Twins' Escobar playing with a heavy heart after grandfather's death
MINNEAPOLIS—Since early June Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco has had to play through the pain of his grandfather Maximo's loss. Now it's third baseman Eduardo Escobar's turn.
Marquiade Escobar, his 79-year-old grandfather, died of a heart attack early Thursday morning, Sept. 28, in Venezuela, just hours after the Twins clinched their first postseason berth in seven years. Escobar had talked to his grandfather by phone on Wednesday morning as he was getting ready to return home after spending two weeks in the hospital.
"He told me, 'Hey, I'm OK,' " Escobar said. "I said, 'Go home, relax. If you need something, let me know.'"
At 3 a.m. Thursday, Escobar received a call from his parents telling him his grandfather had passed. On Friday night, in his first game after his grandfather's death, Escobar hit his career-best 21st home run, 11 of which have come in the past six weeks.
How much did his grandfather enjoy his success?
"A lot," Escobar said through a translator. "He watched all of it. He didn't miss a game. He was very happy, very proud of me. He always had good advice for me: 'Keep working hard, respect your coaches and do this not for you but for your family because they're depending on you.'"
Escobar initially hoped to travel back to Venezuela for his grandfather's funeral on Saturday morning but his wife and parents talked him out of it.
"I wanted to go; I was ready," Escobar said. "I said, 'I need to see him,' but they calmed me down and sat me down and say, 'Hey, we think it's best for you if you stay. It's a better situation. We know he would have liked to see you play baseball rather than go to Venezuela.'"
Dave Pruemer was a little nervous before Saturday's game, but it had nothing to do with his duties as head athletic trainer for the Twins.
Rather, after announcing he would resign at season's end after 23 years in the Twins organization (13 in the majors), he was sweating having to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to assistant trainer Tony Leo.
"Never done it, not even at a Little League game," said Pruemer, 46. "I was always catcher."
Wife Tina, who works for Patterson Companies' dental division, accepted a transfer this summer to Effingham, Ill., close to their shared hometown of Teutopolis. Their three children — Hannah (16), Dylan (13) and Tyler (11) — moved with Tina in August so they could start school and reconnect with their cousins.
"I just need to get back home and not travel eight months (a year)," Pruemer said. "It was a family decision. They were all in on it."
Pruemer, the Twins' head trainer since 2013, isn't sure what he'll do next. He might go into teaching and could remain with the Twins as a consultant. Or he might help his brother Doug at his hog farm, where the family also grows grain, corn and beans.
"It's been a lot of fun," Pruemer said. "It actually went by fairly fast, but I'm not retiring. I've got to work."
Triple-A Rochester trainer Larry Bennese also left the organization after his contract wasn't renewed.
Bartolo Colon, stuck on 239 wins for his past six starts, will start Sunday's regular-season finale. After posting a 3.94 earned run average in his first 10 starts for the Twins, the 44-year-old right-hander has slumped to a 13.50 ERA over his past four outings (12 total innings). "He needs to pitch," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.