A new day, a new month and another trip to the ballpark and another great day in Southwest Florida. I parked my car on Kelly avenue today and walked over to the nearest field and I saw Gardy conducting a drill where the pitcher runs off the mound and takes a throw to make a tag play at the plate. I watched that for a bit and then I saw GM Terry Ryan and I wanted to say hello but he was talking with some other Twins execs so I kept moving. I walked to one of the back fields and came across coach Tom Kelly on a field with another unidentified coach and a third baseman that was taking some ground balls and practicing his back-hand and then the footwork necessary to get a good throw over to first. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the third baseman or the coach were because I had forgotten my roster numbers at home and I didn’t want to buy another one.
I then wandered over to a field where a handful of the minor league regulars were going through their daily drills and I wanted to say hello to Max Kepler and get a picture but Max was in the outfield shagging fly balls out of my camera range and I waited for a while but apparently it was not time for him to come in to take BP. You have to give credit to these guys, they are out there day after day going through the same drills, rain or shine with coach Tommy Watkins and they were doing this when I got here on February 1st and the minor league players don’t report I think for another week or 10 days. These guys should get a gold star next to their names for putting in the work necessary to make themselves better ball players.
Then I slipped over to another field and here I saw Tsuyoshi Nishioka with another group of Twins going through some infield drills with runners on the bases. Next to the field I saw Nishioka’s personal trainer and his agent Toru Suzuki. I introduced myself to Mr. Suzuki, gave him my card and asked him if he had time for a couple of questions. He didn’t say no so I asked him why Twins fans should have any hope for Nishioka playing better in 2012 than he did in 2011. Mr. Suzuki looked at me and said he (Nishioka) will be better because he was hurt last year and never really recovered and it was after all, his first year in the United States. I then asked him why Nishioka seemed to prefer working out on his own versus working with his teammates and he told me that Nishioka is working out with his teammates right now and he had a point there. By this time, we were walking away from the field back to the big league clubhouse and I had the feeling that my interview was over but being as pushy as I am, I had to ask one more question. I asked Mr. Suzuki if he felt that Tsuyoshi Nishioka had a chance to win a starting infield job with the Twins and without any hesitation he replied, “yes, I think he can, he is working hard”. Then he and the trainer started walking away from me so I took the hint and let them walk.
Later on I got a chance to spend about 15 or 20 enjoyable minutes alone with GM Terry Ryan watching some BP and talking Twins baseball. We talked about Jamey Carroll, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Justin Morneau, JR Towles, Steve Pearce, and the bullpen. I asked about Joel Zumaya but he has not heard from Zumaya at this point on what his plans are. It was fun chat, we in Minnesota are very lucky to have a GM that is willing to talk baseball with Twins fans. The thing I think I enjoy most about Terry Ryan is that he listens to what you have to say and then he tells you what he thinks, he doesn’t beat around the bush. He always makes you defend your position with facts. But when a 9-year-old boy walked up to Terry when we were talking Twins baseball and asked him what it would take to be a Twins ball boy, Ryan took the time to explain to the young man that the bat boys were chosen by the Twins and that you had to be 16 years of age. “You are not 16 are you”?, Terry asked the boy, but by then the young man was already running back to his Dad. Later in the day I had a chance to talk with the young mans Dad and he said that his son had tears in his eyes because Terry Ryan had told him he had to be 16 years old to be a Twins ball boy. Baseball is like that, it can break your heart.
After all this fun you would think my day would be over wouldn’t you? You would be wrong, I still had a Twins “B” game to watch. It was kind of interesting because there was no admission charge for the game that was played in Hammond Stadium and there was free parking. The game was fairly well publicized in the local press but yet I don’t think there couldn’t have been 1,000 people at the game. The scoreboard was not used and there was no one to announce the players. So as Twins fan in the second deck behind home plate took it upon himself to scream out the Twins players name and position as they stepped up to the plate. The game was actually delayed and did not start on time because, drum roll please, the umpires had not arrived. A few minutes later managers Gardenhire and Valentine met behind home plate and Twins coach Steve Liddle donned a mask and became the home plate umpire still wearing his number 9 Twins uniform. There was also someone in civ’s acting as the base umpire but I do not know who he was or which team he belonged to. The Twins and home plate umpire Liddle built up a 2-1 lead before the real umpires showed up for the top of the third inning.
The game started with Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias hit Twins starter Scott Baker’s first pitch for a hard single up the middle and it just missed hitting Baker. Iglesias was eliminated on a double play but catcher Ryan Lavarnway pulled a Baker pitch over the fence down the left field line for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom half of the first, Revere singled, Tosoni doubled and Revere scored on a ground out by Joe Benson. Blackburn was unscored on in the second inning and catcher JR Towles threw out a Sox runner at second base and in the bottom half of the same inning, Towles knocked in Brian Dozier who had doubled down the LF line and the Twins were up 2-1. Jeff Manship pitched a scoreless third and Liam Hendriks did the same in the top of the fourth. In the home half of the fourth the Twins scored on a two run homer to straight away centerfield off the bat of 1B Aaron Bates after Brian Dinkelman had singled off of lefty Red Sox pitcher Jesse Carlson who has a distinctive little hop after each delivery. So after 4 innings the Twins were up 4-1 and at that point I had to leave the game for another engagement. It was a fun day, catching the Twins first game of 2012, albeit a “B” game on a beautiful day in Fort Myers. It is to bad that so few people were there to enjoy it. And yes, I was able to get some pictures that I have uploaded for your viewing pleasure, check out how few people there were in the stands and how Steve Liddle looks as the home plate umpire.