Some of you might be surprised that i’m in Florida for Spring Training. For others, especially if you follow me on Twitter, it is no surprise because I’ve been talking about this for a few weeks now. Anyways, I arrived on Tuesday afternoon and this was the first game I’ve been to so far this year. The earliest I arrived to a spring training ballpark last year was 8:00 a.m., but this year I arrived at Hammond Stadium at 7:00 a.m.. I got there the extra hour early because I wanted to catch the sun rise as I drove to the ballpark. The recently renovated stadium looked stunning as I drove into the parking lot:
I wasn’t sure when the players would begin to practice but I figured I might as well maximize my time in the warm weather. I soaked in the sun until the first group of players finally entered the practice fields at 9 o’clock. I could see them from a distance so I made my way to the fields.
At 9 o’clock all of the minor league players reported to the field closest to the twins baseball academy:
As far as I know, the only notable players in that extremely large group were Nick Gordon, Kohl Stewart, James Beresford and Max Kepler. After wandering around for a few minutes I found my first ball of 2015! With Selig out and Manfred in as commissioner that meant that the signature on the baseball changed this year. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but most ballhawks have been pretty excited to see the new baseballs. This wasn’t a Manfred ball, this was a Selig that was left over from last year:
Regardless of the name on the front, it was still a beautiful baseball!
Part of the 2-year renovation plan included a baseball academy and dormitory for the minor league players of the Twins. The buildings weren’t finished when I visited last year, but since then they have been completed and opened:
A bit closer to noon I spotted Mr. Terry Ryan, the Twins GM walking into the practice fields.
I only said a quick hello because I didn’t want to disturb him while he was working. Later on, though, he approached me and said that a lady had told him that I knew everything there was to know about the Twins. She was obviously stretching the truth a bit, but Mr. Ryan was still amused. We ended up only chatting about baseball for a few minutes, but then we continued for a longer time as our conversation shifted towards other topics that weren’t even related to baseball. He’s a fun guy to talk with!
Right before leaving the complex to run to Publix, I found my second ball of the day. This time, though, the ball was from Tom Kelly Field:
The ball had been wedged between the concrete, dirt and flowers. Aside from the odor and filth, there was still something different about this ball. I’m not sure when or by whom it was used, but the ball was a “Rawlings Perfect Game” ball. For the record (and for those ballhawks who are wondering), I did not count this in my MLB total.
After gaining early entrance into an empty stadium, I explored where most people do not. As I was hoping to find my second MLB ball of the day, I stumbled upon this whiffle ball:
I was considering taking it with me, but it was filled with a gross looking mixture of dirt, bugs and condensation. It was better to leave it where it was! I was finally able to snag another MLB ball from the boardwalk down the left field foul line. I had quite the view from there:
The ball was courtesy of Aaron Thompson. He threw it to me when he and Alex Meyer had finished playing catch.
Although the change in signatures is a very subtle change, I do like how it looks. Although small in detail, it still brings about something new to the most important element in the game.
It wasn’t too long until I was in possession of another ball. This time from Ricky Nolasco:
Ball number 5 came from the air. It was a homerun that i’m pretty sure Eddie Rosario hit:
Up to this point I had been in the grass berm in left field. For almost all of batting practice there were only two other guys and myself in the whole grass section. There was absolutely no competition! My success continued.
My next two baseballs (numbers 6 and 7) were both home runs that I caught on the fly. Coincidentally, they were also hit by the same player – #21 Shane Robinson. Here’s number 6:
And here’s number 7:
The Twins left the field around 5:15 and soon the Minnesota Golden Gophers hustled out to take their turn on the field. I was surprised to see that the Gophers had a few players who could crush the ball. Their portion of batting practice wasn’t great, but I was still able to snag a home run. The ball was brand new, an obvious keeper, but as soon as a little girl asked for it I felt obligated to give it away!
