Justin Ernest George Morneau (born May 15, 1981) is a Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman for the Minnesota Twins. At 6 feet 4 inches and 233 lbs, Morneau was originally drafted as a catcher by the Twins in 1999. He converted to first base in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2003. A four-time All-Star, Morneau was the American League Most Valuable Player during the Template:Mlby season and finished runner-up in 2008. He has also won two Silver Slugger Awards and the 2008 Home Run Derby.
During the 2010 baseball season, Morneau became a paid endorser of McDonalds with a series of humorous television and radio commercials.
Early years, high school and minor league careersEdit
Morneau is the youngest son of George Morneau, a hitting coach for many softball and baseball teams, childcare worker, and sporting goods store owner, and Audra Sinclair, an elementary school teacher and former fastpitch softball player. Justin has an older brother, Geordie. His father once played hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings and attended the training camp of the Minnesota North Stars, coincidentally a team representing the same state in which his son would later play baseball.
Morneau grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia, the historic "Royal City," adjacent to Vancouver, where he played hockey for the local minor team, the New Westminster Royals, and emerged as a star goaltender, playing for teams a year older than he was.
Morneau attended Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in New Westminster, later transferring to Richard McBride Elementary School, where his mother was a teacher and coach and where he enrolled in a French immersion program. He played basketball and volleyball and ball hockey on the school teams.
Growing up, Morneau was an avid sports fan, whose favorite athletes included hockey players Patrick Roy, fellow Vancouverite Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and baseball players John Olerud, Ken Griffey Jr, Jack Morris and Larry Walker. He was a Boston Bruins and Toronto Blue Jays fan.
Morneau attended St. Thomas More Collegiate High School in 1994–95, for his grade 8 year, where he played basketball. Coaches approached him to play for the school's famed football program, based on his athletic ability, but he declined.
Morneau transferred to New Westminster Secondary School and graduated in 1999. He continued to play basketball and hockey while in high school. He was named the New Westminster High School Athlete of the year and was a member of Canadian national champion baseball teams in 1997 and 1998. In 1998, he was selected the best hitter and catcher of the National Championships playing for Team British Columbia.
Morneau's family is well known in New Westminster (commonly referred to by locals as "New West"). On February 2, 2008, the city honoured him by renaming Moody Park Diamond #5 to Justin Morneau Field. Morneau Field is located just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from a field named for one of Morneau's idols, Larry Walker Field, located in the nearby city of Maple Ridge.
Morneau did not attend college, despite receiving many attractive offers from NCAA schools. He was selected by the Twins in the 3rd round as the 89th overall pick of the 1999 MLB amateur entry draft. In six minor league seasons, he hit .310 with 87 home runs, 153 RBI and 122 doubles. Morneau participated in the 2002 and 2004 All-Star Futures Games, playing for the World teams.
Morneau was listed by the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, attended training camp, and played one preseason game of Major Junior hockey as a goaltender. Morneau chose his jersey number (33) for goalie Patrick Roy. He is also listed as to winning the Memorial Cup back in 1998 with the WinterHawks As Morneau put it, "I was the third goalie. A backup to the backup. If somebody got hurt, I might have gotten out there as a backup. I played in an exhibition game and backed up some regular-season games.". Morneau remained on Portland's Protected Player List until he decided to focus on baseball instead of hockey. According to Winter Hawks assistant coach at the time, Mike Williamson, "He was young and raw — a big guy who covered a lot of the net. I remember a conversation we had with him when recruiting him. We told him he should go to hockey because not many Canadian guys end up going very far and doing very well in baseball. He showed us otherwise."
Morneau played for the World team in MLB Futures Game, July 7 in Milwaukee. Morneau was twice named Eastern League Player of the Week, April 22–28 and July 15–21. On September 3, Morneau was promoted to Minnesota's Triple A team, The Rochester Red Wings. During his first Triple A season, Morneau won the PCL championship with the Red Wings.
Morneau made his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003, going 2 for 4. A week later, he hit his first career home run off Royals reliever Albie Lopez. Morneau went on to hit four home runs in his rookie season while batting .226. However he spent the majority of the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
In 2004, after compiling impressive minor league numbers, the Twins dealt veteran first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox and Morneau became the Twins' starting first baseman. He appeared in 74 games for the Twins in 2004, hitting 19 home runs and 58 RBI in 280 at bats while committing just three errors.
The 2005 season was a struggle for Morneau, as he dealt with a variety of off-season illnesses as well as being hit in the head by a pitch in April. Although he never appeared to fully shake off his early season setbacks, Morneau finished the 2005 season second on the Twins in home runs with 22 and paced the squad with 79 RBI.
Prior to the 2006 season, Morneau suited up for his native Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He hit .308 with 3 doubles and 2 RBI in three games.
After a slow start to 2006, Morneau exploded offensively in the months of June, July, and August, raising his batting average nearly 50 points in June after beginning the month hitting .240. He raised his average another 33 points in July and after June consistently appeared near the top of the American League leaderboard in batting average, home runs, and RBI. On August 9, Morneau became the first Twin since 1987 to hit 30 home runs in a single season. He finished the season hitting .321 (6th in the AL) and slugging .559 (6th in AL) with 34 home runs and 130 RBI. He was second in the league in RBI and tied Larry Walker's 1997 total for the most RBI in a season by a Canadian. For his hitting, he won the 2006 American League Silver Slugger Award representing first basemen.
