Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Article: BREAKING: Harper, Austin, Astudillo Make Opening...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 03:56 AM
Word came out of Twins camp today that Ryne Harper, Tyler Austin and Willians Astudillo will all be on the team's Opening Day roster. Wit...
Full topic ›

2019 Game Threads

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:53 PM
We will have a much more informal game thread procedure this year (similar to how we ended last year.)   In short...there is no proc...
Full topic ›

Article: Central Intelligence: Rebuilding Royals

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:41 PM
Kansas City’s front office has followed a similar formula during the last decade or so. They build their team through the draft and trade...
Full topic ›

No Ichiro Love

Other Baseball Yesterday, 10:36 PM
I was surprised to not see an Ichiro Suzuki thread to honor his legacy. Metrics probably do not do him much justice, but he was one of a...
Full topic ›

Indians tanking but will still win the division?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:16 PM
Interesting article that suggests that the Indians are so confident that they will win the AL Central that they are tanking somewhat to m...
Full topic ›

Recent Blogs


A Guide To (And Plea For) Attending Twins Spring Training

I don’t remember which year I first attended spring training, but I remember the exact date when I decided I would never miss it again: February 28th, 2014. I remember that date because we all remember the winter of 2013-14, or as Minnesotan’s refer to it: “that really awful winter a few years back.”

That doesn’t sound especially harsh, but when Minnesotans single out one winter as really awful, that’s high praise. They’re all really awful. But 2013-14 had the coldest average temperature of any winter since 1978, plus a ton of snow. And it saved the worst for last. February, which is when you’re just looking for a little hope, was an all-time crummy month.
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.


Attached Image: Spring_training_path_JB_Orig.JPG

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.

Attached Image: Spring_training_autographpitchers_JB_Orig.JPG

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:

Attached Image: Spring_training_practicefield_JB_Orig.JPG

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:

Attached Image: Spring_training_battingcage_JB_Orig.JPG

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.

Attached Image: Spring_training_insidehammond_JB_Orig.JPG

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.


Attached Image: Spring_training_Gibson_JB_Orig.JPG

  • ashbury, nclahammer and Respy like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

25 Comments

Photo
Carole Keller
Feb 18 2019 03:32 AM
My first Spring Training was 1991. Don’t recall how many STs I went to in those early years ... 4 or 5? But I haven’t missed a spring since 2001 for one or two weeks. My favorite time to come is sometime during that week leading up to and including the first games. It begins then. The long winter is over. It’s the beginning of baseball season. Leaving winter behind for those beautiful, green, perfectly-manicured fields ... it’s just the most unique baseball experience there is. Those first workouts and drills, the confluence of Twins past, present and future, even if it seems impossible you still have hope for something great. But whenever I can get there, whether the beginning like that or towards the end, there’s always something to take in. I will be there this year, too ... my 19th in a row.
    • ashbury, USAFChief, wagwan and 6 others like this
Photo
The Billy Goat
Feb 18 2019 07:10 AM
Thanks for the write-up John. There is almost a guilty feeling about leaving friends in Minnesota for a week in the sun. This is the first year that we are visiting the Twins spring training facilities. Any advice for the open house today?
    • nicksaviking likes this

Several items I would add to this.

The view from the bullpen is phenomenal.These are a few sequences from the bullpen before last years Twins-Red Sox game.Duffy vs. Sale.

 

https://www.smugmug....allery/n-7HHBdX

 

Red Sox games at Jet Blue Park are almost always sold out.You need to plan ahead to watch games there.Jet Blue Park is a replica of Fenway Park with the Green Monster and it is probably worth seeing.

http://www.floridagr...e/teams/redsox/

 

Other items around Ft. Meyers worth seeing.

Lovers Key State Park (about 45 minutes from the Stadium.Closes at sundown).

