2008 Home Run Derby and the 2014 National League (NL) batting title. Internationally, Morneau represented Canada at the 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Major League Baseball All-Star Game exhibition game played by Major League Baseball players representing each league

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the "Midsummer Classic", is an annual professional baseball game sanctioned by Major League Baseball (MLB) contested between the All-Stars from the American League (AL) and National League (NL), currently selected by fans for starting fielders, by managers for pitchers, and by managers and players for reserves.

American League Baseball league, part of Major League Baseball

The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League (AL), is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major league status. It is sometimes called the Junior Circuit because it claimed Major League status for the 1901 season, 25 years after the formation of the National League.

Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award baseball award given to the most important player in each of the Major Leagues

The Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) is an annual Major League Baseball (MLB) award given to one outstanding player in the American League and one in the National League. Since 1931, it has been awarded by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). The winners receive the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award, which became the official name of the award in 1944, in honor of the first MLB commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served from 1920 until his death on November 25, 1944.

Early years

Morneau is the youngest son of George Morneau, a hitting coach for many softball and baseball teams, childcare worker, and sporting goods store owner. His mother Audra Chartrand is an elementary school teacher and former fast-pitch softball player. Justin has an older brother, Geordie. His father once played hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings and attended the training camp of the Minnesota North Stars.

Softball Softball is a variant of baseball played with a larger ball

Softball is a variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a field that has base lengths of 60 feet, a pitcher's mound that ranges from 35-43 feet away from home plate, and a homerun fence that is 220 feet away from home plate. It was invented in 1887 in Chicago, Illinois, United States as an indoor game. The game moves at a faster pace than traditional baseball. There is less time for the base runner to get to first while the opponent fields the ball; yet, the fielder has less time to field the ball while the opponent is running down to first base. The name softball was given to the game in 1926, because the ball used to be soft, however in modern day usage, the balls are hard.

Brandon Wheat Kings ice hockey team

The Brandon Wheat Kings are a Canadian junior ice hockey team based in Brandon, Manitoba. They are members of the Western Hockey League, joining the league in the 1967–68 season. Prior to that they played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League except for two seasons in the mid-1960s when they played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The team was known as the Brandon Elks for a short time in the late 1930s. They won 8 Turnbull Cup Championships as Manitoba Junior Champions, 1939, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1960, 1962, 1963, & 1964 and appeared in the Memorial Cup six times: in 1949, 1979, 1995, 1996, 2010, and 2016, losing each time. The team plays its home games at the Keystone Centre. They also played at Wheat City Arena until 1969, and the Manex Arena from 1969 to 1972. Between 1973 and 1980, the Wheat Kings owned and operated a farm team in the MJHL, called the Travellers.

Minnesota North Stars former hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Minnesota North Stars were a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 26 seasons, from 1967 to 1993. The North Stars played their home games at the Met Center in Bloomington, and the team's colors for most of its history were green, yellow, gold and white. The North Stars played 2,062 regular season games and made the NHL playoffs 17 times, including two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. In the fall of 1993, the franchise moved to Dallas, and is now known as the Dallas Stars.

Morneau grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia, the historic "Royal City", adjacent to Vancouver, where he played hockey for the local minor team, the New Westminster Royals, and emerged as a star goaltender, playing for teams a year older than he was. He also played baseball in the New Westminster Minor Baseball Association and for the North Delta Blue Jays in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.

New Westminster City in British Columbia, Canada

New Westminster is a city in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada, and a member municipality of Metro Vancouver. It was founded by Major-General Richard Moody as the capital of the new-born Colony of British Columbia in 1858, and continued in that role until the Mainland and Island Colonies were merged in 1866, and was the Mainland's largest city from that year until it was passed in population by Vancouver during the first decade of the 20th Century.

British Columbia Province of Canada

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. With an estimated population of 5.016 million as of 2018, it is Canada's third-most populous province.

Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre, which makes it the fifth-most densely populated city with over 250,000 residents in North America behind New York City, Guadalajara, San Francisco, and Mexico City according to the 2011 census. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada according to that census; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Roughly 30% of the city's inhabitants are of Chinese heritage. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city.

Morneau attended Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in New Westminster, later transferring to Richard McBride Elementary School, where his mother was a teacher and coach and where he enrolled in a French immersion program. He played basketball and volleyball and ball hockey on the school teams.

French immersion is a form of bilingual education in which students, who do not speak French as first language will receive instruction in French. In most French-immersion schools, students will learn to speak French and learn most subjects such as history, music, geography, math, art, physical education and science in French. Most school boards in Ontario offer French Immersion starting in grade one and others start as early as Senior Kindergarten. With the TDSB French immersion is offered starting in Senior kindergarten. At the primary level, students will receive instructions in French at a hundred percent of their instructional day. English instruction is introduced in grade 4 and the minutes of English instruction will increase throughout their educational career up to fifty percent of English/French instruction daily.