On November 21, Morneau won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in a close vote over Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, becoming only the fourth player in Twins history (after Zoilo Versalles, Harmon Killebrew, and Rod Carew) to receive the honor. He became the first Canadian to win the AL MVP award, and the second Canadian to win a major league MVP award (Larry Walker was the first, having won the NL MVP Award in 1997; Walker and Morneau were joined in 2010 by Joey Votto).
Morneau played in 157 games, hitting 31 home runs. In May 2007, Morneau won the Player of the Month in the American League for the first time in his career.
Morneau was named to the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game roster in 2007 for the first time. He also participated in the 2007 State Farm Home Run Derby for the first time. He was up first and hit 4 homers and ended up tying with Albert Pujols in the first round. He was subsequently eliminated with only one homer on 5 chances in a tie-off. Pujols advanced to the 2nd round with 2 homers. Morneau had his first career three home run game on July 6, 2007 against the Chicago White Sox. He had a solo, a 2-run, and a 3-run homer. He had an at bat to try for his fourth home run, but his bat got under the ball, and he flew out to deep left field.
On January 25, 2008, Morneau agreed to a six year contract worth $80 million, which at the time was the longest and richest contract in Minnesota Twins history until in 2010, teammate Joe Mauer signed an 8-year, $184 million contract. Morneau produced with his new contract, as he played in all 163 of the Twins' games and hit .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBI.
On July 10, 2008, Morneau tied a career high with 5 hits in a game as the visiting Minnesota Twins beat the Detroit Tigers. He hit what went on to be the game winning home run to finish the day 5 for 5 with a walk in a 7–6 11-innings win.
On December 27, 2008, Morneau was awarded the Lionel Conacher Award as the Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year, joining Ferguson Jenkins and Larry Walker as the only Major League Baseball players to win the award.l
Morneau was tied after the 2008 season for 375 on the List of List of top 500 Major League Baseball home run hitters.
Morneau hit 30 home runs and was selected to the 2009 All Star Game on July 5, 2009. On September 14, Morneau was officially diagnosed of having a stress fracture in his back after a long slump, and therefore missed the rest of the 2009 season and the playoffs.
Morneau got off to a strong start in the 2010 campaign, hitting a career first-half high .345 batting average and having a major-league leading .437 on-base percentage and .617 slugging percentage at the all star break. For the first time in his career, he was voted in by the fans to start the 2010 All-Star Game at first base, but ended up pulling out from the event after sustaining a concussion on July 7.
Morneau missed the remainder of the regular season with the effects of post-concussion syndrome. After the Twins clinched the American League Central Division championship, Morneau said that he was finally symptom-free. Morneau said he would be unavailable for the ALDS, but that he hoped to be available for the ALCS should the Twins advance. On October 4, 2010, the Twins announced that Morneau would not return for the 2010 season, regardless of how far the team goes in the postseason.
Morneau's parents divorced when he was 7 years old. His mother is a retired teacher and his father works in a warehouse. He has an older brother named Geordie. His mother remarried in 2006 and now Justin has two stepsisters. Morneau married Minnesota native Krista Martin in January 2009. Their daughter, Evelyn, was born on September 23, 2010.
He has purchased a home in his hometown of New Westminster, where he plans to live after his career is over. His house is just four blocks from Queen's Park, where he grew up playing hockey and baseball. As a minor leaguer in Florida, he experienced homesickness, and would log onto a Vancouver radio station online to hear the weather and traffic reports, and wonder what his friends were up to back home.
Morneau is extremely superstitious, and wears number 33 to honour his idol, ex-NHL goaltender Patrick Roy. As a young hockey player, he would refuse to leave the car for hockey games until the clock read :33 minutes past the hour.
Morneau has a superstitious routine on game day. Before each home game, Morneau stops by the same Jimmy John's Gourmet Subs, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota and orders the same sandwich from the menu: Turkey Tom with no sprouts. Later, he drinks a slurpee from a slurpee machine in the Twins' clubhouse made of one-half Mountain Dew, one-half red or orange flavor.
He currently resides in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul.
- “(The Star Tribune) said they were going to do it as more of a joke. I didn’t really want to do it — I didn’t really like it.” — Morneau on newspaper's full page spread labeling him and Joe Mauer as the "M & M Boys."
- “He didn’t call me or anything. It was an accident, but a lot of people would have called to see how someone is doing after they got hit in the head. Especially if they had to go on the DL.” — Morneau on pitcher Ron Villone after an April 2005 beaning.
- “That felt pretty good. It was the situation too; it was a one-run game and I hit a three run homer and that was pretty cool.” — Morneau on his three-run homer off Villone in September 2006. It was the first time he had faced the left-hander since the beaning.
- “I don’t like opening up the paper and reading...quotes about myself. I don’t really like to see myself on TV or anything like that.” — Morneau on the increased media attention he has experienced in 2006.
- “You are just not really thinking about anything and seeing the ball well. You go out there and feel pretty relaxed and patient and when they give you that pitch, you do something with it."— Morneau on his 3 home run game on July 6, 2007
- "I wasn't very impressed with that to tell you the truth. You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song. They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here. It's something that didn't really go over too well. I think if it happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do about it." — Morneau on an incident after the Canadian anthem was not performed live at the 2009 Major League Baseball All Star Game but rather played on tape instrumentally
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