MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau got a bit teary-eyed when Larry Walker was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week.
Both hail from the Vancouver area, and Morneau credited Walker with helping open the door for Canadian ballplayers. If Walker hadn’t had the success he had, it’s possible not as as many scouts would have ventured north to see the next wave of Canadian players, Morneau included. In his 10th and final year on the ballot, Walker was elected into the Hall of Fame by a slim margin on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
It didn’t take Morneau quite that long to get elected to a Hall of Fame himself.
In his first year on the ballot, Morneau was elected to the Twins’ Hall of Fame, team president Dave St. Peter announced Friday. Morneau will be the only person inducted into the team Hall of Fame this year.
The former Twins first baseman, now 38, was elected by 71-member voting committee which consisted of Upper Midwest media, living Twins hall of famers, team historians and members of the organization, St. Peter said.
“It’s hard to find the words to say in a moment like that when someone tells you you’re going in with the all-time greats of your franchise,” Morneau said of a phone call with hall of famer Rod Carew. “…I think I said ‘thank you’ probably eight or nine times.”
The Twins picked up Morneau in the third round of the 1999 draft. He debuted in 2003 and played for the Twins for the bulk of his career, from 2003-13. Morneau retired in 2016, playing for the Pirates, Rockies and White Sox in the latter years of his career.
During his time with the Twins, he was a four-time all-star, and won the American League MVP award in 2008 when he hit .300 with a .374 on-base percentage and a .499 slugging percentage. He hit 23 home runs that year, driving in 129 runs.
Morneau was perhaps on track to take home his second MVP award in 2010 when his season was derailed by a concussion in July. After leaving Minnesota, he was a batting champion in Colorado, hitting .319 for the Rockies in 2014.
For his career, Morneau hit .281 with 247 home runs in parts of 14 seasons. Morneau was honored a night earlier at the Twins’ Diamond Awards for alumni community service. He currently serves as a member of the Fox Sports North broadcast team and makes his home in the Twin Cities.
The Twins will induct Morneau into their Hall of Fame on May 23 before playing the White Sox at Target Field. Morneau, No. 33, will become the 34th person inducted into the team Hall of Fame.
“It was about a week after the draft and Corey Koskie kind of took me under his wing and I took some batting practice in the Metrodome, and I couldn’t wait to get back there,” Morneau remembered. “On that day, you couldn’t imagine having a moment like this where you get inducted with the greatest players in franchise history.”