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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Radke says goodbye to Twins- MLB.com

Long time Minnesota Twin pitcher Brad Radke retired this week after a productive 12 year big league career. He will be cemented in Twins history as one of their best and most likeable players to ever wear the uniform.

Veteran announces retirement at Tuesday press conference
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com

• Radke highlight reel: 350K
Radke through the years
A look back at Radke's career highlights
Molony: Consistency key for Radke

MINNEAPOLIS -- His eyes glistened with tears, but Brad Radke was determined not to make his retirement announcement on Tuesday afternoon a sad event.

"It's time to close this chapter and move on," Radke said with a few sniffles as he looked out at the crowd before him. "No tears. I don't want to see any tears from any of you. This should be a happy time for everyone."

It may be the start of another phase in Radke's life, but it was clear by the emotions on display at his retirement press conference that the veteran's departure was the end of a special period for the club.

"He's done just about everything you can ask here," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told a packed room at the Metrodome. "It's been a pleasure giving him the ball and believe me, I never enjoyed taking it away from him. It's just always been a pleasure with Brad. We're not just losing a great pitcher, but we're losing a great person."

Radke's retirement was not a surprise as it had been talked about since the pitcher signed his last two-year deal with the club following the 2004 season. At the time, he felt that it would be his last contract, and he again echoed that sentiment earlier this spring.

The right-hander admitted that he considered pitching one more year, but after battling a torn labrum and a stress fracture in his right shoulder socket this past season, it was clear that the time to retire was now.

"I know my body real well, and this year I just totally ran out of gas," Radke said.

His numbers may not make him a Hall of Fame pitcher, but the impact that Radke had in Minnesota is hard to ignore. Having come to the club when the Twins were near the bottom of the American League to helping them rise to dominance in the AL Central, Radke certainly had an integral part in the organization's turnaround.

The latter part of the 90s was a dismal time for the Twins as the club was unable to record any winning seasons. It wasn't until 2001 when the team finally began turning a corner, and, of course, Radke, 34, was there for it all.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke on Tuesday of what it meant to the team when Radke agreed to a four-year extension in 2000 to remain in Minnesota, despite all the down years that he had endured.

"It was a turning point in the franchise," Ryan said. "After Brad signed, many others have since followed. It kind of got us on our way."

And it was his legacy as the consistent, stoic leader that will remain etched in Twins fans' minds.

The best testament of Radke's will and his heart may have been the way that he battled through his injuries in his last season. Even when the pain was so great that Radke could barely even hold a ball between starts, the pitcher continued to pitch every fifth day as he was determined to finish out his career by helping his team win.

"All you want is a guy to go out and give you everything he's got," Gardenhire said. "And Brad proved that over and over again in his career, especially this past year. He was broken down, between innings he could barely throw the ball to home plate, but he went out and did it for his teammates. That pretty much says what Brad Radke is all about."

Radke's loyalty to the franchise was also something not often seen in baseball. It's safe to say that Radke is one of the last of a bygone era where players remain with one team for their entire career.

Even though Radke grew up in Florida, he often considered the Twins his hometown team. Radke was born in Eau Claire, Wis., and grew up attending Twins games every summer when he visited his family. So to be able to play for the Twins was something he considered a privilege.

And for him, Minnesota really did become home.

"It's hard to leave this family," Radke said. "These 12 years have been really special."
Family is something that the Twins organization is known for and there were many of Radke's former coaches, teammates and longtime personnel in attendance for his press conference. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, former teammates Kent Hrbek, Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach and current Twins pitchers Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek all took part in recognizing Radke's career.

It was such a profound moment for Radke that the normally quiet pitcher kept going on and on, trying to make sure that he thanked all those in attendance who helped him throughout his career. For his extended thank yous, Radke got his fair share of ribbing from the very same people that have spent years professing him to be their quiet leader.

"That's as much as I've heard come out of your mouth in 15 years," Ryan chided Radke during his speech.

And family is the main reason why Radke is stepping away now as he plans to spend more time with his wife, Heather, and their two sons, Kasey, 11, and Ryan, 7.

Exactly how Radke will be remembered will vary from person to person, but if the veteran right-hander had his say in his legacy, it would be fairly simple.

"I'd like to be known a guy that went out there and played with all of his heart," Radke said. "If you don't play this game with your heart, you shouldn't be playing. That's the way I went out every five days."

And it's the way that he went out on Tuesday.

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