Old friends: Santana visits ex-mates

Old friends: Santana visits ex-mates

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It didn't take long for anyone to recognize the familiar laugh coming from down the hallway inside the Twins clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon.

It's a distinctive laugh that's been absent this spring, but one that was welcomed back with open arms.

Former Twins ace Johan Santana made a surprise visit to see some of his old teammates on Tuesday. It was his first time back to visit since he was traded to the Mets last month. Santana's new team was in Fort Myers to play the Red Sox, so Santana decided to come across town and catch up with the guys.

Santana did more than just exchange hugs and handshakes with everyone, from the players to the training staff to the coaches and also his longtime buddy, clubhouse attendant Wayne "Big Fella" Hattaway. He even walked away carrying a new piece of hardwood, or perhaps better said -- hard wood.

The pitcher got a little gift from his former catcher, Joe Mauer. A shiny new bat for him to try out in batting practice now that he'll be hitting in the National League.

"I'm trying to get some tips from him," Santana said with a laugh. "He's a batting champion, so I got a chance to get some hopefully good wood and good hits."

The transition to the Mets has been very smooth so far, Santana said. His new teammates and the coaching staff with the Mets have all been very welcoming. From the tone in his voice and the huge smile on his face, it's clear that Santana's attitude -- and playfulness -- hasn't changed with the move and he's enjoying his time as much as ever.

Still, Santana said that leaving the organization he called home for the past eight years was not easy on him.

"I was the kind of player who thought I was going to spend my whole career here, not going anywhere else," Santana said. "It didn't happen. I understand this is business and that's what they had to do. Sometimes you have no choice. It was tough but we have to move on.

"I feel good now. I'm very happy where I am and appreciative that the Twins are happy with what they got. I wish them all the best and hopefully everything will work out for everybody."

The pitcher sat in manager Ron Gardenhire's office for over a half-hour following the Twins' 7-1 loss to the Rays. During that time, he visited with the skipper and pitching coach Rick Anderson.

It was a time to exchange laughs and stories with the two people who Santana said have had a huge impact on his career.

"I spent all my years talking to those guys, always listening to them and trying to do the things the right way," Santana said. "Andy, he's not only a great pitching coach, but a great friend. We always talk not just about baseball, but about life and a lot of things. And he makes you realize a lot of things in life. I was very happy to talk to them today."

The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner said he will take some of the lessons from his time with the Twins to his new team.

"We really work [here with the Twins] and put a lot of attention to all the details and the little things," Santana said. "That's what will make you a winner. From the personal side, I've become more than a player, but a good person. I've learned a lot of things in this organization, and I'm very proud to have been a part of this organization in the past."

Santana still has his house in Fort Myers and said that he hopes to check in with everyone at the Twins from time to time. But while the brief visit was a chance to catch up and rehash old memories, he's not remaining wistful about what might have been.

"It's baseball, you have to move on and look forward to the future," Santana said. "Hopefully the Twins will exceed all the expectations and we'll do the same thing over there with the Mets."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.