Sophomore Troy Traxler, a catcher and outfielder for the Gophers, hooked me up with my 9th ball of the day:
Batting Practice ended shortly after that, but I was able to get another toss up before the game started. When the Twins finished their pregame infield warm ups, catcher Eric Fryer tossed me my 10th ball of the day:
When the game started I sat in my ticketed seat. This was the first game in a long while where I sat in my ticketed seat for the whole time! Who could blame me, though, with a view like this?:
Although the Gophers were the first to score, he Twins ended up beating them 3-1. The big names in the Twins Lineup were Buxton (he went 2-3), Vargas (1-3) and Sano (1-1). Jose Berrios got the start for the Twins and was able to pick up the win after pitching 2 innings of scoreless baseball. One other thing worth mentioning is that this was Paul Molitor’s Managerial Debut! His first “W” (although it won’t officially be recorded) came against his old college team!
There’s no highlight/recap video for this game, but I did find this special video that the UofM made after the completion of the game:
I’m in the video multiple times. Whenever the left field grass is shown, i’m in the frame. In one of the shots it showed me chasing down a home run ball. Just look for the guy in the blue shirt!
Here’s the final haul (Nine MLB balls are pictured because I gave one away):
Spring Training Totals: 1 MLB Selig Ball, 9 MLB Manfred Balls, 1 Perfect game ball, and 1 whiffle ball.
UP NEXT: Red Sox vs. Twins, Thursday, March 5th.
During the next few weeks the Minnesota Twins’ Winter Caravan is scheduled to visit more than 40 communities across Minnesota, Iowa, and North & South Dakota. Here is an excerpt from the Twins website:
The Twins Winter Caravan is one of the longest running and most extensive offseason team caravans in professional sports. It features teams of current and former players visiting schools, hospitals, corporations and service clubs during the day with a traditional “hot stove” program each evening.
Twins Winter Caravan tours will be led by members of the Treasure Island Baseball Network and Fox Sports North broadcast teams including Bert Blyleven, Dick Bremer, Dan Gladden, Cory Provus and Kris Atteberry.
Preliminary 2015 Twins Winter Caravan routes and personalities are below (schedule and players are subject to change). Specific times and locations within those communities will be announced in the coming weeks on this page.”
2014 Twins Winter Caravan Schedule
This year, there are two groups that will cover two different Routes over the course of two weeks. The first week will run from January 12-15 while the second week will run from January 19-22.
If you want to see what the Twins Caravan is typically like, then I suggest checking out the entry I wrote from last year’s caravan. If i go this year, then I’ll get to see Brian Duensing, Brian Dozier, Phil Hughes, Jack Morris and Dick Bremer when they stop in Rochester on January 21st. I’ll be sure to post an entry about it afterwards.
I always love when the Twins Caravan stops in Rochester every January because it means that the next season is drawing near. This year, the Twins Winter Caravan visited Rochester on Tuesday, January 14 at the Ramada Inn. Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, Cory Provus, and Terry Ryan were all in attendance.
The event was supposed to start off with a 2013 Twins highlight video, but for the second year in a row there were technical difficulties. The video malfunction was ironic considering the Twins 66-96 record from the 2013 season.
After the video was postponed due to the “rain delay”, Corey Provus kicked things off with some Q&A. Each answered Provus’s questions, and any other questions that the audience had for them.
After some raffle prizes were given away, people could get in line for autographs. I only took a few pictures, and I’ll admit that they are not great:
Before this, I had never gotten an autograph on any of the baseballs that I’ve ballhawked because I like to keep them in the condition that I got them in. Usually I get a baseball card or a ticket signed, but this time I decided to get two baseballs signed. I figured that since it’s not every day that I have the chance to get Paul Molitor and Tony Oliva’s autograph (especially for free), I wanted to get their signatures on something more meaningful than a baseball card. After looking at all my baseballs, I picked the two that were in the best shape. If I were grading them on their quality, then I would give each a 9.5/10.
Paul Molitor signed my 97th baseball, which was thrown by an unknown Athletics player. Tony Oliva signed my 98th, which was a bp homer that was hit by an unknown Athletics player. I got both baseballs at the A’s vs. Twins game I attended last September. Kyle Gibson signed the ticket that I brought, and Caleb Thielbar signed an enlarged photo that was being supplied.
