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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mike Twardoski took fundamentals to 10 pro seasons, made AAA

Mike Twardoski 1990 New Britain Red Sox card
Mike Twardoski brought some power to the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team, but what his coach Barry Shollenberger liked about him were his fundamentals, according to The Tuscaloosa News.

"Mike handles the bat well," Shollenberger told The News in February 1986. "He's one of the best bunters on the team. He can handle the hit-and-run or go to the opposite field to advance a runner."

Twardoski took those fundamentals to a pro career that lasted a decade. It was a career where Twardoski made AAA in five seasons, but he could never make the majors.

Twardoski has since took those to his role as a coach, teaching them to college players as head coach at Emory University in Atlanta, a job he is continuing in 2016.

Twardoski's professional career began in 1986, taken by the Indians in the 29th round of the draft, out of Alabama.

With the Indians, Twardoski started at short-season Batavia, moving to single-A Kinston for 1987. He played at AA Canton-Akron for 1989, then moved to the Red Sox and AA New Britain for 1990 after a trade.

Twardoski hit .293 for New Britain in 1990, making AAA Pawtucket for 1991. He stayed at Pawtucket for two seasons, largely playing first base. For 1993, he moved to the Mets and AAA Norfolk.

In May 1993, Twardoski started getting hot. His teammates were getting hot, as well, according to The Newport News Daily Press.

"It's the dominoes theory - one guy starts hitting, and everyone starts hitting," Twardoski told The Daily Press. "You win one game and you just keep winning."

Twardoski hit .281 that year for Norfolk. He played in just two more seasons, returning to Pawtucket for 1994, then getting a brief stint with the Braves at AAA Richmond in 1995.

His playing career over, Twardoski went into instructing, starting the East Coast Baseball Academy, according to his Emory bio. He arrived at Emory in 1999, becoming head coach in 2000.

Since then, Twardoski has taken the Eagles to more than 400 wins. He's also coached his team to three Division III World Series. In 2007, Twardoski's club made it to the championship game, losing in extras.

"It was an absolutely incredible season," Twardoski told his hometown Tonawanda News afterward. "We have a real family of players out there."
Originally published Jan. 12, 2014

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