Growing up, Morneau was an avid sports fan, whose favourite athletes included hockey players Patrick Roy, fellow BC boy Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and baseball players John Olerud, Ken Griffey Jr, Jack Morris and Larry Walker. He was a Boston Bruins and Toronto Blue Jays fan.

Patrick Roy Canadian ice hockey player

Patrick Jacques Roy is a Canadian former professional ice hockey goaltender and the former head coach and vice-president of hockey operations for the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League (NHL). He is currently the general manager and head coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He is regarded as one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. In 2017 Roy was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.

Cam Neely Canadian ice hockey player

Cameron Michael Neely is a Canadian professional ice hockey executive and former player. Neely played right wing for the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League from 1983 to 1996. Neely was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. He currently serves as the president of the Boston Bruins.

Ray Bourque Canadian ice hockey player

Raymond Jean Bourque is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player.

Morneau attended St. Thomas More Collegiate High School in 1994–95, for his grade 8 year, where he played basketball. Coaches approached him to play for the school's famed football program, based on his athletic ability, but he declined.

Morneau transferred to New Westminster Secondary School and graduated in 1999. He continued to play basketball and hockey while in high school. He was named the New Westminster High School Athlete of the year and was a member of Canadian national champion baseball teams in 1997 and 1998. In 1998, he was selected the best hitter and catcher of the National Championships playing for Team British Columbia.

Morneau was associated with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League; he attended training camp and played one preseason game of Major Junior hockey as a goaltender. Morneau chose his jersey number (33) for goalie Patrick Roy. He is listed as winning the Memorial Cup in 1998 with the Winter Hawks. As Morneau put it, "I was the third goalie. A backup to the backup. If somebody got hurt, I might have gotten out there as a backup. I played in an exhibition game and backed up some regular-season games.". [1] Morneau remained on Portland's Protected Player List until he decided to focus on baseball instead of hockey. According to Winter Hawks assistant coach at the time, Mike Williamson, "He was young and raw — a big guy who covered a lot of the net. I remember a conversation we had with him when recruiting him. We told him he should go to hockey because not many Canadian guys end up going very far and doing very well in baseball. He showed us otherwise." [2]

Professional career

Home run for Morneau, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Justin Morneau-Metrodome-20060611.jpg
Home run for Morneau, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Minor leagues

Morneau did not attend college, despite receiving many attractive offers from NCAA schools. He was selected by the Twins in the 3rd round as the 89th overall pick of the 1999 MLB amateur entry draft. He converted to first base in 2001 while playing for the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits. In six minor league seasons, he hit .310 with 87 home runs, 153 RBIs and 122 doubles.

Morneau participated in the 2002 and 2004 All-Star Futures Games, playing for the World teams. Morneau played for the World team in MLB Futures Game, July 7 in Milwaukee. Morneau was twice named Eastern League Player of the Week, April 22–28 and July 15–21. On September 3, Morneau was promoted to Minnesota's Triple A team, The Edmonton Trappers. During his first Triple A season, Morneau won the PCL championship with the Trappers.

Minnesota Twins

2003 season

Morneau made his Major League debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003 against the Colorado Rockies, batting clean-up. He singled in his first career at-bat off Jason Jennings and went 2 for 4 in the game. A week later, he hit his first career home run off Kansas City Royals reliever Albie Lopez. Morneau went on to hit four home runs in his rookie season while batting .226. He spent the majority of the season with the Twins' Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings.

2004 season

In 2004, after compiling impressive minor league numbers, the Twins dealt veteran first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox and Morneau became the Twins' starting first baseman. He appeared in 74 games for the Twins in 2004, hitting 19 home runs and 58 RBIs in 280 at bats while committing just three errors.

2005 season

The 2005 season was a struggle for Morneau, as he dealt with a variety of off-season illnesses as well as being hit in the head by a pitch in April. Although he never appeared to fully shake off his early season setbacks, Morneau finished the 2005 season second on the Twins in home runs with 22 and paced the squad with 79 RBI.

Prior to the 2006 season, Morneau suited up for his native Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He hit .308 with 3 doubles and 2 RBIs in three games.

2006 season

During Morneau's first 3 seasons with the Twins he wore #27, starting in 2006 he began to Wear #33 for the rest of his Twins career. After a slow start to 2006, Morneau exploded offensively in the months of June, July, and August, raising his batting average nearly 50 points in June after beginning the month hitting .240. He raised his average another 33 points in July and after June consistently appeared near the top of the American League leaderboard in batting average, home runs, and RBI. On August 9, Morneau became the first Twin since 1987 to hit 30 home runs in a single season. He finished the season hitting .321 (6th in the AL) and slugging .559 (6th in AL) with 34 home runs and 130 RBI. He was second in the league in RBIs and tied Larry Walker's 1997 total for the most RBIs in a season by a Canadian. For his hitting, he won the 2006 American League Silver Slugger Award representing first basemen. His efforts helped the Twins win their fourth division title in five years.

