Justin Ernest George Morneau (born May 15, 1981 in New Westminster, British Columbia) is a Canadian Major League Baseball player who is currently the Minnesota Twins' everyday first baseman. For his 2006 season, he was awarded the American League Most Valuable Player award. In his 2008 season, he became the first Canadian to win the Home Run Derby. He is considered one of the premier first basemen in the Major Leagues.
Early Years, High school and minor league careers
Morneau is the youngest son of George, 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, George, formerly played hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and attended training camp of the Minnesota North Stars, ironically, a team representing the same city in which his son would play Major League Baseball.
Justin grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia, a suburb of 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.
He also played baseball in the New Westminster Minor Baseball Association.
Justin attended Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in New Westminster, later transferring to Richard McBride Elementary, where his mother was a teacher and coach, and where he took French Immersion. Justin played basketball and volleyball and ball hockey on the school teams.
Growing up, Justin 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. Justin was a Boston Bruins and Toronto Blue Jays fan.
Justin 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 refused.
Justin 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 (15.5 miles) from a field named for one of Morneau's idols, Larry Walker Field, located in the nearby town of Maple Ridge.
Morneau did not attend college, despite being offered 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 also played Major Junior Hockey, winning the 1988 Memorial Cup (Junior AAA Hockey Championship) as the third goaltender for the Portland Winterhawks. Morneau chose his jersey number (33) for goalie Patrick Roy. As Justin 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 made his Major League Baseball debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003, but spent the majority of the season with the Triple A Rochester Red Wings. In 2004, after compiling impressive minor league numbers, he forced the Twins to deal veteran first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox and became the Twins' starting first baseman. Morneau appeared in 61 games for the Twins in 2004, hitting 19 home runs 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 and was 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 74 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 for first base.
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).
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 appears on the cover of the arcade baseball video game The Bigs in Canadian stores and at Best Buy stores in the United States.
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 first round. He was subsequently eliminated with only one homer on 5 chances in a tie-off. Pujols advanced to 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, 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 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.
Morneau is 3 HR away from joining the List of top 500 Major League Baseball home run hitters.
During an interview on WCCO radio on January 26, 2008 Morneau announced his engagement to Minnesota native and graduate of GFW (Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop) Krista Martin.
- “(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
- Morneau steals show to rule Derby | twinsbaseball.com: News
- Mop Up Duty | Baseball News Sabermetric | Baseball History Bio » Blog Archive » Bill Phillips vs. Justin Morneau
- In a role, maybe on a roll
- Answer Man: Justin Morneau talks hockey, middle names - Big League Stew - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
- The Official Site of The Minnesota Twins: News: Morneau, Cuddyer ink multiyear deals
- Mauer earns first All-Star Game start | twinsbaseball.com: News
- Morneau's mad dash pays off | twinsbaseball.com: News
- ESPN - Justin Morneau Stats, News, Photos - Minnesota Twins
- Sid Hartman (2008-1-28). Twins' contract offer to Santana still stands. Star Tribune.
- MPR: The Bleacher Bums: The reluctant "M"
- MPR: The Bleacher Bums: Justin Morneau: What a difference a year makes
- MPR: The Bleacher Bums: Kicking it with the MVP, Part II
- Justin Morneau.com - News and Notes, Fan Shop, Photo Gallery and More!
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube
- What a difference a year makes (Minnesota Public Radio)
- Justin Morneau's MySpace
|American League Most Valuable Player
|American League Player of the Month
|Home Run Derby Champion
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