La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

The Fort is Calling: Perry, Morneau, TwinsFest, other stuff

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: January 25, 2011 - 6:11 PM

Just checked www.weather.com. It's 79 degrees in Fort Myers.

Unless there's major breaking news, most headlines before I do the wheels up-wheels down thang to Fort Myers will read. ``The Fort is Calling.'' Spring training calls out to me at this time of year as I warm up my truck, pull the morning paper out of a snowbank and dream of warmer days.

Pitchers and catchers report in 23 days....Pitchers and catchers report in 23 days....

PERRY GETS IN

There is some news today. Jim Perry has been elected to the Twins' Hall of Fame. He will be the 23rd member. The righthander pitched for the Twins from 1963-72, and his 24-12 and 3.04 ERA in 1970 allowed him to win the Cy Young,

Perry was followed in the voting by Camilo Pascual, Chuck Knoblauch and Mudcat Grant. Hopefully, Pasqual gets in next year. He deserves it and has been on the ballot way too long.

Perry will be inducted on June 11 before the Twins play host to the Texas Rangers.

FORT MYERS UPDATE (12:45 PM)

Lee County has agreed to purchase 14.2 acres of land next to Hammond Stadium for $4.8 million. This should lead to the expansion of the stadium where the Twins play their spring training games,

Hammond Stadium's capacity currently is 8,010. Indications are that the Twins would like to add another 2,000 seats. The Twins also have lobbied for a Tiki Bar-type spot behind the outfield, which could be part of the expansion.

BUSY WEEK

This is the week that really gets you fired up for the season.

It all starts on Thursday night with the 6th Annual Diamond Awards, which will be held at Target Field. This is where the Twins award winners from the previous season (Joe Mauer, Most Valuable Twin; Danny Valencia, Twins Rookie of the Year, etc.) are honored and we look ahead to the upcoming season.

It's also a benefit for medical research at the University of Minnesota. We've raised over $2.5 million in five years and things look great for this year. This year's banquet is sold out with a waiting list!

Check our website that night, where you'll see yours truly - in a tux - shoot a little video about the event. FSN will be on hand to tape the event for a later broadcast.

Friday-Sunday: TwinsFest: It will be interesting to see how TwinsFest looks in a smaller venue. The Twins had to make the best of an unfortunate situation at the Dome and move the event to Blaine. But there still will be players there and a lot of baseball talk. Isn't that what these events are all about?

I'll be curious to see how the recovering players - Joe Nathan, Scott Baker, etc, - are doing. New infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka will not be there. Neither will someone else.....

Another banquet!!!!!!!: If you don't like to dress up and prefer to hang with a whacky crowd, the Third Annual Last Hot Stove League Banquet and Charity Auction is set for Friday at Carpenter's Hall, 710 Olive, St. Paul. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door.

These folks have a great time. Brad Zellar is the host. Jim Kaat is the special guest. I will drive down from Blaine once my TwinsFest duties are over to join in on a panel discussion. i think Howard Sinker will be there too. Tickets can be purchased at Anodyne Coffee, 43rd and Nicollet, 612-824-4300 and St. Paul: Golden Thyme Coffee, 921 Selby, 651-645-1340.

NO MORNEAU

As soon as I posted news last night that Justin Morneau isn't attending the event, many fans feared something was fishy. As long as there are plans for Morneau to start swinging a bat in a week to 10 days, we have to assume that he continues to be on the right track, right?

I mean, the Twins wouldn't hide the truth here, would they?

I mean, they wouldn't want the backlash that would hit them if they were caught covering something up, right?

GM Bill Smith, in recent interviews, has been very, very positive about Morneau's recovery during the offseason. The slugger is going through full workouts and doctors have told him he can push right through any symptoms that come up - if they come up.

FINALLY

Hearing that players are already starting to arrive in Fort Myers to work out at the Twins' year-round facility. Kyle Gibson, Joe Benson and new reliever Jim Hoey have been spotted in the weight room and on the back fields of the Lee County Sports Complex.

Just thinking about a baseball popping into someone's mitt make me feel warmer. We'll be monitoring news all week. The Twins have some players headed for arbitration they are trying to sign. I doubt if they will sign anymore free agents. They already have 60 players coming to camp, and that's a lot.

Still, you never know. But we'll let  you know if/when something comes up!

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