On November 21, Morneau won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in a close vote over Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, becoming only the fourth player in Twins history (after Zoilo Versalles, Harmon Killebrew, and Rod Carew) to receive the honour. He became the first Canadian to win the AL MVP award, and the second Canadian to win a major league MVP award (Larry Walker was the first, having won the NL MVP Award in 1997; Walker and Morneau were joined in 2010 by Joey Votto).

2007 season

Morneau played in 157 games, hitting 31 home runs. In May 2007, Morneau won the Player of the Month in the American League for the first time in his career. Morneau appeared on the cover of the arcade baseball video game The Bigs in Canadian stores and at Best Buy stores in the United States.

Morneau was named to the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game roster in 2007 for the first time. He also participated in the 2007 State Farm Home Run Derby for the first time. He was up first and hit 4 homers and ended up tying with Albert Pujols in the first round. He was subsequently eliminated with only one homer on 5 chances in a tie-off. Pujols advanced to the 2nd round with 2 homers. Morneau had his first career three home run game on July 6, 2007, against the Chicago White Sox. He had a solo, a 2-run, and a 3-run homer. He had an at bat to try for his fourth home run, but his bat got under the ball, and he flew out to deep left field.

2008 season

In January 2008, Morneau agreed to a six-year contract worth $80 million, which at the time was the longest and richest contract in Minnesota Twins history until in 2010, teammate Joe Mauer signed an 8-year, $184 million contract. [3] Morneau produced with his new contract, as he played in all 162 of the Twins' games and hit .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBI. [4]

On July 10, 2008, Morneau tied a career high with 5 hits in a game as the visiting Minnesota Twins defeated the Detroit Tigers. He hit what went on to be the game-winning home run to finish the day 5 for 5 with a walk in a 7–6 extra-innings win. [5] Morneau was then announced as a reserve player for the American League in the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. [6]

Morneau won the 2008 Home Run Derby, defeating Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. He became the first Canadian to win the Home Run Derby. [7] Later during the All-Star event, Morneau scored the winning run for the American League in the MLB All Star Game at Yankee Stadium on a sacrifice fly to right field off the bat of Michael Young. [8] Morneau was awarded the Lionel Conacher Award as the Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year, joining Ferguson Jenkins and Larry Walker as the only Major League Baseball players to win the award. [9] Morneau finished second in the balloting for AL MVP, as Dustin Pedroia won, and Kevin Youkilis came in third. [10]

2009 season

Morneau hit 30 home runs and on July 5, 2009, was selected as a reserve position player at first base for the 2009 All Star Game. On September 14, Morneau was officially diagnosed of having a stress fracture in his back after a long slump, and therefore missed the rest of the 2009 season and the playoffs. [11]

2010 season

Morneau got off to a strong start in the 2010 campaign, hitting a career first-half high .345 batting average and having a major-league leading .437 on-base percentage and .617 slugging percentage at the All-Star break. For the first time in his career, he was voted in by the fans to start the 2010 All-Star Game at first base, but ended up pulling out from the event after sustaining a concussion on July 7. [12]

Morneau missed the remainder of the regular season with the effects of post-concussion syndrome. After the Twins clinched the American League Central Division championship, Morneau said that he was finally symptom-free. Morneau said he would be unavailable for the ALDS, but that he hoped to be available for the ALCS should the Twins advance. [13] On October 4, 2010, the Twins announced that Morneau would not return for the 2010 season, regardless of how far the team went in the postseason. [14]

2011 season

The Minnesota Twins were glad to see Morneau somewhat recovered from his season-ending concussion in July 2010. He was in the Opening Day starting line-up against the Toronto Blue Jays. This did not last long, though, as he missed five games with the flu later in April and a couple of games in June with a sore wrist. He underwent neck surgery in June to correct pinched nerves in his neck, causing him to miss two months from mid-June to mid-August. Just ten days later, he missed two games with a bruised foot. On August 29, 2011, Morneau suffered a left shoulder injury that would lead to mild concussion-like symptoms. These symptoms eventually led to Morneau missing the remainder of the season. [15] In 2011, Morneau appeared in just 69 games collecting just 60 hits, only four of them home runs. He batted a meager .227 with 19 walks and 30 RBI. All of the previous are career lows disregarding his rookie season. [16]

2012 season

In 2012, Morneau returned as an everyday first baseman for the Twins. Appearing in 134 games, Morneau finished the season with a .257 batting average, 19 home runs and 77 RBI. [17]

2013 season

Before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 31, Morneau played in 127 games for the Twins and had nearly matched his total stats for 2012, batting .259 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI. [18]

