2/25/2014 10:20 A.M. ET
Morneau, Cuddyer inseparable friends, teammates
By Ben Haber / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer are positioned side by side in the Rockies' clubhouse, a symbol of their close relationship that dates back to 2003 with the Twins.
They played together for eight seasons (2003-11), and after a three-year hiatus, they've reunited wearing a Rockies uniform.
In the offseason, Morneau signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal to take over first base for the retired Todd Helton. Meanwhile, Cuddyer has called right field at Coors Field home since 2012, winning the National League batting title last season with a .331 batting average.
Once Morneau's one-month tenure with Pittsburgh ended following his trade from Minnesota last August, Cuddyer recruited Morneau to come to Colorado. And to no one's surprise, Cuddyer is one of the key reasons that Morneau decided to join the Rockies. In the early stages of Spring Training, the 32-year-old Morneau has received assistance from Cuddyer as he settles in.
"[Having Cuddyer] makes the transition a little easier," Morneau said. "He is a guy I have looked up to in the past and that I can go to if I need anything."
Over the years as teammates, Morneau and Cuddyer have shared numerous fond memories, and it starts with winning.
"I think 2006 was obviously a special year for everyone," Morneau said. "Our memory of winning the [American League Central] division on the last day of the year and sitting together in the dugout with our fans watching the [Tigers] game on the big screen. That would definitely be my top."
Cuddyer said it's natural for Morneau to be positioned next to him in the clubhouse, because it helps him get comfortable in his new surroundings. Going to a new team can present challenges, therefore Cuddyer passed down some advice to Morneau.
"Just be yourself," Cuddyer said. "Sometimes you try and be someone you're not, which is kind of counterproductive, because the reason that they bring you in is who you were."
The majority of the Rockies team is just beginning to get to know Morneau. Cuddyer believes it's only a matter of time before Morneau develops strong relationships with his new teammates because of his likable personality.
"[Morneau] cares about being a good friend and a good teammate," Cuddyer said. "He cares about his guys that are with him, and he wants do things well for them."
During the three years apart, their baseball approaches haven't changed. On a personal level, things are slightly different. Since Morneau and Cuddyer left the Twins, each saw their family grow by one. Morneau has two kids and Cuddyer has three kids. Becoming a father again has impacted the way Morneau thinks.
"You are able to enjoy the little things a little more. Your are able to separate the game and life," Morneau said. "When you walk out the door and you go home and see your kids and they're smiling, I think [that] really helps you put things in perspective. I'm sure it's the same for him."
Both players know the other's scouting report exhaustively. Cuddyer praised the way Morneau handles adverse situations and also declared him a great player. Morneau dished out kudos to Cuddyer's underrated baserunning ability. Despite being 34 years old, Cuddyer swiped 10 bases in 2013, one shy of his career high. In addition, Morneau noticed how Cuddyer consistently gets from first to third on the basepaths.
The mutual respect and appreciation between Morneau and Cuddyer is overwhelmingly obvious.
"I look at him in all aspects, and he is a good guy to try and emulate," Cuddyer said.
Ben Haber is a student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.