It is a warm and sunny day here in Fort Myers with the temperatures in the mid 80’s and as I check out the Minnesota weather forecast I find it says that the area could get a foot or more of snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. A foot of snow? It is darn near time for baseball, oh well, better there than here.
I made another trip out to the ballpark this morning and I arrived about 10:15 AM and everyone was hard at work. The first field I stopped to check out had a group working on situational plays in the infield. A couple of runners were on the base paths and the fielders were given situations to either get a runner out on via a run down play or maybe to get the batter at first and hold the runner at 3B or any number of similar plays. We all watch the game of baseball but very few of us really understand all the inner workings of what really takes place on the field. I think we can blame TV for a lot of that because the TV cameras focus on the pitcher, the hitter and the fielder that is going to get the ball. But there is so much else going on that you don’t see on TV, like what the other runners are doing and most importantly what each of the other fielders are doing depending on the situation. It is only at the ball game itself that you get to see all the action that is taking place like the catcher backing up first base, or the pitcher backing up 3B or home plate, or the cut-off infielders manning their positions. It is like a choreographed ballet what so many different things going on around the field that it is hard to grasp all of what is taking place. Some people will tell you that baseball is really a simple game, pitch the ball, hit the ball and field the ball but the devil is really in the details in what we all call America’s pastime. As we watched the Twins do run down after run down, you could hear the fans commenting among themselves saying things like “Mauer (playing 1B) needs to throw the ball to the middle infielders quicker versus chasing him all the way to 2B”. Another fan “hoped all this practice would allow them to better execute run downs then they did last season”, I for one could not agree more, they seemed to have no clue last year. On one play, closer Capps tried to field a bunt halfway between the mound and home and slipped and landed pretty hard on his butt as a man of Capps size is prone to do and you heard a groan go through the crowd. Another injury? Nope, not this time as Capps got up laughing and a few of the Twins laughed as their gloves covered their faces. Coaches Gardenhire, Kelly and others looked on the action and periodically wandered over to one of the players and explained what they might do to improve their play and their chances of making the team. The Twins are spending a lot of time on fundamentals down here this spring and hopefully it will payoff once the season begins.
One thing that struck me today as I was out at the ballpark today was how few fans there were watching the Twins go through their paces. There could not have been more than a couple of hundred people here today. If you counted the players, photographers, and the journalists, they probably out-numbered the fans. Normally at this time of the year I find the area between the fields being clogged with fans going to and fro from field to field and if you wanted to get next to the fences, you would have to fight through the fans 6 or 8 deep but that was not the case today or any day this year that I have been out to the ballpark. Last years 63-99 record appears to have caused many Twins fans to pursue other interests and if this attitude continues into the regular season, you are going to see lots of empty seats at Target Field. If the news out of Fort Myers continues to be negative due to injuries or a bad Grapefruit league record, it could be a long summer for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins need some good news or a hot start to get Minnesotan’s and other Midwesterners talking Twins baseball and heading out for Target field.
I saw Like Hughes take a few rounds in BP this morning after getting a cortisone shot last week. He looked a little tentative but he did get ahold of a couple of nice drives. GM Terry Ryan was sitting on the bench of one of the back fields watching his troops being put through their paces. Later coaches Rick Stelmaszek, Tom Kelly, and Ron Gardenhire joined him and they chatted about the days activities. TK brought up the fact the Chris Parmelee was not having a great day in the field and that he would have a chat with him. A little while later Parmelee rotated to the field that TK was on and TK casually mentioned to Parmelee that he wanted to “see him in his office when Chris had a minute”. A minute later Chris joined TK on the bench and TK explained to Parmelee what he saw on the field this morning was not what he expected of him and that he wanted to know why Chris did what he did. Chris explained his side of the story and then TK explained to him what he thought should have happened. No yelling, no screaming, just a man to man conversation that hopefully provided a “now I understand” moment for the young Parmelee. As Chris walked away deep in thought, TK mumbled, “he knows better, I know he does”.
I need to touch on the Joel Zumaya situation, I met Joel for the first time a couple of days ago and I was surprised at how friendly he was as we chatted as he walked back towards the main clubhouse from one of the back fields. He talked about how anxious he was to pitch for the Minnesota Twins and how he was really looking forward to this spring. Now, less than a week later after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament on Saturday and facing Tommy John surgery, the season is over for Joel Zumaya before he even had a chance to put on a Minnesota Twins uniform in a regular season game and more than that, his career may also be over. How often can a man get back up after getting knocked down? The TJ surgery would make what, his sixth surgery and the man is just 27 years of age. You have to feel terrible for Zumaya and his family. We as baseball fans see how a player performs and we either like him as a player or we think the guy stinks and we hope he gets benched, cut, sent to the minors, or traded for a bucket ball and a couple of bats. What we forget sometimes is that these ball players are real people with real feelings and real families that love them no matter what happens at the local ballpark. I know the players make a lot of money but it is not just the money, these guys want to play baseball. They grew up with the goal of being a professional baseball player and have worked hard to get where they are and when injuries keep them from achieving what they think they are possible of, it is a hard pill to swallow. What do you do with the rest of your life when you know you are good enough to compete in the big leagues but your health won’t allow it and you have to walk away from the game at 27 years of age? Baseball can be a cruel game, some would give up their right arm to have the ability to play, some have the ability but choose not to pursue it, some have the ability but choose to let it slip through their fingers because of drugs or alcohol, some have the ability but health issues prevent them from achieving their goal and a few are blessed with the ability and health to have long and fruitful baseball careers. In this case you have that very rare pitcher with the unique ability to throw a baseball over a 100 MPH and yet his career may be over before it really left the starting gate. They say there is no crying in baseball but it is things like this that make you wonder why things happen the way they do. We at Twins Trivia send our best wishes to Joel Zumaya no matter what he chooses to do.
As always, I managed to get a few pictures at the ballpark today and you can check them out on the right hand side of the page under 2012 Spring training pictures.
UPDATE MARCH 4 – The agent for Joel Zumaya notified the Twins yesterday this his client has decided to have Tommy John elbow ligament surgery and will attempt yet another comeback. Zumaya tore the ligament while throwing batting practice on February 25th. The TJ surgery will be the sixth surgery for Zumaya, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since June of 2010. The surgery will take place at the end of the month and be preformed by noted specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Alabama. It is still not determined if the rehab will be under the Twins auspices or if Zumaya will do it on his own. Either way, the Twins will pick up the cost and pay Zumaya $400K during 2012.
UPDATE MARCH 28th – The Twins released RHP Joel Zumaya on March 28, a day before the reliever was scheduled to have season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Zumaya, 27, tore the ligament during his first session throwing to batters on March 4