Pittsburgh Pirates

Rest of 2013

On August 31, 2013 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Alex Presley and a player to be named later, [19] who was later identified as Duke Welker on October 5, 2013. [20] On September 1, 2013 he made his debut with the Pirates, playing first base and wearing number 66. Morneau wore number 33 in Minnesota, but due to number being retired in Pittsburgh (in honour of Honus Wagner), he simply decided to double it. [21]

Colorado Rockies

Morneau batting with the Colorado Rockies MG 8889 Justin Morneau.jpg
Morneau batting with the Colorado Rockies

On December 3, 2013, Morneau agreed to a 2-year, $14 million deal with the Colorado Rockies, pending a physical. [22] The deal became official on December 13. [23] Morneau became the first Rockies player since Larry Walker to wear #33 as it had been out of circulation, but not retired for Walker since he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. Morneau won the 2014 batting title with a .319 batting average.

After the 2014 season, Morneau traveled to Japan to participate in the 2014 Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series. [24]

Chicago White Sox

On June 9, 2016, Morneau signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. [25] He was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list, and was projected to return after the All-Star break. [26] Due to Zach Duke Wearing #33, Morneau decided to Wear #44 instead.

Front office

After playing for Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but spending the 2017 MLB Season as a free agent, Morneau took a job as a special assistant to the Minnesota Twins, functionally ending his playing career. [27]

Personal life

Baseball diamond #5 in Moody Park was named Justin Morneau Field in honor of Morneau on February 2, 2008. Moody-Park-Justin-Morneau-Field.jpg
Baseball diamond #5 in Moody Park was named Justin Morneau Field in honor of Morneau on February 2, 2008.

Morneau's parents divorced when he was 7 years old. His mother is a retired teacher and his father works in a warehouse. He has an older brother named Geordie. His mother remarried in 2006 and now Justin has two stepsisters. [28] Morneau married Minnesota native Krista Martin in January 2009. Their daughter Evelyn was born on September 23, 2010; [29] their son Marty was born on July 21, 2012. [30] [31]

He has purchased a home in his hometown of New Westminster, where he plans to live after his career is over. His house is just four blocks from Queen's Park, where he grew up playing hockey and baseball. As a minor leaguer in Florida, he experienced homesickness, and would log onto a Vancouver radio station online to hear the weather and traffic reports, and wonder what his friends were up to back home. [28]

Morneau's family is well known in New Westminster. On February 2, 2008, the city honoured him by renaming Moody Park Diamond #5 to Justin Morneau Field. [32] Morneau Field is located just 25 kilometres (16 mi) from a field named for one of Morneau's idols, Larry Walker Field, located in the nearby city of Maple Ridge.

Morneau is extremely superstitious, and wears number 33 to honour his idol, former NHL goaltender Patrick Roy. As a young hockey player, he would refuse to leave the car for hockey games until the clock read  :33 minutes past the hour. [28] (He actually appears as an Easter egg in the NHL video game, NHL 2K8, playing his junior position of goaltender.)

Morneau had a superstitious routine on game days in Minnesota. Before each home game, Morneau stopped by the same Jimmy John's Gourmet Subs, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota and ordered the same sandwich from the menu: Turkey Tom with no sprouts. Later, he drank a slurpee from a slurpee machine in the Twins' clubhouse made of one-half Mountain Dew, one-half red or orange flavor. [28]

He currently resides in Plymouth, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.[ citation needed ]

The Justin Morneau Foundation was established by Morneau himself and his wife, Krista, to support underprivileged communities with an emphasis on those where the Morneaus have lived.

Over a span of four years, (2008–2011) Morneau has mailed more than 200 personalized holiday gifts to Twins employees, including the Target Field grounds crew. [33]

Quotes

See also

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References

  1. Answer Man: Justin Morneau talks hockey, middle names – Big League Stew – MLB – Yahoo! Sports
  2. James Mirtle (November 29, 2006). "Could Morneau have made it in hockey?".
  3. "The Official Site of The Minnesota Twins: News: Morneau, Cuddyer ink multiyear deals". Archived from the original on January 29, 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  4. "Minnesota Twins Stats — Sortable Statistics". MLB.com. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  5. [ dead link ]
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  7. "Morneau steals show to rule Derby | twinsbaseball.com: News". Archived from the original on July 18, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
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  32. http://www.eteamz.com/newwestbaseball/images/JMF_Front_photo.jpg
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  34. 1 2 MPR: The Bleacher Bums: The reluctant "M"
  35. 1 2 MPR: The Bleacher Bums: Justin Morneau: What a difference a year makes
  36. MPR: The Bleacher Bums: Kicking it with the MVP, Part II
  37. Archived November 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
Preceded by
Alex Rodriguez
American League Player of the Month
May 2007
Succeeded by
Alex Rodriguez