The Rookie

After five decades in the bush leagues, Wayne Hattaway talks his way to The Show.

 

By the end of his time in Orlando, Hattaway was starting to think about the end of the road. Dick Martin, the trainer for the Lynchburg team in the A league, had long since been promoted over Hattaway to the major league club, and when Ray Crump was dismissed as the Twins' big league equipment manager, Hattaway was passed over for that job as well.

"Everybody wants to get to the big leagues," Hattaway said. "But they always told me I was too valuable where I was. I asked Bert one time, when he was the player rep, if he'd put in a good word for me for Crump's job, but he told me I didn't have a chance. He said, 'Right now you're one guy doing the job of three guys, and they aren't going to find anybody else to do it.' I knew that anybody could do this job up here, but nobody would want my job down there in the Southern League, working from six in the morning until midnight."

From 1991 to '95 Hattaway served as equipment manager at the Twins minor league complex in Fort Myers. Then, he says, his eyes went bad, cigar smoking and a poor diet the purported culprits. Anyway the game had started to change for the worse. "I decided maybe it was time to leave it to the younger guys to take care of it," he says. "On paper I was retired, but papers or no papers, I kept working. What else was I going to do? I stuck around Fort Myers helping out the equipment manager. I still hung around even though I wasn't getting any money for it."

Hattaway has maintained his primary residence at the Taylor Motel in Mobile since the 1980s, and he still has a couple of sisters living there in his old hometown, but he doesn't get back much anymore. When he does he usually finds himself getting restless for the clubhouse after only a few days. "I don't drive anymore," Hattaway says. "And I don't know too many people in Mobile these days. Whenever I get back there I just get up in the morning and go up to the McDonald's for coffee, and then go back to the Taylor to watch TV all day. That's really about all I have to do there." Invariably he finds himself headed back to Florida, back to the ballpark, where he knows he can find the only family to which he has ever really belonged.

Hattaway was thrilled to get the call from Gardenhire this spring, and he's happy to be in the mix of the Twins clubhouse, happy to be involved in the daily routine and the grind of the long season. Watching him shuffling through the Twins clubhouse with his arms full of dirty laundry, stopping to needle players at their lockers or tease their children, you know you're seeing a man in his element. Whenever Hattaway's in the clubhouse he always seems to be right in the thick of the action.

"They let me do whatever I want to do," Hattaway says of his arrangement with Gardenhire and the Twins. "But like I told [equipment manager] Jim Dunn, don't treat me no different than anybody else. I'm just another spoke in the wheel, and I'll help out wherever I can. I'll do the laundry, whatever needs to be done. Mostly, though, I'm just an agitator. I know how to agitate with the best of them. And there's no better bunch of characters than in our clubhouse. I had most of these guys in the minors, and I know how to get to pretty much all of 'em."

Hattaway has some unfinished business with Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who tied Hattaway to a chair and threw him in the shower a few years ago in Salt Lake City.

"Wayne's one of those guys that you run into once in a lifetime," says Pierzynski. "He's always fun to have around. He's one of the nicest guys in the world, and he'd do anything for you. But he just loves to put everybody down and he gets himself into trouble. Everybody pretty much wants to kick his ass all the time. I'm happy that he's up here, but you'd think that now that he's made it to the big league clubhouse he'd have mellowed out a little bit. Definitely not the case. I'm afraid Wayne's got a bad case of big-league-itis."

"I still haven't had my revenge on those guys," Hattaway says. "Them's my whipping boys, and let's just say I'm playing for my moment."

Hattaway and Stelmaszek would seem to be the oddest of couples. Stelmaszek is the longest-tenured Twins coach, and he has a home and a family in Chicago. Yet when Gardenhire proposed bringing Hattaway to town for the season, Stelmaszek was more than happy to share his apartment.

"I'll tell you what," Liddle says. "Stellie's going to go straight to heaven for taking Wayne in. You have to have the patience of Job to put up with Wayne Hattaway."

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