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Molitor Signs With Twins
Future Hall-of-famer Stays Despite Uncertainty About Team's Future

MINNEAPOLIS, Posted 5:34 a.m. December 08, 1997 -- St. Paul native Paul Molitor has decided to remain a Minnesota Twin, agreeing at the last minute to a $4.15 million, one-year contract.

Ron Simon, Molitor's agent, had said last week that Molitor probably would sign with either Toronto or Baltimore by today because he was unwilling to play for the Twins in what could be a lame-duck season in Minnesota.

Instead, Molitor agreed Sunday night to stay for a raise of $650,000.

As part of the deal, Molitor will donate $150,000 to Camp Heartland, a camp for children with HIV, a charity that Twins owner Carl Pohlad has agreed to give a similar contribution. Molitor and his wife, Linda, are co-chairs of the organization.

"This is another good indication of how badly Carl Pohlad wants to keep baseball in Minnesota," Twins president Jerry Bell said. "He went beyond the call of duty." Baltimore and Toronto each reportedly offered a one-year deal for $4.25 million.

"I almost had convinced myself to go to one of those two teams," Molitor said. "But there was something in Minnesota I was having trouble letting go of."

Molitor, 41, reached his decision less than two hours before the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their free agents. After 11 p.m. Sunday, Molitor would have been unable to re-sign with the Twins until May 1.

Molitor and his agent huddled at Molitor's Edina home for several hours Sunday night as the deadline approached. He finally asked Simon to leave for a while so he could be alone with his thoughts. About 9:30 p.m., he decided to stay.

"I literally did not know what I was going to do at 9. It was tough," he said.

The signing came as good news to a team uncertain of its future. Pohlad has an agreement to sell the Twins to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, and the team could move after 1998 unless it gets a new stadium.

"I have been encouraged enough by people that there's better than a 50-50 chance that something might get done and that Mr. Pohlad is committed to do what he can to upgrade the team to a more competitive level." Molitor said. "No one has guaranteed me anything."

Molitor's decision to stay came as a great relief to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

"This gives us credibility with other free agents out there," said Ryan, who faxed Molitor the contract at 10 p.m. "And just as important, Molly is still a hell of a player and a great leader. He's our No. 3 hitter. That would have been a pretty good hit for us to lose him."

Molitor spent his first 16 seasons with Milwaukee. He played in Toronto from 1993-95, earning World Series MVP honors in 1993.

He returned to the Twins for the '96 season, presumably to finish his career at home. He hit .341 that season and went over 3,000 hits. Bothered by an abdominal injury most of last season, he still hit .305 with 10 home runs and 89 RBIs. He's 12th on the career hits list with 3,178.

Both Toronto and Baltimore offered Molitor enticements other than money. The mayors of both cities called in an attempt to persuade him to move. Toronto's new manager, Tim Johnson, is a friend.

In Baltimore, Molitor would have played for general manager Pat Gillick, who was at Toronto in 1993.

Still, Molitor decided his heart was in Minnesota.

"I think I surprised everybody, from Ron to my wife. I'm just going to trust that it's right," he said.