If Minnesota had the option to bring back one player from the past, Ron Coomer would be near the top of that list.
Although Coomer is the epitome of an average infielder, he hit .308/.352/.509 against southpaws over the course of his nine-year career. His overall batting line is less glamorous: .274/.313/.421, but Coomer had the privilege of ushering in the great Koskie era at third base.
Coomer was born in Crest Hill, IL, but attended Taft Junior College in California. He was drafted in the 14th round of the 1987 supplementary draft by the Oakland Athletics, where he began a long, tedious nine-year journey through three organizations.
After three average years in Oakland’s organization, Coomer was released on Aug. 1, 1990. After five-and-a-half months of wondering how to spell “unemployment,” he was finally signed by his hometown team—the Chicago White Sox—in mid-March of 1991.
Coomer struggled in his first year within the White Sox’s organization. He was immediately placed in AA Birmingham and hit .255/.330/.406 as a 25-year old in 1991.
The next year he was promoted to AAA Vancouver, but struggled. In 1993, he spent half the year in AA Birmingham before reinstating himself in Vancouver.
After the 1993 season, Coomer was involved in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Isidro Marquez, a minor-league journeyman pitcher. He spent two years in AAA Albuquerque, where he batted over .322 both years. He was suddenly a top prospect, but at the age of 28, his time was running out.
In 1995, he was the key part of a trade with the Minnesota Twins. The Dodgers traded Coomer and three others for two young starting pitchers: Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthridge. As soon as he arrived in Minnesota, he was placed in the major leagues.
Coomer split time with Scottie Leius and Dave Hollins at third and Scott Stahoviak at first during 1995 and 1996. He wasn’t used regularly in either of those years, but hit a solid .296/.340/.511 in 1996.
After the 1995 season, Leius was granted free agency and three months later, he signed with Boston. Dave Hollins took over the duties at third base in 1996, but was traded mid-season to the Seattle Mariners for David Ortiz.
With a vacant third base, Coomer smelt his opportunity.
Jeff Reboulet and Todd Walker formed a platoon at third for the remainder of the 1996 season, while Coomer mainly filled in for Stahoviak at first.
After the 1996 season, Coomer became a major-league starter for the first time in his life. Reboulet was granted free agency and Walker moved to a backup role. Young Chuck Knoblauch became the starter at second base and Coomer assumed duties at the left corner of the infield.
From 1997 to 2000, Coomer played over 100 games a season and consistently hit over .260. He provided a great bat against lefties and was perfect for the third-base role because of his great glove.
At the end of the 2000 season, though, Coomer was 33-years old. He was still hitting the ball very well, so after he was granted free agency, he decided not to hang up the cleats quite yet.
Minnesota didn’t want him because of the emergence of a certain Corey Koskie. In fact, Coomer was losing playing time to Koskie. In his last year as a Twin, 2000, Koskie started the majority of the games at third and Coomer was shifted to first base.
Just 21 days after being granted free agency, Coomer signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs. He was signed as a third baseman and hit .261/.316/.390 in his one and only year with a professional team in Chicago, and was again granted free agency.
Nearing his 35th birthday, Coomer took a long hard look at the mirror and eventually decided to continue playing baseball. He signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees in 2002, as a reserve third baseman. He started 26 games for the Yankees at third and was yet again faced with the choice of a lifetime.
One more year?
He decided to play one more year of professional baseball. He returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers and played mainly first base. Coomer’s offensive production dipped to .240/.299/.368 and after that year he retired from baseball for good.
He provided analysis for Twins games on Fox Sports North for a time after his retirement.
Coomer was a vital element for the Minnesota Twins. He was the bridge between Scottie Leius and Corey Koskie, both of whom are legendary Twins third basemen.
He was, as said above, the epitome of an average player. He put up decent numbers for many years, was noticeably better against left-handed pitchers, but considerably worse in September and October.
The bottom line is that Coomer was a solid middle-of-the-order bat that could be counted on for a clutch hit or to draw a walk. Coomer’s nine years in the minors were a very long stretch and they provide a great story of perseverance and determination.
He is a key part of the history of the Minnesota Twins and should not be forgotten in between Leius and Koskie.