Twins pitching coach Neil Allen doesn’t mind road trips to Kansas City.
That’s because he gets back to the place he’ll always call home.
“It’s home,” Allen said. “It’s always gonna be home in my heart. … My family, my roots, everything is still here.”
His brother still lives in the area and Allen looks forward to seeing him and his nieces and nephews during road trips to face the Royals. Allen grew up in Kansas City, Kan., and played high school baseball at Bishop Ward. He said the Cyclones weren’t nearly as much of a baseball powerhouse as they have been during the last decade, with Kansas state titles in 2010 and 2014, and it was more of a football school when he was there.
“We were respectable, but we weren’t anything to write home about or anything like that,” Allen said.
Allen, who said he keeps up with the team on the Internet or through family and friends, heaped praise upon current Bishop Ward coach Dennis Hurla for turning the program into a juggernaut.
Allen had the chance to drive through his hometown and past the Bishop Ward diamond where it all started during the Twins’ first trip to Kansas City this season.
“It’s really nice looking,” Allen said. “They’ve done some nice things and stuff in the old neighborhood.”
After Bishop Ward, Allen was drafted by the Mets in the 1979 major-league draft and made his big-league debut with the team. In 1983, he was sent to St. Louis as part of a deal that sent Keith Hernandez to New York.
Allen pitched in the majors until 1989 for the White Sox, Yankees and Indians. After his playing days ended, Allen began coaching, mostly in the minor leagues — except for a stop as the Yankees bullpen coach in 2005 — before he was hired to the Twins staff in November 2014.
It was a long ride back to the big leagues, Allen said.
“Literally a long ride,” Allen said. “Meaning I looked through a lot of windshields on a lot of dark highways on a lot of dark nights to get back here.
“There were a lot of nights that I’m sitting there on the highway and I asked myself, ‘How much longer do I want to do this?’ It was a long process, a long road, but at the same time — the opportunity this year — it was all worth it.”
His pitching staff’s early-season success was part of the reason it was worth it.
Going into Thursday night’s game, the Twins had a team ERA of 3.94. In the month of May, when the Twins went 20-6, Allen’s staff posted a 3.57 ERA.
“I was very excited at the fact we had a respectable first half,” Allen said. “I never wanted to get the guys down or get complacent thinking we’ve accomplished a lot because we haven’t yet.
“I’m just hoping everything goes well here and I can last a long time here.”