February 7 – I arrived in Cape Coral a couple of days ago and I decided that it was time for me to make my first visit to Hammond Field this morning and see what is going on out there. It was a windy but sunny day with the temperature in the low 70’s when I arrived at about 10:30 AM. There were just a handful of fans when I parked next to the minor league complex and there were no players on any of the practice fields. But just a few minutes later a couple of players I could not identify came out and did some agility drills and a bit later I could hear someone taking batting practice in the batting cages so I headed over to check it out. As I was approaching the cages I could see a small group of Japanese press that had assembled and they were watching Tsuyoshi Nishioka take some practice swings. I only saw Nishioka hit from the left side but and he seemed to be putting some good wood on the ball. This was the first time I had seen Nishioka up close and he was bigger than I had expected him to be. He is built solidly and to be honest he is a lot bigger below the waist than what I would expect from an infielder that is known for his base stealing skills. Later I watched Nishioka walk to another field to do some running and on the way I asked if I could get a picture but his interpreter (I assume) just waved his hand saying, no pictures. Later Nishioka’s agent joined him on the field and watched as Nishioka and he interpreter ran some sprints but obviously not at full speed. After that workout I again asked for a picture and again got the shake-off. I guess that is understandable as he did not want to be bothered during his workout session. About 15 minutes after he finished practice he came out to the parking lot where four fans asked for autographs but he and his interpreter just walked right past them towards a group of about a half dozen Japanese press that had assembled next to his car. Nishioka spent about 5-10 answering their questions as his agent looked on. One of the fans struck up a conversation with Nishioka’s agent and asked him if he would ask Nishioka to sign autographs for the four fans. When the short press conference for the Japanese press ended, Nishioka again headed for his vehicle but his agent whispered something to Nishioka and he walked over to the four waiting fans and signed an item for each of them without a smile or a word being said. He then turned around and jumped into the driver’s seat of his shiny new black Cadillac Escalade with his agent and interpreter in tow and he was gone. I hope that Nishioka is as fast on the base paths as he was in leaving the parking lot in his shiny Escalade. Today, outside of Nishioka, I saw no other Twins from the big league club.
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