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Are the Twins, and Twins fans, ready for Carlos Correa’s relentless positivity?

As long as he’s here, it’s clear Correa wants to make an impact, and not just with his bat and glove.

Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa celebrating with teammates after he is introduced before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Target Field last Friday.
Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa celebrating with teammates after he is introduced before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Target Field last Friday.
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball players are notorious complainers – a lot of them, anyway. There’s no inconvenience too small for players to gripe about. The weather. The postgame meal. The gum selection in the dugout. And on the road, even the walk from the elevator to the hotel room is fair game. (It should be noted baseball writers can be even worse.)  

Last Wednesday afternoon, the day after breaking camp in sunny Fort Myers, the Twins worked out at cold, damp Target Field. It was miserable — 38 degrees and windy with intermittent drizzle. Prime complaining weather.

And yet, as I stood in the dugout in the middle of this muck, a succession of mostly unfamiliar faces (the Twins have about a dozen new players) walked by with smiles. The end of the lockout, the lessening of COVID restrictions and the pending start to the season (albeit delayed by a week) seemed to put everyone in a good mood.

“This year, it’s not that cold to me,” said centerfielder Byron Buxton, the Georgia native who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension in the off-season. “Normally I’d come in and I’m freezing. Just mentality wise, you start to realize it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to go out there regardless of how cold it is. Me, I can’t wait. I’m ready to play.”

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It didn’t take long to figure out the person responsible for everyone’s sunny disposition. After the workout, new shortstop Carlos Correa took a seat in the Target Field press conference room and delivered 15 minutes of relentless positivity.

A two-time All-Star and 2017 World Series champion with the Astros, Correa’s presence in a Twins uniform might be the biggest shock of baseball’s tumultuous off-season. Agent Scott Boras delivered Correa to the stunned Twins via a three-year, $105.3 million deal, making Correa baseball’s second-highest paid position player after Mike Trout of the Angels and fourth highest overall. 

The catch: Correa can terminate the deal after the first or second seasons. So there’s a perception the 27-year-old Correa will have a big year, opt out and sign a longer deal with a more glamorous club this winter. 

A lot can happen between now and October, and maybe it plays out exactly that way. But as long as he’s here, Correa wants to make an impact, and not just with his bat and glove.

On his first day in Fort Myers, Manager Rocco Baldelli said Correa peppered him with questions about how the Twins did things. No detail was too trivial.

“Most of the time, the first day, you’re kind of feeling things out,” Baldelli said. “You get to know a few people you might be comfortable with at first. He had the charisma and the confidence to come in and want to talk about the way we operate, what we need from him, what he wants from us and how it all comes together. He did it in a pretty splendid way.”

Quickly, Correa decided the Twins needed to get more out of their infield drills. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t the way he wanted them, at game speed and mistake-free. A muffed grounder or bad throw cost the offender five pushups. (At Wednesday’s workout, even in the drizzle, second baseman Jorge Polanco dropped and did five after a misplay.) 

“It’s a fun way to go out and practice and try to look for that perfection,” Correa said. “Since I’ve been here, all the infields have been pretty intense and really good. If defensively we can be the best team in the big leagues, we’re going to be in a great spot. Because I know this offense and I know what this offense can do.”

Correa also took it upon himself to lift the self-esteem of his teammates, whether that be a rookie, a veteran of last year’s last-place collapse, or one of the many reclamation projects brought in by Twins executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. 

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“When teammates tell you and reassure you how good you are, that confidence takes you different places, a different level,” Correa said. “In this game, confidence is everything. When one of my teammates is doing something great, I let them know, because that’s important for a team.” 

So after a 2-1 loss to Seattle on Opening Day, when hard-throwing rookie reliever Jhoan Duran put his first two major-league hitters on base before recovering to strike out four in two innings, Correa marveled at Duran’s 100 mph velocity and late movement. “That guy’s got some closer stuff,” he said. (The Twins need a closer after dealing Taylor Rogers to San Diego, so Correa was clearly planting a seed.) 

And when a bid for a walk-off homer by Gary Sanchez, the former Yankee trying to revive his career, fell just short, Correa said. “That’s a great at-bat by him. It should get him going tomorrow.” (Correa was off by one day; Sanchez clubbed a grand slam Sunday in a six-homer Twins barrage.)

The teammate Correa talks up most is Buxton, the five-tool dazzler who plays hard but can’t stay healthy. “This guy’s talent, he’s probably the best player in the game,” Correa said. “Nobody runs faster. Nobody played better defense the last two years. When you talk about talent, that guy, he’s the guy. If you know the game, you know what he can bring to the table. I’m looking forward to a great year from him.” 

Traditionally, the Twins assign the four oversized corner lockers in their Target Field clubhouse to their biggest stars and most veteran pitchers; Correa and Buxton occupy the lockers that originally belonged to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, respectively. The Mauer locker generally goes to the club’s leader. (Nelson Cruz had it before Correa.)

Given his stature and World Series ring, if the Twins are anyone’s team, it’s Correa’s. But Correa doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s not my team. It’s Byron’s team,” he said. “He’s the guy who’s been around for so long. He’s led these guys to multiple playoff seasons. I believe in his talent and his leadership. This is his team. I come here, and I want to help build a championship culture with him and the guys who have been around.”

Sunday, when Correa launched his first home run as a Twin — a monster shot into the third deck in left — no one celebrated with more exuberance than Buxton, who already had two himself. Buxton thrust both arms in the air the instant the ball left the bat and grinned broadly. 

Correa may be convinced the Twins will contend, but his positivity hasn’t rubbed off on fans just yet, who are perhaps still stung by the lockout and skeptical of the team’s starting pitching. The Opening Day crowd of 35,462, about 4,000 short of a sellout, was the smallest in a non-pandemic season since the Target Field opened in 2010. 

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Seeking to fill some empty seats, after Sunday’s game the Twins announced a “Superstars” ticket deal through Tuesday, offering $4 upper level and $25 lower level tickets for Monday through Thursday games the rest of the season. The Superstars? Correa and Buxton. Might as well, since it’s their team now.