FORT MYERS, Fla. — To make it to the major leagues, to stay there, to succeed there takes some sort of preternatural athleticism and disposition. Everyone at the MLB level once dreamed of being here, so it’s easy to see how they might come to believe that baseball is what they were always destined to do.
When other players consider Carlos Correa, though, they take it a step further.
“He was born to lead teams to championships,” Minnesota Twins outfielder Nick Gordon offered, sitting in the dugout Wednesday while waiting for his at-bat in a live batting practice session.
That the Twins in particular believe this is evident — if not from the particular praise they heaped on Correa in his first year in Minnesota, then certainly from this past offseason. In a singularly bizarre saga, their unwavering interest in bringing him back eventually won out after two blockbuster contracts were undone by two failed physicals. A whirlwind of possibilities that spanned both coasts landed Correa back in Minnesota — he bought a house there but maintains his home in Houston for escaping the cold come winter — where he’ll be for at least the next six years.
As BP wrapped, Correa stopped assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez to talk about arm slots and angles.
“I have a lot of information on the hitting side, and now I want to get a lot of information on the pitching side to see how they are going to attack hitters and what makes a pitcher so effective and good,” he said later.
That’s quintessential Correa, who is obsessive about doing everything — from baseball to parenthood — with as much intention and clear-eyed understanding as possible. He’s reading "The Four Agreements" (but is withholding judgment about its utility for now) and working on becoming a more mindful listener — “not just listening to have an answer or a response back.”
It’s a personality the Twins put their faith in, knowing that he’ll do everything in his power to stay healthy and that his presence is as valuable as his performance. Of course, they’re paying him to be a star shortstop, and how his ankle will hold up remains an open question that can’t be fully dispensed with until his playing career is over.
But if Gordon is correct, I have to think the Twins — who haven’t made it to the World Series this century and haven’t won a postseason game in 19 years — will say it was worth it.
Yahoo Sports: I know how committed you were to this team last year, but now you’ve got real long-term commitment. Is it different, when you come in this year and you're assessing everything? Do you have longer-term plans when you consider changes you’d like to see and make?
It’s absolutely different. You see me doing the rounds. I’m trying to leave a mark everywhere, with every player, with every person in this organization. Because in order for us to become a championship-caliber organization, we got to look at each other like we're family members, right? There's nothing I wouldn't do for my son, for my brothers, for my father. And so if we look at each other like family members, and we create that bond in this clubhouse, then things are gonna change on the field. I truly believe that, and that's one of my main focuses of spring training. My first goal is just to make my teammates better and make sure everybody got along, and it felt more like a family instead of just teammates.
Was it weird leaving here at the end of last season not knowing if you would be back?
Yeah, but I went through it in 2021 when I left the organization I spent nine, 10 years of my career, including minor leagues, with. Obviously, that was tough, and you learn how to deal with these things. I learned that moving to another team can be scary, but going through it last year, it was so satisfying knowing that my role was completely different.
In Houston, I would just show up, and everybody's a veteran there, everybody’s a superstar, so everybody knows how to go about their business. Over here, it was more of, like, making sure I was helping these kids understand how business is done in the big leagues because most of them grew up during COVID years. And in COVID years, you show up late and leave early just because of the new rules, right?
Well, when you grow up like that, you think that that's how the big leagues work. That's not how the big leagues work. We show up early. We run with our teammates, we sit over the lunch table, and we spend some quality time with quality conversations, and then we carry on our day putting in the work and putting good stuff in our bodies. That's something that now everybody understands and everybody gets, and everybody is in the same boat.
How was it watching Houston win without you?
It was fun. It was fun. Just because when you truly see your teammates — in my case, now ex-teammates — as family members, like we were talking about, you want the best for your family members. After everything some of those guys have been through, all the hard work and all the injuries, all the noise, to be able to see them celebrate and come together and live such a beautiful moment, I was super excited. I was jumping up on my couch watching them. To me, those are my brothers, and I wanted the best for them.
