Posted at 10:06 AM on May 25, 2008
by David Zingler
Nick Punto is on the Disabled List and Mike Redmond has seen his most limited game action since he joined the Twins in 2005, but if you expect these guys to be down, you'd be very mistaken.
Redmond and Punto are the life of the Twins clubhouse and play a far more integral role in the team's success than their numbers could ever suggest. I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into their world before last Wednesday's game.
DZ: You guys obviously like to hang out and are good friends, could you tell me about when you first met and why you hit it off?
PUNTO: In 2005, (Redmond) came over as a free agent from Florida and we kind of hit it off right away. I saw a lot of me in him and I am sure he'd tell you the same.
REDMOND: Yeah. Nicky's got a lot of energy man, I love it. We kind of fire each other up. We both love to play the game hard. We kind of throw it all out there with a lot of emotion. We feed off of that when we play together.
PUNTO: There is not a lack of emotion out there when you have me and Redmond in the line-up together - sometimes good and sometimes bad.
DZ: You both being bench players at that time, did that kind of help you (become friends)?
PUNTO: Yeah. Your role being a bench guy is to keep the guys in the line-up fired up and ready to play. I learned a lot about that from Red.
DZ: Is he kind of an older brother or father figure to you?
PUNTO: Definitely. I've learned a lot - a lot - (from Redmond). I've been his locker mate now for four years. We both love to talk about baseball all night - it never stops. It's baseball all of the time. We definitely have a good time with that.
DZ: How about off the field, do you guys hang out on the road?
REDMOND: Yeah, we do man, my wife and his wife are friends. We go out to dinner on off days. Obviously, my boys love Nicky and his wife. So, we hang out and do a lot of stuff together which is one of the great things about this team. We all get along so well and our families are all close.
DZ: How about in the off-season?
REDMOND: In the off-season everybody kind of goes in their own direction, but we talk and keep in touch...every once and while we'll give each other and "Fire up" text message or "Fire up" message on the phone just to make sure we're still doing all right. It usually consists of "I can't wait to see you in spring training"...
(Redmond was smirking here and I got the impression he was laying it on a little thick for comic effect, then Punto interrupted.)
PUNTO: We are in the same time zone.
DZ: Do you guys ever play any jokes on each other?
PUNTO: You know, we are not big on the pranks. We've got a manager that likes to do that, so we like to sit back and enjoy it. We definitely keep it light in here and we have a good time.
DZ: With the lockers (being next to each other), when you (Redmond) first signed, was that random?
REDMOND: Yeah, it was just random. Before, when we were down there (pointing to his left) in the corner. We took a lot of heat for moving lockers (they are both near the middle now, in the area previously occupied by team stalwarts like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana) because Morny (Morneau) and Joe Mauer all wanted to be in one row. So Nicky and I had to move, we weren't all that happy about moving. We thought it would be so we could sit and talk baseball, but we got over here and it's the same - Nicky and I are talking baseball and the other guys are in the training room.
PUNTO: If you notice, we are kind of in the high rent district (motioning to Morneau, Mauer and Cuddyer's nearby lockers).
REDMOND: It's kind of like the real affluent neighborhood and Nicky and I (laughs).
DZ: You guys are the riff-raff.
REDMOND: (laughs) Yeah, we are the riff-raff of the neighborhood.
DZ: Morneau and Mauer are younger guys and they are a little more reserved than I would say you guys (are). Do you kind of needle them a little bit?
REDMOND: Oh yeah, we all monitor and have fun each other and they give us a bad time too. It's just not us giving it out; we get it too.
PUNTO: (laughs) Yeah, we get it back.
REDMOND: We all like to have fun and joke around a lot. Like I said, we all love to play the game and we realize how hard it is. We have to have guys who like to have fun. I have bad days; I have a lot of bad days. That's why Nicky's here to fire me up, I need him to get healthy so I can get fired up again.
PUNTO: One thing you have to know about Red; is when on game days when he is catching...I've learned this. You just kind of let him be, he's a little bit on edge. He gets fired up on game day...It's a good edge, you gotta have that edge.
(Photos by Al Bello/Getty Images)