SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28th
I woke up this morning and went to church with my Mom. Afterwards, we made the short jaunt up to Ft. Myers along Tamiami Trail and spent some time at the Twins complex before I had to pick up my cousin from the airport. Didn't need to look at a map, it was ingrained in me after my trip to Spring Training last year. You can see the stadium lights almost as soon as you turn onto 6 Mile Cypress Parkway, the stadium looks kind of like Canterbury Park but with palm trees, and its surrounded by road construction and Home Depot, so it's hard to miss -- the only bright spot in miles.
I love the names of the parking lanes: Kelly, Hrbek, Grant, Kaat, etc. It's a paved jungle of baseball glory. My Mom had never been to Spring Training, she kind of lives vicariously in her appreciation of baseball through me and my younger brother, but she definitely enjoys it. I could tell she was even in awe of just how close you were to the players: you could reach through the batting practice wire and your fingers would almost brush JJ Hardy's jersey.
The first thing I noticed as we walked up to the stadium was a crowd of people outside the batting cages. I heard the name "Denard" and immediately I ran towards the crowd of people. Sure enough, Span was there politely talking to everyone and signing autographs. I pushed my way into the mass of Twins fandom around him and eventually reached him and told him how much I enjoyed his being on Seth Stohs' podcast. He kind of smiled and said "You heard that!? Cool!"
From there I walked along the batting cages and watched a blurry Joe Mauer take some practice swings -- he even practiced bunting, which I doubt he'll ever do in the regular season...
And then we spent some time watching JJ Hardy take instruction from Rod Carew and Joe Vavra on his swing, which was pretty fun to see first-hand.
From there we watched Tolbert and Harris field some grounders and worked our way into the empty Hammond Stadium. It was beautiful seeing an outdoor park, palm trees, feeling the sunshine. I wished I could just sit down and watch a game.
Eventually we made our way back out to where the players were practicing and we got there just in time to see a golf cart full of bullpen pitchers arrive on their way back from the weight room.
We had to kill a little time until my cousin arrived on her flight into Ft. Myers, so we hung around on a bench after the workouts were done and eventually Gardy meandered his way out of the stadium and stopped to sign some autographs.
In total we were only there about an hour or so. I hope to get back tomorrow morning and spend some more time walking around, but it was a nice start and I got to speak with Span and Gardy a little bit, which was fun.
The rest of the day was spent drinking mai thai's on the beach watching the US Olympic hockey team lose to Canada, and then fixing cocktails for a bunch of my grandparents' friends at a reception for my grandfather's funeral.
We'll see how hungover I am tomorrow because that will have an impact on when I show up to the Lee County Sports Complex...