FORT MYERS, Fla. — LaTroy Hawkins loves the Twins bullpen.
The feeling should be mutual.
Hawkins, the former Twins reliever and current special assistant, has been just about everywhere and done just about everything.
A few weeks ago, he partied with former Twins teammate Pat Mahomes after Pat’s son, Patrick, won the Super Bowl with the Chiefs. He has helped establish a home in the Dallas area, where he lives, for domestic abuse survivors, and put five students through college.
As a player, he pitched for 11 teams over 21 years, building a following in each city by befriending fans. This month he’s in Fort Myers, lending baseball advice and life lessons to pitchers half his age, as a special assistant for the Twins’ baseball operations department.
The Twins front office has found Hawkins invaluable on a number of fronts — pitching instruction, player counseling, setting a professional example and advising the team’s braintrust on social justice issues.
Here’s Hawkins on:
• Reliever Jhoan Duran: “When you look at Duran’s pitch profile and what he’s able to do, command his 101, 102 mile an hour fastball, with three other pitches that are elite, there’s a really good chance that the game is going to be shut down in the ninth inning.”
• Reliever Jorge Alcala, who had elbow surgery last summer: “We’re just happy to see him back out there. To see him walk off the field feeling good is all we can ask for right now.”
• The rest of the bullpen: “We’ve got [Griffin] Jax, [(Jorge] Lopez — Lopez’s breaking ball today was sick — we’ve definitely got the components to have a really good bullpen. No matter how good the starters are, you have to be able to put teams away at the end of the game, or it’s all for nothing.
“You also need those guys who can bridge the gap when the starter can’t go deep. We’ve got some guys who can do that, and also step in in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning and we’re not missing much.”
• Working with pitchers in spring training: “It keeps me in the game. I like doing the broadcast stuff, too. I get to move around through our organization and go from the Dominican all the way up to Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
• Advising players: “The real-life aspect is the most important aspect of this. I can talk to guys about their slider and curveball, but to me it’s more about the mental part of the game.
“We talk about life. I tell them, ‘There aren’t many things you’re going to go through that I haven’t gone through. And if I haven’t been through it, I know somebody who has. Whether it’s drugs or whatever, I know somebody.
“The guys like that. Also, playing 21 years in the big leagues, that helps, too. They listen.”
• Patrick Mahomes winning another Super Bowl: “Watching him play high school football, he’s doing the same thing now. He has more refined players around him now, but I’m not surprised by anything I’ve seen from him because he’s been this guy all along.
“He’s always been a kid who’s been able to slow the game down, always had a photographic memory whether it’s baseball, basketball or football.”
• Putting five students through college: “Donate the money to the Jackie Robinson Foundation and they put a kid through college. Sometimes you get to meet them, sometimes you don’t, but it’s something I wanted to be a part of.
“If it was important to Jackie, I know it’s important to me.”
• How he came to provide a sanctuary for domestic violence survivors, through a foundation he established with his wife, Anita Hawkins: “Through our foundation, Find One Reason to Smile, we bought a house for this organization in South Dallas — Women Called Moses. It’s specifically for domestic violence survivors. It’s a place they can go and get back on their feet.
“If you don’t leave this place better than you found it, you’re wasting your time.”