I wanted to check out the Twins “B” game against the Red Sox yesterday so I jumped in the Durango and took the 10 mile drive from Cape Coral to Fort Myers. When I arrived at Hammond Stadium there were plenty of free parking spaces and I took one fairly close to the main ballpark entrance. As I walked towards the stadium I saw Lavelle E. Neal III a couple of spots down from me get out of his rental car and prepare for another day of Star Tribune Twins coverage. He appeared to be in a hurry and was a bit late I think because as I walked into the stadium the Twins were taking the field at 10 AM for their encounter with those hated Red Sox. I looked to see where I wanted to sit and since there was probably less than 200 people in the park I had my choice of sitting in the shade down the right field line or behind home plate albeit in the sun and even at this early hour, the sun was beating down pretty hard. I know, it is a rough life…..I decided to sit behind home plate and took a seat across the isle for GM Terry Ryan and a host of other scouts. The first pitch Blackburn threw was wacked up the middle for a clean single that Blackburn just missed back-handing, but he got out of that inning unscored on and ended up pitching three scoreless innings. The Red Sox Jon Lester also kept the Twins off the board in his 3 innings of work although one inning ended with just two out because Lester had apparently reached his pitch count for the day. But that is how life is in these “B” games, you never know what you might see happen next. It was fun sitting next to Ryan and the other scouts and to listen to their banter back and forth after each pitch. You sprinkle in a few stories about the good old days and the “back in our day” players were a lot different discussions and it makes for some entertaining eavesdropping. It was obvious these guys all have spent a lot of time together on the road and enjoy each other company as they go about their work. I did not recognize any of the scouts but based on the way they talked it sounded as if a number of them had their time in the sun on the major league diamond. It is funny watching the scouts because just as the pitcher is ready to deliver a pitch you see a sea of radar guns pop into position as the pitch is thrown. But you know what, in all the games I have ever attended and seen GM Ryan scout players, I have never ever seen him with a radar gun, a stop watch, sure, but never a radar gun. The man is old school and I would love to see what he writes for notes about the players he watches. Terry Ryan has to be the friendliest and most fan accessible GM in baseball. He will always say hello and talk baseball with whoever happens to walk up to or sit down next to him.
As I said, I only watched four innings of the game before I moved on to the minor league side to see what was going on there on their first full day of training camp but first I want to make note of a couple of things kind of stood out for me today as I watched the Twins and Red Sox play. Joe Mauer started at first base and he is looking pretty comfortable over there but he has a ways to go before he is a really good first baseman and understands the ins and outs of playing first. Justin Morneau is really, really thin, I wonder how much weight he has really lost and why. I for one am not convinced that Morneau is back to what he was when he was one of the most feared sluggers in the American league. Trevor Plouffe started in left field and called off his infielders on a pop up to left and then proceeded to dive and have the ball clank off his glove. I know that it was very windy today but still, if you call off your infielders, you had better make sure you make the catch. I for one want to see Plouffe win a starting outfield job because I think the man can hit but we have to keep in mind that he will not be a gold glover out there for some time.
I took the walk over to the minor league fields and all the fields were empty except for one and that field had all the Twins minor league players assembled on their first day as some players were still going through their physicals. The staff was getting the players separated by club, Fort Myers, Beloit, etc. and then they had each group of players listen to a short “here are our expectations” talk and then they had the players stretch for a bit, throw for a little while and then the main event of the day for each group was the mile run. I was a bit surprised at how some of these players were dreading the run. A mile is apparently four times around the perimeter of this particular playing field and as each group completed their run their individual times was recorded, I don’t know if the time means anything but never the less it was being tracked. I know I can’t run the mile in the times that these players were putting up but then again, some of them are 45 years younger than I am. The bottom line is that a lot of these players were really huffing and puffing to get their mile done and some were darn near walking. This mile run could not have been a total surprise to these players and I wonder why they have not gotten themselves in better shape and better prepared prior to spring training. Baseball is what they hope to make a living from and these guys come to spring training out of shape? What are these guys thinking? A number of these players look like they spent the off-season watching I Love Lucy reruns or playing video games. I guess that is why you never know about what the future holds when you draft these guys to be big league ball players but I can’t help but wonder how bad some of these guys really want to play pro ball on a big league level. I know these guys are the cream of the baseball crop and they have probably always been the stars of the teams they played for and have always had things handed to them but still, you have to take care of your body which in this case is your livelihood. Baseball is obviously no different that the real life business world, the young workers of today expect to be promoted quickly and paid well for their efforts even though their efforts may not measure up to what my generation may expect. I am not saying that all the young players are being lazy because many of them are working their butts off to get ahead but some of these minor league Twins players just don’t get it, I hope they catch on before it is too late for them and their Twins careers. Then again, I have not seen any of these guys hit or pitch a ball as yet, Babe Ruth and CC Sabathia aren’t the most athletic baseball players I have ever seen either.
As always, I managed to get a couple of pictures today that you can view in my 2102 Spring Training Pictures section.