Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Training, Part I

***Ok, it's been awhile. It's been quite awhile. In fact, every day it gets harder to figure out something to write because it has to be perfect as a re-entry into starting to write again. This is why I stopped trying to be a screenwriter ... writer's block. So easy to just put down the pen. And you know what ... this post isn't anything special. But I don't care because I just need to start writing again, and nothing gives me the urge to write more than actually watching a baseball game, which is what I got to do today...

Spring is here. I don't think I officially realized that until I stumbled out of the car and walked like a man in a dream over to Hammond Stadium on Sunday. It was raining all morning and the drive from Naples to Ft. Myers was as grey and overcast as I've ever seen it, but I had to get my fix.

Walking up to the practice fields I saw how empty it was. Fans were milling around aimlessly, waiting for some sort of action, but due to the rain (and the fact that the MLB Player's Association was having their annual meeting as I found out later...) no one was out on the fields. The biggest draws were a shuffling little Wayne Hattaway, Dick Bremer in sandals and some sort of golf visor, and Roy Smalley walking around in a salmon color shirt that screamed Florida golf courses.

I did notice the Japanese media -- wandering around with tripods and cameras -- I can only imagine how many are going to be showing up to Target Field over the course of the year. There were also a lot of fans, walking around in Ichiro jerseys namely. At one point a Japanese man in a flashy suit and a nice head of hair snuck out from the Stadium restricted access area and fans immediately started crowding around him asking for autographs -- he obliged halfheartedly -- but it was not Nishioka. He was a reporter or likely a TV anchor of some sort, and I don't think anyone realized that for awhile. At the first sign of a Japanese man in a nice suit they just reacted. Kind of funny.

Eventually though the rain cleared and the players took to the fields for some practice before their game with Baltimore. I didn't have tickets but I needed to see some sort of baseball so I stuck around to watch practices until everyone filtered back into the stadium for the game. Some of the things I noticed:
- Joe Nathan looks great. It's great to see him moving around and smiling and happy... I think he's psyched to be back playing baseball and I wish him the best
- I don't know what everyone's worried about with Mijares and his weight. I saw him doing sprints on a backfield with Nathan and he was keeping pace pretty quickly. I've seen him much heavier previous springs, he actually looks like he could've lost some weight.
- Dmitri Young was walking around and it took me until reading notes from the Star Tribune and Phil Mackey to realize it. I knew he looked familiar and he was getting a lot of love from players as he walked around but I didn't put two and two together.
- The person I did notice was Jim Kaat. I had decided to get his autograph at Twins Fest this year and he was the first face other than Hattaway and Smalley that I saw, wandering out onto the fields before the players, decked out in Twins gear and obviously in some sort of supervisory role.

While I didn't get to see any baseball on Sunday, I ended up back at the stadium on Tuesday for the tilt against the Pirates. I dropped of Nick Nelson in the morning and went to go pick up Mr. Seth Stohs from the airport. Nick got there just in time to see Morneau, which I'm sure you can read about if you go over to his site -- the "B" game definitely seemed to have an A-list feel to it with the last minute addition of Morneau and the ability to see Slowey, Delmon and Kyle Gibson all on the same practice field, they had quite the crowd there watching some free baseball by the time Seth and I arrived.

Thanks to Nick Nelson's generosity and Parker Hageman's seating hookups we had some pretty awesome seats to watch the game...

I realize this is just a nice view of some umpire rear-ends, but believe me that's not what we were focusing on...

Pavano didn't look particularly stellar -- in fact outside of Kyle Waldrop there wasn't much to speak of in terms of pitching today. Pavano wasn't shaky really, but he didn't seem to have his best stuff, still feeling out some of his pitches and teasing his velocity. But he didn't look bad either.

None of the pitchers really looked bad -- Neshek was suitable in his inning but got hit pretty hard even though some of them went for outs. Outside of the long homerun to Overbay he had a warning track flyball that looked like a sure double until Ben Revere showed his amazing range and tracked it down for what would be a Sportscenter Top 10 play for sure if only they had been televising the game. He must've been sore after that, diving for it onto the dirt track, and got a rousing standing ovation on his way back to the dugout.

Danny Rams was the other star of the game for sure -- not only did he spook the hell out of me when he caught a pop fly right at the fence (all of us were staring up to make sure the ball didn't land at us over the backstop and when I followed it down he caught the ball right in front of my face). He also had some towering doubles that could've left the fence if they'd had just a little bit more carry. He's certainly got quite the bat, I can't wait to see where he ends up in the next couple of seasons because with the grasp for Holm and Rivera we could certainly use some strong catching depth and he's the one to watch in my book.

Nishioka also played in the game today -- the fans loved him, he's certainly going to be a treat to watch. He had a nice solid single and flashed a little leather over at 2nd base -- I feel pretty confident that he'll be able to at least hold his own in the Majors this year.

Unfortunately I couldn't get a good angle on him with the ump in the way...

It was good to see some of the other players like Tosoni, Benson, and Hughes as well -- all of whom I have some strong hopes for this year.

Anyway, look for some more posts to follow soon -- Seth and I are going to make an early morning trek up to the Lee County Sports Complex to catch some workouts from the people who stay behind on the roadtrip so hopefully we have some more pictures and stories to share soon!

(Definitely check out Nick and Seth's sites tomorrow as I see them writing as I'm going to bed and I'm sure they'll have some better stories to read -- I think you can find Seth's today at the Star Tribune Twins Centric page.)


  1. WOOT!! A post a post! Actually quite interesting for me, someone who has never been to Spring Training. I like the way you write honestly.

    Heh, my method for posting after long periods of inactivity is to just ignore the inactivity. It's in the past now, can't dwell! Who cares! Although, I WAS thinking I would see something from you about TwinsFest.

    I'm glad to be hearing good things about Nishioka. I'm so excited to see him play. Someone on Twitter said I must be his biggest fan--but I don't think so! He's just the only player I haven't really seen, haven't really seen anything at all. I'm already a fan of Japanese baseball and Japanese baseball fans, so this has really been the most interesting aspect of the off-season for me.

    Have fun in Florida!

  2. Thanks! Yeah, it's just so hard to come back from a long period of absence. I was definitely going to blog about Twins Fest and just kept putting it off.

    I'll hopefully have another post up later tonight!