 

Beaches on Sanibel Island (also about 45 minutes, no free beach access, will need to pay for parking)

 

Everglades City and Marco Island are 90 minutes south of Ft. Meyers.There are a number of places to rent kayaks or take an airboat tour of the Everglades.

 

A 2 hour drive from Hammond Stadium puts you in the middle of Everglades National Park.There are plenty of tourist type attractions along rt 41/90.Here is a link (the description starts from Miami)

https://www.floridar...ive-everglades/

    • Carole Keller, ashbury, nicksaviking and 1 other like this

Mid-March is the time for me (sadly, not this year). By then the minor league schedule has started, and you can geek out all afternoon in addition to the morning activities JB outlined. Two, perhaps three, games are running simultaneously, and those back fields are arranged so you can pivot from one to another with minimal effort, for instance to watch key prospects bat in both games. Even better is when one of the major-leaguers gets left behind for extra work, when the big squad is off to a road game - the games are umpired but the ground rules are uber-loose, and so you might see a veteran bat leadoff every inning against a succession of the other team's AA hopefuls - or an inning may end abruptly with two outs and runners in scoring position as the pitcher reaches a pitch count, no one wanting to bother warming up a reliever prematurely to finish the inning. You can get right up close, for the best photos you are capable of taking. I prefer that environment most days, even on the days the big club isn't on the road.

    • nicksaviking, HrbekRules and jkcarew like this

I might be down there for part of a day between March 6 and about March 11.Wife is making details as we have been invited by friends. Hoping to see one or two of you there as last time went down to the minor league fieldsand saw a lot.

We winter in Clearwater, so can see the Twins if they come up this way.I think this year most of the visits are early which makes them less interesting, since few of the regulars come up to the early games and most depart between inning 3 and 6.Phillies stadium is about 3 miles away, have not found the Blue Jays stadium yet, but guess it is about 7 - 8 miles.Yankees are more like about 15.

    • ashbury and nicksaviking like this
Photo
tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 18 2019 08:20 AM

My wife and I enjoy the Ding Darling (yes that is the name) Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Lots of flamingos, pelicans, eagles, and a giant pelican with a 12 foot wing span which flies in from Africa and is there this time of year (maybe he is a baseball fan). He is there now, according to the latest report from the website. You may take a driving tour and can stop at numerous locations to see the birdsflying in for the evening, or an alligator sunning by the road, or a pair of water fowl swimming and diving in a shallow roadside mango pond. There are walking trails also. We also enjoy a small store several miles from the ball park, located on an orange grove, where we stock up on orange marmalade and enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice. We have found some wonderful "off the beaten path" restaurants. I enjoy talking to the other fans and finding out where they are from and why they are Twins' fans. The poster known as "Bob Sacamento" is a chiropractor whom I met one spring training and I was fascinated by what he had to say about pitchers shoulders and the health problems many pitchers have.My favorite photo is one of 3 men in Twins' uniforms with their backs to me, standing together talking behind the batting cage as current Twins are hitting. The 3 men had on the backs of their uniforms: Hunter, Oliva, Carew. I'm not one to ask for autographs, but I do enjoy talking with the players and wishing them good luck. I'll be arriving this Friday night and will be at the park early Saturday, even though there is a game that night. We are staying until after the Orioles game Monday, when we will drive back to North Carolina. I hope to meet some TD readers and writers at the morning practices Saturday or Sunday or Monday. I'll be wearing an olive green 2nd Infantry Division baseball style hat and either an Imjin Scout tee shirt or a Twins tee shirt. I'll be asking around for TD readers and writers. My wife and I have seats for the Rays and the Orioles games on row 13 near the aisle behind the Twins' dugout. I would enjoy meeting you.

    • ashbury, nicksaviking and Halsey Hall like this
Photo
stringer bell
Feb 18 2019 08:29 AM
I went four consecutive years with my older brother. Always enjoyable. Everyone is friendly and accommodating. You’ll never get closer to the players.

