When the Twins play a team not too far from Fort Myers their minor league teams also play that same organizations teams at their level, usually the AA and AAA teams play at one of the host cities and the two A ball teams play at the other city. Yesterday the Twins were playing the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota so the Rochester team played Norfolk and the New Britain played Bowie in Sarasota while Fort Myers played Frederick and Beloit played Delmarva at Hammond Stadium. I stopped off at Hammond Stadium about 12:30 PM expecting to be a little early for the Fort Myers and Beloit games but when I parked my car I could see that the games were already underway, had I read my schedule correctly I would have seen that the games today started at Noon versus 1 PM. Oh well no biggie. I wandered over to the first field and saw Beloit taking on Delmarva and on another field I saw the extended group of players playing an inner squad game but Fort Myers and Frederick were nowhere to be seen. After watching the Beloit game for a while I asked what happened to Fort Myers and Frederick and I was told they were playing in the main stadium today.
I entered the stadium and the game was underway and there were so few fans there that the players that were not in playing in the game that day outnumbered the fans as they sat in the stands and watched their teammates play. I didn’t recognize many of the players but I sat down next to a pitcher that was keeping the pitching chart and manning the radar gun for the game. After introducing myself I found out that the player was RHP Marty Popham, a 24-year-old AAA Rule 5 draft pick from the Cleveland Indians this past off-season. Marty said that the minor league Rule 5 draft is a bit different from the major league Rule 5 draft in that the Twins keep him regardless of the team he may be assigned to play for. The 6’6″ Popham was a 20th round pick for the Indians in 2008 and last season he pitched A ball in Kinston, AA ball in Akron and AAA ball in Columbus going 6-3 with a 4.58 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP with 106 strikeouts in 112 innings. He is pleased to be with the Minnesota organization and hopes to make his mark with the Twins. Marty throws a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball, curve, slider and periodically mixes in a knuckleball. Marty lives in Louisville, Kentucky where he and his fiancée just bought their first home this past off-season. I also ended up talking briefly with reliever Caleb Thielbar, 25, a Northfield, Minnesota native who was with the Brewers organization for a while and then was released and played for the St. Paul Saints last year before the Twins signed him for their Fort Myers ballclub. Both Thielbar and Popham mentioned that they were surprised how many players there were with the Twins organization with roots going back to the North Star state.
I really don’t know what the final score of the game was and there is no score being kept that I could see but I think that Fort Myers did win. The only home run of the game that I saw was a 3-run shot over the left field fence next to the foul pole by 2B Andy Leer. That ball left the park in a hurry. I almost forgot to mention that Carl Pavano pitched a couple of innings in the game and Ryan Doumit caught Pavano for Fort Myers. Pavano looked sharp but then again he was pitching against the A ball Frederick Keys. I ended up taking some pictures that I have uploaded to my 2012 spring training pictures site and then I called it a day. How often do yu get a chance to sit in the stands and talk with the players as you watch a game, only in spring training baby, only in spring training. You can’t beat it, but it is quickly coming to and end, only a week or so to go and I think I will stop by on Monday and watch Rochester takes on New Britain, Beloit take on Fort Myers and the GCL extended team will play an inner squad game. It is an early start on Monday, 10AM local time as the boys of summer need to wrap things up and break camp the next day. I will be “breaking camp” and heading home to Minnesota myself just a few days later so I can be sure to be home by the time the Easter bunny shows up because who knows, he might bring me something good.
This morning I read that the Twins gave Joel Zumaya, 27, his release, baseball has been a “tough row to hoe” for the fire-balling reliever as he has suffered injury after injury. I would have enjoyed watching Zumaya in a Twins uniform.
When you get cut by the big league club you almost always get to report to one of the minor league teams but when you get caught by a minor league club all you get is “an opportunity to look for a job” and for many of the guys the Twins cut today, it could be a job in the real world. Baseball is tough and your career can be over at any point in time. Good luck to pitchers Matt Bashore, Ben Tootle, Jason Bulger, and Deinys Suarez, infielders Chris Cates, Steve Pearce, and Roy Larson, along with outfielders Dustin Martin and Tyler Koelling.