FORT MYERS, FLA. – D.J. Smith’s parents bought a home in 1991 in the Brookshire development in what was then Fort Myers countryside. D.J. came from the Twin Cities for a visit and landed a job for exhibition games at the nearby, newly-opened Twins spring training park.
“Taking tickets, anything else they needed,’’ Smith said. “I did that for four years. Then, they let a lot of us go when the strike still was on in 1995.’’
Over the next 20 years, he came to Fort Myers from January into April, helping to care for his mother and spending a portion of the day hanging out at the minor league fields.
“There’s always something to see with players here, although some days it’s not much,’’ Smith said Friday. “Today, it wasn’t much. I guess it was too cold.’’
The Smith place in Brookshire was sold last summer and D. J. needed new lodging for his 2016 Florida visit.
“Finally, I found a room on Craigslist or $550 a month, in a house with three guys and a woman who was the aunt of one,’’ Smith said. “The other two guys were a couple and the first thing they did was ask me for a loan. They paid me back later by sliding $150 under my door.
“Then, they had a lovers’ quarrel and one guy said he was going home to Indiana. He was back a day later, and that’s when they asked for another loan … 80 bucks.
“It’s crazy. I might head back home before April.’’
Best event D.J. has witnessed at the minor league fields?
“Kirby Puckett was standing by a little fence over there, signing for dozens of people,’’ Smith said. “He noticed a young woman with a disability in the back, with her parents.
“Kirby called her to the front. He hugged her, took photos. She was so excited she started crying. Everyone had tears.
“I thought, ‘I wonder what it would be like to be able to make people feel that good?’ ‘’
You could try writing off the 80 bucks, D.J. That might work.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Gordy Anderson, a retired North Mankato police officer, visits the Twins spring complex for a couple of months per year and gets autographs on keepsakes.
*Bats. “I have hundreds of autographs on game-used bats from the Twins players and minor leaguers.’’ And he had photos to prove it.
*Baseballs. “I have a signed team ball from every Twins team since they came here in 1961.’’
*Toughest autograph? “Joe Mauer. He thinks I’m in business as a collector. I’m not. It’s for me. It’s my sickness, being a Twins fan.’’