We especially enjoyed watching minor league games on the back fields. My brother had a long conversation one year with Niko Goodrum’s dad. I met Jared Burton’s grandparents at a game and another time had a long conversation with a writer for Minor League baseball.

My favorite experience was doing an impromptu Q & A with Terry Ryan. He was watching two minor league games and about a half-dozen of us fans peppered him with questions. I remember he was honest and didn’t dodge any questions. I don’t think fans could ever ask for better access than that.

I had planned to come this year, but I’ve put it off ‘til 2020. Any baseball fan should go if they have the chance.
    • ashbury, nicksaviking, Devereaux and 2 others like this
I went to a couple of spring trainings when I was a young kid. I remember going to MLB.com before the trip to get familiar with the Twins' prospects so I could call them by name to get an autograph. I'm pretty sure the last time I was there was Joe Mauer's rookie season. We were lucky to catch him after an afternoon game to sign a program with him on the cover. It's still framed in my room to this day...

I also thought I got some killer autographs that would soar in value one day... JD Durbin, Jacque Jones, Matt LeCroy, etc. They didn't quite work out as well as Joe.
    • ashbury, nicksaviking and jkcarew like this

I'll probably start going after my kids are out of school.It will be much less expensive. 

    • nicksaviking likes this

Red Sox games at Jet Blue Park are almost always sold out.You need to plan ahead to watch games there.

Hammond sells out too, for an easily predictable set of opponents. Yankees and Red Sox come to mind. You can pick up tickets from scalpers, but I personally rebel at too high a price for a game where the stars only play part of a game. Anyway, planning ahead is probably a good idea for every Twins game too, unless you are OK with a backup Plan B for your afternoon.

    • nicksaviking likes this

Last time we were there (about 10-12 years ago) our favorite activities outside of games/practices were those on Sanibel Island, especially shelling. I remember driving into, and finding parking on, Sanibel Island was very difficult.Anyone know if Uber services the area nowadays? Any other recommendations?

 

Do you have to pay to park at Hammond stadium on non-game days?

    • nicksaviking likes this

Closer to Hammond Stadium is Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, IMO a worthwhile alternative/addition to the nature activities already mentioned. There are guided walks twice a day this time of year.

 

Further south is Naples Botanical Garden, which Mrs Ash and I enjoyed.

    • nicksaviking, Halsey Hall and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Downside of an academic schedule: It's hard to travel except in mid-winter and summer. Upside of impending retirement: Not any more!!! :)

    • nicksaviking and Craig Arko like this

Is there an "ideal" timeframe to go with kids (ages 9 and 6)?By that I mean, is it better to go early in spring training?Or later on?We were debating going next year for roughly a week.I just would like to get the kids the best accessibility to players and autographs.   

    • nicksaviking likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Feb 18 2019 09:52 AM

In 2007, my (now) wife and I spent a long weekend in Fort Myers (it was the first time for both of us). The plan was to take in a game at Hammond, a night on Ft Myers Beach, and then spend two nights out on Captiva (someone told us the island was low key with a fun bar called The Mucky Duck).

 

The baseball experience sold me but my wife loved Captiva so much that when we (finally) got married, we had it on the beach at 'Tween Waters Inn. 

 

I cannot recommend enough to at least visit the area once in your life. 

    • Carole Keller, ashbury, nicksaviking and 3 others like this
Photo
Carole Keller
Feb 18 2019 10:00 AM

Last time we were there (about 10-12 years ago) our favorite activities outside of games/practices were those on Sanibel Island, especially shelling. I remember driving into, and finding parking on, Sanibel Island was very difficult. Anyone know if Uber services the area nowadays? Any other recommendations?

Do you have to pay to park at Hammond stadium on non-game days?

No parking fees on non-game days. And I do believe that there are uber/lyft services in the area now but don’t know how reliably.