Now, when the season starts all over again this year, I want us to be the last team standing. All that love goes away when we gotta face each other. And then after games are done, then the love is back. But they are the standard that everybody's trying to follow, and they're the team that everyone is trying to beat.
There's no sugar-coating it: They are the best team in the big leagues. And if you want to be called the best team in the big leagues, you gotta go through them. And that's the reality of baseball in today's game. They’re the team to beat, so we got to focus on trying to get better and get to a level where we can compete with the best.
When this team faltered down the stretch last year, did you see something in the way the Twins handled adversity that the Astros would’ve handled differently?
There were so many ways last year we could get better, and one of them was just physically. As a team, we didn’t post. At one point, we had 19 guys on the [injured list], which was the second-most in the big leagues. So that's a big problem. When your star players and your every-day players start going down, it’s tough to compensate for that because they're stars for a reason — because they're really f***ing good.
So let's say you take out Altuve, Alvarez and Bregman from the Astros lineup, and you replace them with three minor-league players, the team looks completely different, right? They're not the best team in the big leagues anymore. So being healthy is something that we’ve got to prioritize here and try to stay on the field as much as possible because at the end of the day, that's what it's gonna take for us to win.
How much do you think you can control that?
I feel like there's information out there that a lot of players don't have access to or don't have the, I'll say, the time or the urgency to look for. But I'm a student of the game, as you know, and I'm not talking only about hitting, defense and baserunning. I'm talking about nutrition. I'm talking about sleep. I'm talking about supplements. I'm talking about anything you can do that will make you a better player.
And that information I share with them — that's my job. Make sure they understand how important nutrition is. If you want to go out there and eat, you know, burger, wings and a Coca Cola, it’s fine, but you gotta understand the effects that that's going to have. Every action has a reaction. So if they understand that, then they can make better decisions.
For someone who takes so much pride in conditioning, was it difficult to have your health publicly questioned this offseason?
No. It's just something you can't control, right? If I can’t control it, then why stress over it? That’s something that happened in ‘14, and going into the physicals, I was 100 percent sure that everything was fine. I mean, there's nothing. There was not a bone or a muscle that was sore going into the physicals. Last year was the healthiest I've ever been. I mean, nothing was bothering me for the entire year. I never visited a trainer except for a hit-by-pitch on my finger.
I would say it was more, like, shocking to find out the info. But once it all settled in, it was like, “OK, this is what we’re dealing with. What's next?”
And the other deal was next, and then that didn’t work out, and then another deal was next. And I actually believe this is where I was meant to be. I can sit down and b**** about it and cry about it, or I can just keep working and focusing on taking care of my health, taking care of my body. And try to make my team better in order for us to go out there and win championships. I prefer the latter, working and focusing on what's next.
Was it hard on your family? Hard on [your wife,] Daniella?
I'm completely honest with you: At first it was hard. She was a little stressed, and obviously being pregnant, that takes it to another level. But then after the Mets, she was like, “Whatever is supposed to happen is gonna happen. In whatever spot we end up, we're gonna make it work. We've always done it.”
And we worked great together. We communicate so great. At some point, Scott [Boras] will call, and she will sit with me, and we just listen, and Scott will say, “Wow, I can't believe how you're handling this. I don't think anybody else would handle it this way.”
I was like, “Scott, if there was something I could control or something I thought you were doing wrong, then my reaction would be different. But you're doing everything in your power. There's nothing you can do. I believe you're the best in the business. So you do your work, and whenever you have news, just reach out to us.”
And we were just chilling, watching movies, playing with Kylo and relaxing. While the whole media was talking about it, we were just at home having a good time.
Was there ever a moment when you felt like “I should’ve been able to control this” or “I should’ve done something different”?
No, because what the MRI showed has nothing to do with what I can do with the work and my preparation. There's nothing to be done there. In my brain, there's nothing wrong. I’m going out there, I'm playing, I played for eight years with no problems. Never had any treatment that’s been documented. And every team can see that. So in my mind, there's nothing wrong.
