I was excited to get my first look at the changes that are taking place at Hammond Stadium this year and yesterday I went out there to see what was going on. For the most part it is a construction area and kind of messy and muddy in parts of the complex but work is going on everywhere.
The main changes to the ballpark itself are the new concourse that encircles the entire ballpark and the new “grassy knoll” in the left field corner. The grassy knoll appears finished but the concourse is definitely a work in progress. With the work underway, the new concourse is obviously not accessible to the public at this time so it is not possible to get pictures from there and to see what the field of play looks like from the concourse.
The area between field 5, the Twins batting cages, The Twins bullpen and the field with just an infield is a construction area so access there this spring might be questionable. This was a spring training gathering place for fans over the years and a prime autograph location but I am not sure it will be available this year. It is really too early to tell.
I bought tickets to a couple of spring training games and they told me to try to get to the ballpark early because the parking area has been changed due to the construction in the area. The parking areas on the right as you first drive in have not changed but as you get closer to the minor league complex the construction has eliminated many parking spots. The folks selling the tickets said they do not expect that the parking area will be cleaned up by the times games start so that could make things interesting but they do expect the concourse to be completed. From what I see of the concourse, I would be surprised if that is done by the time the Twins play the Boston Red Sox on March 1st.
I saw a few minor league players on field 3 hitting but I did not see any Twins players working out at all. I did see Kyle Gibson walk by and later I ran into Jared Burton and Glen Perkins and asked them if I could take a picture but they said “not today, a bad day for pictures today” and they kept on walking back towards the Twins clubhouse. Kind of unusual for Burton because he is usually willing to stop and talk with fans, maybe they had a bad day or they were just upset about having to walk through some muddy construction on their way to the clubhouse.
Nate Roberts walked by and I asked if I could take a picture and he was kind enough to stop and pose for me. We chatted briefly and he went on his way. Seems like a very nice guy and if you are a Duck Dynasty fan you have to like the beard that Roberts is sporting.
All toll I probably saw a dozen or so players today and about as many fans. Some were looking for autographs and others were there to buy tickets. The funny thing was when I asked if they were Twins fans, more said Red Sox then anything else. It sure was good to be back at spring training again and I am sure there will be more players and more fans when I stop by in the next few days for another visit.
Plans to renovate City of Palms Park (the old Red Sox facility) and bring the Washington Nationals to Fort Myers appear to be on hold, if not dead because Ft. Myers can’t meet the costs the developer has proposed the city pay to renovate the stadium. The Nationals, who train at Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, have been looking elsewhere to move their spring training operations. Hopefully that changes because it would be nice to see another team in Ft. Myers.
If you want to see some of the pictures I took at the ballpark on Tuesday, you can find the link called 2014 Spring Training on the right hand side of the page.