The trick with Sanibel during high season is to go early, like 8-9am, get your beaching in, then lunch or whatever and leave by 2-3. Or go later, around 3-3:30, get your beaching in then go to dinner, wander the shops, then head back around 8pm. You will avoid the worst of the on/off traffic that way.
    • nicksaviking, tarheeltwinsfan and Respy like this
Photo
tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 18 2019 03:21 PM

 

 

 

Do you have to pay to park at Hammond stadium on non-game days?

No.

Photo
nicksaviking
Feb 18 2019 04:17 PM

Can't wait to see you guys down there some day. Not sure which day that is. I have three young kids and a wife, none of whom are terribly interested in sports (fingers crossed with the 20 month old). Asking if I could go to Florida and leave the family for a week sounds like a great way to find myself murdered in my sleep.

    • ashbury and Twins33 like this
Photo
Halsey Hall
Feb 18 2019 07:44 PM

I just wasted 20 minutes typing a post and it disappeared when I hit post.Been coming since 1991 and know most all the tricks.  Need help look me up. 

    • nicksaviking likes this

Has anyone come across a bar where the players/ coaches hang out?

What struck me the most was the accessibility, interaction with the players and coaches. You can easily walk around, watching 4 games going on at once in the minor league complex, then head on over to Hammond. My son in law can’t get over it, you go over to the Red Sox complex and it’s totally different. Players for the most part are sealed off from the fans. It’s a great experience, Twins do a fantastic job for the fans.

 

Has anyone come across a bar where the players/ coaches hang out?

 

Bar?Nah.

 

Patinela's Chicken Grill by the ballpark is a close hangout.You may find some Twin Cities celebrities at Duffy's but not players.Blu sushi used to be a (certain) player hangout previously, but not now.

    • mplsman likes this
Photo
twinssporto
Feb 19 2019 09:58 PM

The whole spring training experience is great!  I've been fortunate over the last 15-20 years to make it there on a somewhat regular basis.  Most of the time the players are very accommodating (especially if you have kids with you). Most will stop and talk or sign autographs. I remember about 8-9 years ago Joe Nathan coming back to the locker room from one of the back fields later in the day.  My wife and 3 kids were standing near the gate John mentioned in his post. Joe stopped and signed everyone's ball and took photos with all my kids.  We stood there and talked about the upcoming season for about 5 minutes. We've had similar stories with Mauer, T.K., Molitor, etc.  

 

I flew down to Tampa for work this week and was supposed to fly home tomorrow.  After reading John's post it gave me the inspiration to head to Ft. Myers on Thursday and Friday instead of heading home...the 8+ inches of snow starting tonight through tomorrow helped sway the decision too.  My wife will not be happy (prayers for her understanding are appreciated). 

I'm saving Florida for retirement, which is on the horizon now.

 

I did go to Arizona once, in 1994, and had a grand time for all of the reasons you mention. I saw three games. We watched a Giants "home" game against the Cubs from the grass hill near left field. Two memories:

 

One, Sammy Sosa was walking around near us before the game, ignoring the fans who were yelling for him. He had just got a big raise - so I yelled, "Sammy, lend me $20!" He did not acknowledge me, but moments later he came over to our section and started signing autographs.

 

The same game, someone cracked a sharp base hit to Barry Bonds's right, in left field. We had an excellent close-up look as Bonds tracked down the rolling ball and threw over his body to second base to keep the man to a single. First, I would have never reached that fast-rolling ball; and second, if by some miracle I had, I would have thrown a 15-hopper to second base.

 

That's when I realized how good these professionals are.

Can't wait to see you guys down there some day. Not sure which day that is. I have three young kids and a wife, none of whom are terribly interested in sports (fingers crossed with the 20 month old). Asking if I could go to Florida and leave the family for a week sounds like a great way to find myself murdered in my sleep.

I’m there March 11-19. 3 days at the ballpark and the rest with the fam chasing my 5 yo and 19 mo around Disney and beaches around Tampa/Ft Myers.

I had to cave on Disney to get 3 days at the ballpark.