Josh Willingham is the master. Trevor Plouffe is the apprentice.
Willingham is 34. Plouffe is 26.
Willingham made his major league debut in July of 2004. Plouffe played his first game in May of 2010.
Willingham played for the Nationals back when they were the Natinals and the Marlins before they had color on their uniforms. Plouffe has played for one organization, in front of the greatest fans on earth, for his entire career.
Willingham was drafted in the 17th round of the 2000 MLB draft. Plouffe was drafted No. 20 overall in 2004.
Willingham hit 35 home runs last year. Plouffe has hit 35 in his career.
Willingham played college baseball at the University of North Alabama, a Division II program. Plouffe committed to the University of Southern California before signing with the Twins out of high school.
Willingham is from Florence, Ala., a city of 39,000. Plouffe is from Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the United States.
Willingham roots for an SEC football team. Plouffe roots for a Pac-12 team.
Willingham dresses like he is going hunting. Plouffe dresses like he is going to the beach.
Willingham is so curt during interviews, you would think he adheres to Benedictine rule. Plouffe is so loquacious, he could out-filibuster Rand Paul.
There are similarities between the two players, however. For starters, they both play baseball. They are also right-handed batters that hit for power and, of course, they have played on the Twins for two years now. They both are more concerned with team success than personal accolades. Willingham always deflected questions about his season-high 35 home runs last year, and Plouffe rarely spoke about his 11 homers in the month of June.
Plouffe has made it clear that he goes to Willingham, whose locker is next to his, for advice with great frequency. It must be paying off, because ever since Willingham came to town, Plouffe has gone from a great Triple-A player that couldn’t get over the big league hump to a bona fide major leaguer.
Willingham insists it is not a one-way relationship, that Plouffe helps him with his game as well. He says that he does not offer specific advice, stating that the two just “talk about baseball.” But we know that conversations about baseball are rarely just about baseball.
A debate over whether Brian Dozier, an eighth-round pick in 2008, can become a bona fide major league baseball player is really a conversation about whether a person that was not a consensus superstar in high school can rise to the top of their given profession.
So the story of Willingham and Plouffe’s relationship isn’t really a baseball story. It is a story about two people with different backgrounds that are united by the sport they play and how they've both benefitted from it.
On Thursday, Willingham hit a home run to left-center off of Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers that landed in the lower deck. In the next inning, Plouffe hit one off Porcello, too. It was in the same location but his hit the fascia display.
For one day, the apprentice became the master.
All quotes were obtained first-hand, unless otherwise indicated.