MLB Baseball: Justin Ernest George Morneau
Born: May 15, 1981 in New Westminster, BC, Canada
Height: 6′ 4”
MLB Debut: June 10, 2003
Justin Ernest Morneau is another in a string of West Coast boys that made good in Major League Baseball following in the footsteps of Larry Walker.
He was born May 15, 1981 in New Westminster, BC and graduated from New Westminster Secondary School while playing baseball, basketball and hockey.
Morneau started playing baseball in the New Westminster Minor Baseball Association and for the North Delta Blue Jays in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
He went on to play for the National Championship baseball team in 1997 and 1998 and in 1998 he was named top catcher and hitter at that tournament.
Some other early life accolades include New Westminster High School Athlete of the Year in 1999, selections to the Canadian World Junior team in 1999 and the Canadian National team in 2001 World Baseball Championship.
Morneau was originally drafted in the 3rd round – 89th overall as a catcher by the Minnesota Twins in 1999. He converted to first base in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2003. In six minor league seasons, he hit .310 with 87 home runs, 153 RBI and 122 doubles.
Little did we know that Morneau would end up the American League Most Valuable Player during the 2006 season, the runner-up in 2008 and would be selected to the American League All-Star team four times.
He has also won two Silver Slugger Awards and the 2008 Home Run Derby.
Morneau made his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003, going 2 for 4 but he still spent the majority of that year in the Minor Leagues. It was 2004 that Morneau would get his crack at a full time job at first base for the Minnesota Twins. He played 74 games for the Twins in 2004, hitting 19 home runs and 58 RBI in 280 at bats while committing just three errors.
Morneau had a decent 2005 season but an incredible break-out 2006 when he hit .321 (6th in the AL) and slugging .559 (6th in AL) with 34 home runs and 130 RBI.
He was second in the league in RBI and tied Larry Walker’s 1997 total for the most RBI in a season by a Canadian. For his hitting, he won the 2006 American League Silver Slugger Award representing first basemen. On November 21, Morneau won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in a close vote over Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, becoming only the fourth player in Twins history to receive the honor.
He became the first Canadian to win the AL MVP award, and the second Canadian to win a major league MVP award (Larry Walker was the first, having won the NL MVP Award in 1997; Walker and Morneau were joined in 2010 by Joey Votto).
2007 was another solid year for Morneau and in 2008 he was awarded with a six year contract worth $80 million, which at the time was the longest and richest contract by Minnesota at the time.
In 2007 and in 2008, Morneau was selected to the American League All-Star team and in 2008 he rewarded the Twins by playing in all 163 of the Twins’ games and hit .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBI.
That season he participated in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star game and became the first Canadian to win that contest. Morneau would finish second in MVP balloting in 2008 to close out a very productive campaign.
The 2009 season is when things started to unravel for Morneau in his professional life.
He did hit 30 home runs and he was selected to the All-Star team once again but he was forced to end his season early due to a stress fracture in his back. After a strong start in 2010 and another selection to the All-Star team, Morneau sustained a concussion in a game against Toronto on July 7th.
He missed the rest of the 2010 season with post concussion symptoms and in 2011 he would play just 69 games because of his concussion symptoms and a host of other ailments.
Morneau currently resides in Plymouth, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis and runs the Justin Morneau Foundation which supports undeserved communities with an emphasis on those where the Morneaus have lived.
MLB debut: June 10, 2003 for the Minnesota Twins
Career statistics (through 2011 season):
Batting average: .281
Home runs: 185
Runs batted in: 709
Teams: Minnesota Twins (2003–present)
Career highlights and awards:
4× All-Star (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
2× Silver Slugger Award winner (2006, 2008)
2006 AL MVP
2008 Home Run Derby winner
Twins Calvin R. Griffith MVP Award (2006, 2008)