When I was in line I told Kyle Gibson that I had been there to see his first Major League WIN on June 29 and how I had saved my ticket incase I would ever get the chance for him to sign it. A very big smile came across his face and he got very excited that I remembered his special day. It was a pretty cool 1 on 1 moment. Here’s a close up of the signed ticket.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Paul Molitor is my all-time favorite baseball player. Within the last year I (unintentionally) started a collection of Paul Molitor autographed memorabilia. I wrote “unintentionally” because I only sought out Paul Molitor’s autograph the first time. The second and third autographs came as a surprise. For example, I won a Paul Molitor signed baseball at a Twins game last September. That was a very big surprise!
What about the third autograph? Yeah, I bought a ticket to the Twins Caravan this year, but that was before I knew Paul Molitor would be in attendance. I wasn’t expecting him to be there until I checked the details for the event. Once again, I was surprised! It’s kind of funny how that worked out in such a good way!
Overall, Twins Winter Caravan was a fun event to attend. Everyone heard from Terry Ryan about what’s going on inside the Twins Organization this offseason, and what they’re doing in order to get back on track this coming season. Over the offseason they have signed free agents Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kurt Suzuki, and Jason Kubel, along with numerous Minor League players. The Twins also traded Ryan Doumit to Atlanta for LHP Sean Gilmartin, and finalized a deal with the Pirates that sent Duke Welker to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kris Johnson. One of the most popular “Transactions” this offseason has been the addition of Paul Molitor to the Twin’s coaching staff.
Saything that Terry Ryan hopes the Twins can turn things around in 2014 would be an understatement. Mr. Ryan wants nothing more than to leave the team’s troubles in the past. “Our biggest struggle the last three years has been that rotation and keeping overtaxing that bullpen,” Ryan said. “If we can fix the starting rotation, I think it will help fix some of the other problems we have, in particular our offense. We’ve struggled scoring runs as well.”
Terry Ryan also can not wait to get to spring training. He said, “I’m ready to go, Lets get down there and do something about it.” There were even a few different times he mentioned that pitchers and catchers report on February 16th.
I think I’m speaking for most of the people who attended the caravan when I say that for that brief 1.5 hours I forgot about the cold and snowy Minnesota winter weather, and I imagined myself in Fort Meyers for Spring Training, and at Target Field this summer. Let’s go Twins!
Here is the highlight video from Saturday, Jan 26 (The second day of TwinsFest). It is about 2 minutes longer than the first video, but that is because Saturday was a bit more eventful. Anyways, here it is:
I thought it would be good if I included the videos of us on the mock broadcast booth. Here is the broadcast that Sean and I did:
Here is Mateo and Isaac’s broadcast, but the actual broadcast starts at the 1:10 mark:
Over Friday and Saturday I got 12 autographs (13 if you include T.C. Bear). I stood in line for all of them (except T.C.). Here is a picture of the autographs:
The Photo of T.C. Bear (in the previous picture) contains the autographs of Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Chris Herrmann, and Pedro Hernandez (Also T.C. Bear).
The Twins pocket schedule (in the previous picture) contains the autographs of Nate Hanson and Austin Malinowski.
Trevor May, Tony Oliva, Terry Steinbach, Alex Meyer, Tom Brunansky, and Paul Molitor’s autographs are on their baseball cards in the previous picture.
Also, here is a picture of almost everything I got from TwinsFest over Friday and Saturday:
Out of the 11-12 hours I spent at TwinsFest over the weekend, I spent the majority of time with Mateo and Sean. Both Mateo and Sean attended all three days of TwinsFest. Mateo made a Vlog (video blog) for each day of Twins Fest. The videos are great, and they really capture the excitement and energy that was at Twins Fest. If you want to watch any of the videos, then click the following links:
Both days of TwinsFest were a blast! I got some cool stuff, had an Amazing time, and I met some great people (I learned some new names).
Very big shout-out to Ben Erickson! I met Ben in an autograph line on Friday. We had some good conversations and I got to know him a little bit. We also saw each other 5 or 6 times on Saturday. I’m glad to have me you Ben!
I’d like to thank my family for going to Bloomington on Friday so I could attend TwinsFest. Thank you Mr. Most for inviting me to go along with you on Saturday! I had a great time with you up there. Also, thank you Isaac for coming along with us! Thank you Sean and Mateo for spending Friday and Saturday with me at Twins Fest.
Spring training is thought to be the starting point of baseball. However, TwinsFest is the start of Twins baseball.