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Twins Blogosphere

Busy First Day in Ft. Myers

My flight arrived in Ft. Myers at about 5:00 p.m. local time on Friday night. Pick up the car. Find the lodging. Find something to eat. Crash. On Saturday morning, I actually was able to wake up after hitting snooze just twice. I was pretty proud of myself. Despite a GPS error that sent me the wrong direction, I was at Hammond Stadium by about 8:00 AM. The Twins bus to Dunedin had already taken off. No worries, I still put in six-and-a-half-hours of “Work.” Day One at Minnesota Twins spring training, for me, was a day to catch my bearings, get the lay of the land, and see a little bit of everything.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
There were several that did not make the trek north to play the Blue Jays. Pitchers played long-toss on the main stadium and got their running in. There was an extended round of infield featuring Deibinson Romero, Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas and Joe Mauer. One important thing to note is that Pedro Florimon participated in a full round of infield for the first time since his appendectomy.

Kurt Suzuki could be seen in the main bullpen, working on blocking pitches in the dirt. Later, at Tom Kelly Field, Santana and Polanco were taking more ground balls off the bat of Paul Molitor. Jason Bartlett was taking grounders at second base. Joe Mauer took more ground balls at first base. He worked as though there was a runner on first base that he was holding on. He came off the bag to make plays. A couple of times, Tom Kelly came down the line and provided Mauer with additional pointers. With the new boardwalk overhead the whole conversation could be heard.

Attached Image: ST Molitor Kelly.jpg

Tom Kelly and Paul Molitor hitting fungoes on Tom Kelly Field.

In the batting cages under the bleachers, Aaron Hicks and Alex Presley were taking cuts. Rod Carew was instructing. Later, Carew was working with them on drag bunting. He would be a good guy to do that!

About 100 yards from Hammond Stadium, fans can find the minor league facilities. It is comprised of three full fields, a bullpen and a half-field. Of course, there is the newly-renovated clubhouse and training area for the minor leaguers as well, though I couldn’t see that. Work is also continuing on the dorms that Twins minor leaguers will be able to use as early as next spring training.

Getting welcomed to Ft. Myers by Tommy Watkins is always nice too.

About 9:30, the minor leaguers began to take the fields. The Cedar Rapids roster again went to City of Palms (Red Sox old facility) to work out due to space constraints. Players remaining broke into two groups, the hitters and the pitchers. In those groups, they did their stretching. Hitters did some base running drills as well.

Soon, an incredibly controlled chaos broke out. One field had pitchers doing PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice). The bullpen mounds were full. Infielders were all on one field and ground balls were hit from several angles. Outfielders worked on throws, but also took fly balls, line drives and ground balls, working on their footwork, throwing and routes. They came together and ran some infield practice that included the pitchers backing up bases. Catchers worked on blocking pitches in the dirt, coming from out of their stance to field bunts and throw, and a lot of footwork. Like I said, there is so much going on, yet it runs so smoothly.

Attached Image: Mark Hamburger.jpg

Mark Hamburger's terrific mustache doing some PFPs.

Around 11:30, those minor leaguers went to grab some lunch. By 12:20, they were back on the field. It was time for batting practice. Three of the fields went about the same general process. A group of four hitters would take a good round of batting practice from a coach. Then, pitchers were brought in to face the hitters.

Attached Image: Alex Wimmers 2.jpg

Alex Wimmers throwing live batting practice.

That is obviously a good thing and a necessity as players get set for their first games of the spring on Monday (against each other). Some pitchers did better than others. Some of the young pitchers showed their good and their bad. For instance, hard-throwing Fernando Romero was quite impressive. Yes, he throws very hard. I also saw the looks on the faces of hitters and coaches when he threw a couple sharp sliders. Romero was pitching to outfielder Zach Larson when a slider got away. It his Larson right square in the shoulder. He stepped out of the batter’s box and didn’t even wipe it off. When asked, he told an onlooker, “It was only a slider.”

Attached Image: Fernando Romero 2.jpg

Fernando Romero throwing speed balls.

The day came to an end around 2:30 for the minor leaguers.

I can confirm that infielder Adam Bryant has decided to retire. The former ninth round pick suffered with injuries in 2012, and missed all but one inning of 2013. As I wrote last week, he was still suffering from the toe injury.

It certainly is fun to see former Twins Doug Mientkiewicz, Chad Allen and Tommy Watkins coaching the players up. It’s very interesting to watch Gary Lucas, Stu Cliburn and Ivan Arteaga work with pitchers.

There are a lot of Minnesotans at Hammond Stadium. There are also a lot of parents and families of players. I was fortunate. I started talking to a couple about how nice it was being down here after such a tough, long winter in Minnesota. Turns out, they were the parents of Caleb Thielbar.

Soon after, I heard my name. It was AJ Pettersen’s mom. I asked how she knew it was me, and she said she watched the Twins Hangouts, at least those that AJ is in. AJ’s dad was also there. So was his younger brother Luke who recently announced that he will follow his brother and play baseball for the Gophers. It was also nice to see AJ’s wife again. Looking around and such, it is clear that there is a certain bond, of sorts, among parents of ball players.

Attached Image: AJ Pettersen 2.jpg

Twins Daily contributor AJ Pettersen taking a round of infield at shortstop.

The weather was a common theme for more than the fans. It was a conversation with the players well. I talked to a few of the Minnesota players who just came down to Ft. Myers in the last week or so (Nate Hanson, Austin Malinowski), and the sentiment was the same. They are glad to be out of the snow.

Attached Image: Austin Malinowski 2.jpg

Minnesota native Austin Malinowski throwing live BP.

I also talked to catcher Tyler Grimes who said he came to Ft. Myers a month ago because he “couldn’t do any work outdoors in Kansas.”

Over the next week, I will be representing Twins Daily in Ft. Myers. John did a great job last week, and be sure to check out Twins Daily on Facebook to see his interview with Glen Perkins. I will also be at several of the Twins games and doing stories. However, as you likely hope and expect, I will attempt to follow the minor league side of things as well. Nick and Parker will take over in coming weeks. (by the way, I also posted many pictures on my Facebook page from spring training)

Attached Image: ST Mientkiewicz Pettersen.jpg

Watching BP (L to R: Lance Ray, AJ Pettersen, Doug Mientkiewicz, JD Williams)

The biggest thing I learned on day one for me was probably a pretty obvious thing. Yes, I took in a lot of baseball activity and enjoyed it. I learned a lot about the updates to the stadium and much more. But the biggest thing I learned… USE SUNSCREEN!!! We bought sunscreen on Friday night. I managed not to even think about it on Saturday morning. It was “only 51 degrees” (sorry again to those up north). I didn’t need it, right? WRONG!! My head is red. It hurts. Tomorrow, I will be loading on a bunch of sunscreen, and likely purchasing a Ft. Myers Miracle hat to don while outdoors down here.

Lesson Learned! And now I can’t wait for Day 2!

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