Now, given the MRI and what we know, yeah, I will take some precautions. I won’t play tennis with my sister anymore. I won’t be playing basketball pickup games in the gym, and I would just make sure that I do that physical activity when it's necessary, and that's when I'm working out. That's when I'm playing baseball. The only way to control it was going back in time and not sliding that late [in 2014].
Who was your first call after that last deal finally got done and you knew you were coming back here?
My first call was my dad. I called him and I said, “We’re going to the Twins.” And he got super excited. The deal was pending physical, but they had told me already that we’re good to go.
So I called him, he got excited, and we got on a plane the next day and flew to Minnesota, got the physical done, yada yada, and celebrate. We had a great moment as a family.
‘Cause every player wants to get to that point, right? Free agency, where you can secure your family's future forever. Where you can be rewarded for your hard work because there's a lot of sacrifices that we make. People don't see it because we don't document everything. I mean, some people do, but I don't feel like that's the way I want to live my life. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don't know. Those sacrifices, when they pay off, you're like, “Yes, I did all that, and now I can see the fruits of my labor.”
When you did the news conference last year, your parents weren’t with you. What was it like to redo the welcome news conference and have everyone there? Did you think about what that moment meant for your parents?
It was an incredible moment. Just because we've envisioned that moment before. We pictured in our brains that one day, that day was gonna come, and all the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it. So when it's finally there, you go back to all the time that you spoke about it. We’d be at the ballpark, finish practice, and we’d visualize, and we're looking to the future and the things that I want to accomplish.
The reason why I called my dad first was because he was the first person to give me clarity in my life. We started working in baseball. He's the one that told me, “Hey, like you’ve got serious talent to play this game. You can do something with it.”
From that moment on, my goal was to become a big-league player and help my family move forward and get out of poverty. So having that clarity and that vision made me wake up every single morning with a goal in mind. And working toward that goal every single day is what made me the man I am and makes me feel accomplished. And it makes me feel good because my goal was to take care of my family, and [I] did that.
So now, my goals have shifted to what's next, and that's rebuilding this organization into a championship culture where we can become a dynasty. And that’s our main goal is to become good for a long time. Become a great father, be the best father I can be to my son and be an example to follow, not only with words but also by the things that I do. And yeah, that's my focus for now. And then when I retire and that day comes, there will be new goals to achieve because I want to work and do something because I'm not gonna lie on my couch and do nothing. And so that time will come, and we'll talk again about my new goals.
Did your dad cry?
Yeah, he got emotional.
Yeah, of course. I was super emotional, super happy, and it's just that moment that you've been waiting for for a long time. I went through two tough free agencies, the first one with the lockout and the second one with the physicals. And you know, we've had to endure a lot throughout those two, and we finally finished, and now we can see the sun coming out and just focus on playing baseball, which is great.
With the new rules this year, are you thinking strategically about how they could impact things? The mind games between pitcher and batter with the clock?
There will be some games played, for sure. Actually had a meeting about it today, and all those conversations came up. And in that meeting, I said, “Minor league players, it's time to speak up because you guys have been through this already for a full year. You know what works. You know what pitchers are trying to do to disrupt your timing and your focus, and you know what you're trying to do to make sure you're ready for all of that.”
And so then all the young players started speaking in the meeting, and it was supposed to be a 10-minute meeting and ended up being a 35-minute meeting because all the players were chiming in and giving their two cents on how they felt with the new rules. And that's what I want to do. I want to create a culture where the young guys and the players that come to spring training feel comfortable enough that they can speak in a meeting, and they can be themselves. I think that's how you get the best out of people.
Do you feel like you learned something from them?
Yes, I did. I actually did. Listening, I’m working on that. Most of them said something, and it all made sense, so [that’s] something I’m going to keep talking to them about and hopefully apply it myself.
Do you have personal goals for this year?
Absolutely. No. 1, want to win a championship. That's No. 1. And No. 2, I want to get back to a .900 OPS and seven-WAR season. That's my individual, personal goals. But at the end of the day, if I'm a better player, I help the team win more games, then eventually that will lead us to the playoffs.