Neal: Twins leaders leave their jobs, but they don't leave the Twins

Somehow, I have avoided getting sacked from a job during my working career. And if the day came when the Star Tribune asked me to turn in my laptop and employee badge, I know exactly what I would do.

I would raid the supply cabinet one last time, walk out of the door and never return.

Somehow, the Twins don't operate this way.

There were moments at TwinsFest this weekend when Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor were in the same room waiting for their next assignment. They have 30 years of Twins managerial history among them. Current skipper Rocco Baldelli might have been there, too — if that happened, they treated one another like good friends. They also have 2,888 wins with the Twins among them.

"All those guys have been there, reached out and have helped me in a lot of different ways," Baldelli said. "And [helped] other people in our front office and coaching staff."

Kelly left on his own terms after the 2001 season. Gardenhire was fired in 2014. Molitor was booted after the 2018 season. But when you've held these roles with the Twins, getting fired apparently means … don't lose their number.

Kelly, 73, was a special spring training instructor and visited the Twins' minor league clubs for a few seasons after stepping down. He still comes around, even though he had Terry Ryan as a GM and not Derek Falvey.

Gardenhire, 66, went on to manage Detroit for two-plus seasons before stepping down because of health concerns during the 2020 season. A year later, he was visiting the Twins clubhouse after games. He said upon his departure after the 2014 season that he would remain a Twins fan and has backed that up.

Molitor, 67, has been a special spring training instructor since being let go but also has worked with minor leaguers and coaches. When he talks about baserunning techniques and tactics, everyone comes away feeling smarter. Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, said firing Molitor was the toughest conversation he's had in sports. But Falvey always envisioned a way Molitor could help in the future, and Molitor has been able to stay connected with the organization he rooted for as a kid.

"I think T.K., Gardy and I will always feel that of all the places we were involved in the game, that the Twins were our home," said Molitor, who coached under both Kelly and Gardenhire. "And we were made to feel that way by the way we felt included."

Folks, this is not normal. In many cases, a coach or general manager who is shown the door is burning rubber out of the parking lot. And players are celebrating new leadership. Can you imagine Mike Zimmer walking into the Vikings locker room after a game this season? Or Thibs sitting next to A-Rod at a Wolves game? Or Mike Yeo appearing at a Wild fan fest?

Baldelli is inviting these guys into his office, the same office where Gardenhire hung his "Improvise and Overcome" sign and where Molitor showed off his guitar collection.

And they don't have to padlock the supply cabinet.

"When I tell people with other clubs about this, they are like, 'What? That has to be awkward,' " Falvey said. "I say that it is not awkward, just a lot of people who care for the organization and have mutual respect for each other."

That goes for Falvey's predecessor, too. The Twins let Ryan go in the middle of the 2016 season, during his second stint as general manager. After Rob Antony ran things the rest of the season, Falvey was brought in as the new leader, and he modernized baseball operations.

On Friday, Ryan, 70, was introduced as part of the next Twins Hall of Fame class, along with longtime coach Rick Stelmaszek, who died in 2017. Ryan attends many special events held by the club and in recent years has gotten to know Falvey better. Whenever Ryan tells Falvey he's doing better than he did, Falvey corrects him. They are just going about things differently.

Ryan was in a conversation a few feet away when Falvey admitted this: He would like to carve out a part-time role for Ryan, perhaps as an adviser or special scout. But Falvey knows Ryan well enough to understand that his wife, Karilyn, would not stand for it.

"I don't want Karilyn to string me by my feet and hang me from the foul pole," Falvey said. "So I'll just leave it at that. But he's always welcome here."

This is the Twins way. When they get rid of you, you can still come back.