UPDATE: Former Twins manager Gardenhire battling prostate cancer
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Popular former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed Tuesday that he was recently diagnosed with treatable prostate cancer and will temporarily leave his new post as bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Gardenhire, 59, will travel back to Minnesota shortly before mid-April surgery, but the cancer was caught early and the prognosis is good for a full recovery.
Gardenhire told the Arizona Republic that he expects to return roughly six weeks after surgery but added on a conference call with reporters that he still must undergo additional tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread.
“I don’t think anybody can say 100 percent of anything when you’re dealing with cancer,” Gardenhire said. “In talking with the doctors, they’re been pretty optimistic. I feel pretty confident, and they do too, that we’re going to go in there and take this thing out.”
The second-winningest manager in Twins history, Gardenhire spent last season as a special assistant under former Twins general manager Terry Ryan, himself treated for cancer in 2014. Gardenhire managed the Twins to six division titles in his 13-year run from 2002-14.
Even after getting fired after the 2014 season, Gardenhire continued to undergo annual physicals with Twins internist Dr. Vijay Eyunni. It was during a recent exam that Eyunni noticed Gardenhire’s elevated PSA levels and ordered more tests, which came back positive for prostate cancer.
“Not only is Dr. Vijay my doctor, he’s a very good friend,” Gardenhire said. “He wouldn’t let me go without getting a physical. If I didn’t show up when the rest of the guys do in January every year, he calls us and says, ‘Get in here.’ I tip my hat to him because he’s done that for a lot of people, not just me.”
Toby Gardenhire, the manager’s son, was recently hired to a full-time coaching role with the Gulf Coast League Twins after serving in a part-time capacity last season. The younger Gardenhire spent the past five seasons as head baseball coach at Wisconsin-Stout.
“That’s bad news,” Twins closer Glen Perkins said of Ron Gardenhire’s cancer diagnosis. “I’ve known him for a long time. I guess you just pray for him and hope that they catch it early and they’ll be able to get him fixed up. He’s got a good sense of humor. He’s got a great attitude about everything. Hopefully, he’ll continue that.”
Perkins lost a grandfather to bone cancer that started out as prostate cancer. He was close with former Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes, who died last spring after a long battle with leukemia, and was part of a contingent of Twins employees that recently visited former Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who is 68 and battling pancreatitis.
“It’s not fun watching people go through cancer,” Perkins said. “I’ve had too much experience with that lately. Cancer sucks.”
Gardenhire said many friends have reached out to him since his diagnosis was revealed, including Diamondbacks team owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall, both of whom overcame prostate cancer.
“There’s a lot of people reaching out to me that have been through it, including some good close friends of mine there in the Twin Cities,” Gardenhire said. “Like a lot of people in this country and all over, I’m joining a fight personally against this thing — cancer. We’re going to attack it. (Wife) Carol and I and my kids, we understand it and we’re going to go through it and we’re going to keep our heads high and push on.”
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service