FORT MYERS, FLA. – There is a small merchandise stand at the Terry Park baseball complex near downtown Fort Myers. There were T-shirts for sale with the names of 47 colleges — nearly all Division III — that will be playing games here during their spring breaks.
St. John’s and Bethel were among the schools listed on the shirts. The Johnnies were headed home Friday after playing 10 games in six days. The Royals arrived Friday and, starting Saturday, will play 10 games in eight days.
There are games at the four fields at Terry Park, plus on the fields at the Red Sox’s former minor league facility (now called the Player Development Complex). Bethel coach Brian Raabe actually is giving his players a day off, plus an informal game against Twins rookie-level minor leaguers.
These early-season trips to warm-weather locations might seem to be a lark for D-III baseball and softball teams, but not when you look at the schedules that Raabe, St. John’s Jerry Haugen and other coaches set for their teams.
The Johnnies got off the plane last Sunday, checked into the hotel and went to Terry Park to a play a nine-inning night game. They played doubleheaders of seven-inning games vs. a single opponent on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then nine-inning games vs. Haverford (Pa.) and Defiance (Ohio) on Thursday.
St. John’s wrapped it up with a 10-3 victory vs. Thiel (Pa.) on Friday, then headed to the airport with a 6-4 record on the spring trip.
“The best thing about a schedule like this is that you get to see all of your pitching options,” Haugen said. “You can also discover a hitter once in a while.
“Wyatt Ulrich is a freshman from International Falls; came here to play baseball after being a goalie in junior hockey. We didn’t know much about him. We gave him a chance to lead off in a game Wednesday. He wound up starting five games and had 12 hits.”
Beach time? “No, but we did go to the Twins game against Team USA on Wednesday night,” Haugen said. “That was a nice break.”
Yes, sir. A break from playing baseball to watch baseball.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Early favorites to be Twins’ All-Star rep (non-Dozier division):
Byron Buxton: He has gone to a “see the ball, hit the ball’’ approach, and those wheels are majestic. The raves for him will soon return.
Ryan Pressly: He was overused early last season and still was outstanding. Twins will be wiser and he’ll be even stronger.
Jason Castro: Forget the pitch-framing nonsense. He’s a fine receiver and the hack he takes should bring better results.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.