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Twins manager Gardenhire part of motivational forum

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The full-page ad has been printed in local newspapers for weeks, touting appearances by Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Steve Forbes and others of prominence at an upcoming motivational seminar.

The list caught the eye of Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire the other day.

He's on it.

Gardenhire is set to be one of the guest speakers at "Get Motivated!," a Tampa, Fla.-based traveling forum that will arrive at Target Center in Minneapolis on May 26. Even Brett Favre and Sarah Palin are on the docket, their appearances scheduled via satellite.

The event is designed to teach skills like leadership, perseverance and teamwork for business people, and Gardenhire's presence is being advertised under the virtue of competitiveness. Competitive is exactly what the Twins have been, with five division titles and a .549 winning percentage in the regular season, since he took over in 2002.

"His passion to win is second to none," third baseman Nick Punto said. "That's his goal. That's his focus. It's hard to not let that rub off on you. When you come in the clubhouse, he really knows how to bring a team together and buy into the team concept."

Gardenhire said he's been told he'll take part in the seminar in a question-and-answer format. The pep talks don't fit with baseball like they do in football, so Gardenhire doesn't have a lot of experience with inspiring speeches. He's rarely been accused of managing an underachieving team, though.

There have been players who didn't get along with him, but his leadership of the Twins has drawn many positive reviews.

"It's easy to be a good manager when things are going well and everybody's doing well and everybody's winning, but your true colors come out when things go bad and you hit some rough patches like all teams do," Punto said. "I feel like that's where he's so good. He knows when to get us together. He knows when to pat you on the back. He knows all the right things to say when things aren't going very good. I think that gets you out of the rut quicker than it might if you were just to not have instincts like that."

Gardenhire said he's honored to be included with people like Powell, a military man like Gardenhire's late father.

"I saw my picture in the paper with all those guys, and I'm like: 'Cut that one out,'" he said. "Yeah, this is me and Colin Powell. It's pretty neat, actually, and I wish that I had the time to be able to sit and listen to 'em."

This weekend, the Twins will be in New York. The Twins have been competitive against the Yankees, but not successful.

Their 16-50 record against the Yankees with Gardenhire in charge includes three playoff series defeats, a 3-23 regular season road record and an 0-10 mark last year, punctuated by a three-game sweep out of the postseason.

Seven of those 10 losses last year were by one or two runs.

"We haven't had a lot of success there. We know we haven't," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "But it's not something that goes into our head. We know it's a new year. It starts over. We go in with a different team, a lot of new guys. Any time we go to New York, we're excited to play."

That's as close as anyone came to acknowledging that this as an important series.

"We know the history of it, but you're not going to erase losing to them in the playoffs last year by winning two out of three in May," Morneau said. "It might be a little bit of a confidence boost, but other than that it's not going to make or break this year. And last year's done. We can't do anything about that."

The Twins are in first place in the AL Central at 22-12, tied with the Yankees for the second-best record in the majors.

"You don't want to put the 'test' word on it," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "If you say it's a test and you lose, what? You failed? ... We want to play good baseball and we want to win the series, but there's no added pressure because it's the Yankees and we didn't win last year."

That's the way Gardenhire wants it.

"We've got a lot of teams in baseball that we have to play, and they're just another one," he said. "I'd like to see how we match up against them in the playoffs. That's what's important, getting to the playoffs."