Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/20/11
MINNEAPOLIS Michael Cuddyer spent his entire 11-year big league career with the Minnesota Twins. But as he entered free agency this offseason, a tough decision had to be made.Instead of staying with the team that drafted him ninth overall in 1997, Cuddyer opted to sign with the Colorado Rockies. But as he leaves behind the only major league team he knows, Cuddyer said he does so with no ill will toward Minnesota."Any time you're at a place for as long as you have been, it's bittersweet, there's no doubt about that," Cuddyer said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. "I'm not mad. I've got no hard feelings by any means towards anybody. That organization, the Twins, gave me a chance to play and gave me a chance to realize my dream of being a major league baseball player. "I owe everything I am as a player to Minnesota and everything I am as a person as well."The Twins put out an offer to the 32-year-old Cuddyer after the 2011 season was finished, but things remained quiet from Cuddyer's camp during the process. In the meantime, Minnesota signed free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham last Thursday to a three-year, 21 million deal. The Willingham signing all but signaled the end of Cuddyer's time as a Twin. When he did sign with Colorado which just became official Tuesday Minnesota also received two draft picks from the Rockies due to Cuddyer's status as a Type A free agent."Obviously there were talks, but I think basically what it boiled down to is the direction was different," said Cuddyer, who added that the Twins did not contact him after signing Willingham. "Obviously, there were other choices. It came down to a business decision, and they chose to go with Willingham and the two draft picks that went with it. I can't by any means criticize that decision or the decisions they made."With Minnesota moving on, it came time for Cuddyer to choose a new home. He signed with Colorado because he said the Rockies showed plenty of interest in him. They traded away Huston Street and Ian Stewart to free up room on the payroll for Cuddyer's contract, which is reportedly worth 31.5 million over three years."First of all, the excitement level that they had and wanted me to be a part of the organization," Cuddyer said. "They've since traded Huston Street, traded Ian Stewart to try and make a run for me. To show that level of commitment, I was blown away by that. That went a long way into my decision."Cuddyer's final year with the Twins was a tough one for all involved, as Minnesota lost 99 games amid injuries to many players. While Cuddyer was perhaps the Twins' most productive player and certainly the most versatile player as well he still holds himself partially accountable for Minnesota's struggles."I think obviously last year was disappointing, but I was a part of it," said Cuddyer, who made his first All-Star team. "I was just as much a part of that 99-loss team as anybody. For me to blame last season on the way this has resulted would not be fair at all." Even when the going got tough, however, Cuddyer was always someone other players in the clubhouse turned to for guidance or advice. Cuddyer also would be at his corner locker after every game, win or lose, to answer increasingly tough questions from the media.So while the Twins lose a good player in Cuddyer, the loss in the clubhouse might be even greater."He was the go-to guy in the clubhouse, for players and media alike," said Twins reliever Glen Perkins. "He was just a guy that he was a Minnesota Twin. When you think about when guys come up the first time, he's one of the first guys, along with (Joe) Mauer and (Justin Morneau) and those guys. You know Michael Cuddyer. I've played with him for four, five, six years now. He hasn't changed one bit."Twins outfielder Denard Span tweeted that he was "sad and disturbed" when he found out Cuddyer was signing with the Rockies."He was definitely one of the leaders on the team," Span said. "He's the ultimate team player. All he ever wanted was for us to win. Whether he went 0-for-4 or 3-for-4, if we won, he had the same big smile on his face."While Cuddyer no longer calls Minnesota home, he'll keep one tie to the Twins as he switches allegiances. Cuddyer, who wore No. 5 his entire career in Minnesota, will change to No. 3 to honor late Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew. Cuddyer grew close to Killebrew over the years before Killebrew passed away last May.No matter which team he would have signed with, Cuddyer said he would have switched to No. 3 to pay tribute to Killebrew."I've got the utmost respect for Harmon Killebrew," Cuddyer said. "I can't think of a better person's number to have on your back."
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