February 25, 2011 – Another day and another trip to the ballpark today to watch the Twins as they prepare for their spring training opener just two days away. On a beautiful albeit a windy late February day the fans were out in droves to watch the Twins as they prepare for the 2011 season. Most of the fans watched as TK put a number of players including Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla through infield drills on two different fields today. During the first infield session people were actually 4-6 deep and that is the first time I have ever seen that at the Hammond Field. TK doesn’t just run drills; he seems to hold court out on the practice fields and actually seems to put on a show for the spectators, sometimes even interacting with the fans. TK isn’t ready for his own stand-up comedy routine just yet but he can be funny at times. In the past I have even seen him out there with his cigar but I have not seen that so far this year. He runs his practice like a drill sergeant but make no mistake, not much slips pass TK. If he doesn’t like what he sees on the field he has no problem stopping the drill right then and there and telling or showing the offending player the error of his ways. With TK, you get a lot of arm gestures and a loud gruff sounding voice, but never to a veteran player. If a veteran makes a mistake TK usually just walks up to him, puts his arm on him and they turn away from the fans and the message is passed on and then TK walks away having gotten his point across with no one being embarrassed. With TK in spring training it is not about the results, it is all about the process and doing it the right way, the Twins way.
In the past I have not been a fan of TK due to how poorly he treated fans that questioned or second guessed his managerial moves on call in radio shows but in spring training these days he seems to be a totally different person, maybe it is the fact that he no longer wears the reins or bears the stresses of being a big league skipper. After practice he does a great job of signing autographs, talks to the fans, particularly the kids and just seems to enjoy his time in the sun. On the practice fields he catches all the mistakes but he is also the biggest cheerleader on the field, always telling players how nice that play looked and how they made a professional big league play. TK even pokes fun at himself whenever he himself makes a mistake.
Today TK seemed to focus on Nishioka and his interpreter. I don’t know how many times TK strolled out to second or short where Nishioka had just completed a play and the three of them would have a little chat. Sometimes you could see a smile cross Nishioka’s face and other time you could see him just nod his head before TK walked away to observe the next play. It is very strange to see Nishioka’s interpreter out at second base or shortstop behind Nishioka during fielding drills but it is a way of life for the Twins these days. With spring training games slated to start on Sunday I will be limiting my visits to probably once a week or so because workouts change so dramatically when the games begin.