A Guide To (And Plea For) Attending Twins Spring Training
When I boarded the plane at MSP that day, I looked at my phone and it was -10 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 42 degrees below the average high for that day. And when I landed in Fort Myers it was 80 and sunny and I was thunderstruck by just how dumb I had been for the previous 47 years of my life.
I’ve come to feel strongly that we’re all doing it wrong. We should all - everyone who visits this site and lives in Minnesota - escape for at least a long weekend to Fort Myers. And since I also get dozens of people asking me for advice for spring training, I hope this story serves as both a guide and inspiration to plan your own escape.
I’ve already covered the weather, but it’s worth pointing out that even if there wasn’t baseball, escaping to 80 and sunny isn’t just nice for the time you’re there, it also lessens the rage with which you shovel out the driveway after that DAMN SNOWPLOW guys comes by AGAIN. It’s the length of the Minnesota winter that is the real killer. Knowing your winter has a definitive end, even temporarily, is incredibly therapeutic.
That is all true if there wasn’t baseball. But here’s the thing - there IS baseball. It is probably the most concentrated and accessible baseball you’ll ever experience.
The only bummer is that for the most part, you’re going to need to wake before the crack of noon. The accessibility is highest in the morning when players walk to and from their practice fields. You can see the route below, but the best place to stake out is over in the concrete area by those columns on the right. That’s where you’ll see a lot of people hanging around by 10 AM or so.
The players go out and come back in shifts, usually starting 9:15 or so though sometimes later. They come back in around 11 or noon, and that’s the best time to shake their hands or get an autograph or picture. You have to be patient and you get what you get - the times vary, the players vary, it’s loosely organized. And sometimes they can’t or won’t stop, but often they do. Here are Stephen Gonsalves, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios all giving autographs as they came back from their morning workouts Saturday morning.
Scrumming up with other fans and rubbing elbows with the players is certainly a draw, but it’s also fun to watch the players practice their craft. Want to watch a practice session, including someone like Tom Kelly or Torii Hunter help instruct minor leaguers? You can do that. They even built stands:
Or want to watch Byron Buxton get some time in with hitting coach James Rowson? The batting cages are right here, and you can watch up close thought that chain link fence upon which these banners hang:
Of course once the minor league camp starts up in mid-March, all of the fields are filled with top prospects and hopeful suspects doing drills and playing games.
You don’t have to worry about parking on days where there aren’t games. The stadium don’t have any concessions, but most of the action is over by lunchtime, so you have your afternoons free to bake on a beach, if you like.
And then the games start. Starting this Saturday, you will have real live baseball most days from 1:00 to 4:00. There are games most every day, in more intimate minor league stadiums, with prices that are closer to the minors than the majors.
Plus, if the Twins aren’t home, Fort Myers is one of the few cities that hosts two minor league teams: the Red Sox park is just a handful of miles away. Or take a one to three hour road trip to follow the Twins. All the road games are no further than that.
We like to mock the number of players that get into a spring training again and are never heard from again. But if you only want to watch the regulars, visit at the end of March when most of the roster cuts have happened. Or if you want to see some top prospects, come early in the schedule, when Twins coaches will go out of their way to make sure Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff get a live-action look for their benefit.
In 2019 for a baseball fan, it’s almost hard to believe a place like this exists. The bad news is that it probably won’t, not in exactly the same manner, even next year. The consensus opinion is that every year, all the amenities get a little nicer, but the access gets a little tighter. If that idea bothers you, I promise you - you won’t care. Find a way to get here. You’ll hear the pop of a mitt and feel the sun on your shoulders and you’ll wonder, like I did, why it took you so long.
- ashbury, nclahammer and Respy like this