Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Frequent Section 219 commenter JimCrikket claims to have business reasons to be in Florida this time of year, and while we're tempted to be skeptical, it's a minor issue because of his willingness to share his adventures. Here's JC's account of his first two days at spring training.
So Thursday was the first full day of Jim Crikket's 2010 Spring Training adventure. I've been coming down to Ft. Myers now for 3-4 years to enjoy a bit of sun, beer and baseball as things slowly move toward thawing out back in Iowa (and, one would presume, that state north of Iowa).
As those of you who have read about some of my prior excursions down here may recall, I don't generally buy my game tickets in advance. I buy them from "brokers" in the parking lot once I arrive (preferring to pay a bit of a premium for the seats I want and not having to worry about eating tickets for games rained out). You may also recall that I also generally do something stupid in the course of buying the tickets and today was no exception. However, it was really a minor issue and it didn't result in having to buy multiple tickets for the same game (as has happened in the past), so I'm going to spare you (and myself) the details of today's ticket-related stupidity.
I have much more painful stupidity to talk about.
Did you know that even when it's only 65 degrees and cloudy outside, you can get sunburned?
OK, yeah, I knew it too. Really I did. I also know I'm going to get absolutely no sympathy from anyone reading this, but I'm in a bit of discomfort as I write this and I'm going to whine about it a bit.
I usually pack sunscreen or buy some when I get down here before I go to a game. Until today, I would have said that I "always" do so.
The day started out so innocently. Arriving around 10:00, I had plenty of time to watch a number of the Twins taking some cuts in the batting cages below the Hammond Stadium stands before a leisurely stroll around the minor league complex. I really enjoy watching the stars of the future go through their drills down here. It was while I watched what appears to be the current group of AA prospects that it dawned on me that I hadn't brought sunscreen to the ballpark today. Not a big problem, though. After all it was actually a bit chilly, breezy and cloudy.
Tom Kelly was hitting infield to the Major Leaguers not scheduled to start the game vs. the Pirates over on the Major League practice field, giving me an opportunity to watch Nick Punto and Danny Valencia battle one-on-one at third base. After several minutes of close observation, I finally came to a conclusion. Valencia is taller.
Infield practice was followed by drills for the pitchers (or at least those not scheduled to pitch in the game). They worked on fielding bunts, covering first base, starting 1-4-3 double plays and finishing 3-6-1 double plays where they have to cover first base for the return throw. All pretty routine stuff... a least until a throw by Alexi Casilla forced Glen Perkins to stretch and dig a ball out of the dirt.
Now we all know the evil reputation Mr. Perkins has. Bad attitude. Concern primarily about himself. So there I stood, poised with camera focused, waiting for the opportunity to capture the inevitable throw-down. But instead, what do they do? They LAUGH! Darn. You'd almost think these guys like one another or something.
Disappointed, I trudged toward the entrance to the stadium to watch some batting practice and get my first beer of the day. After all, the clouds were parting a bit and it was starting to warm up.
Having a ticket in row B (which is behind row A and in front of row 1) behind home plate is a great spot to watch a ballgame at Hammond Stadium. You get a friendly waitress who comes down periodically to see if you'd like to order food or drink. You get a great view of Carl Pavano striking out former Twin and current Pirate Garrett Jones (as you notice your knees are getting a little pink). You have the best seat in the house from which to watch Jim Thome hit his first home run of the spring (by which time, your arms are definitely red). And you really can't do better than the vantage point you have to watch Luke Hughes win the game with a double off of former Twin Brian Bass in the bottom of the ninth (as your neck and ears begin to blister). All in all, a perfect first day.
Well except for the whole "burned to a crisp" thing.
So tomorrow, it's off to Port St. Lucie for the big Santana vs. Slowey showdown. And sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. I'm done being stupid this trip.
Can you believe that the last thing I typed Thursday night was, "I'm done being stupid this trip," right before I failed to click "send" to get the report off to Howard? Yeah, ok... I guess I can believe it, too.
When I originally planned this week in Ft. Myers, I kind of thought Friday would be an "off day" for me. The Twins were scheduled to play the Mets over in Port St. Lucie. I still haven't actually found evidence that there ever really was a St. Lucie (and if so, whether she was married to St. Rickie), but then I'm not much of religious historian. Port St. Lucie is not only 100 miles away from Ft. Myers, but you have to actually drive 130 miles to get there. There's big Lake Ochee-something right in the path between the cities and you have to zig-zag your way across the state on 2-lane highways. You knew the Twins wouldn't be putting their most valuable assets on that bus this morning, so why bother going to the effort of driving over there?
Johan Santana. That's why.
I made the trip for one reason only... to see the Twins' B-team knock the snot out of Johan. How did I know this would happen? Because everyone knocks the snot out of Johan in spring training. In fact, as he proved during his time in a Twins uniform, Johan often treats April and part of May as though the games don't mean any more than those in March.
So I made the trip to see Johan get smacked around. See... I don't much like Johan Santana. I don't understand all the continued "love" he gets from Twins fans. He blackmailed this organization in to trading him for a couple bags of baseballs (and yes, I realize those balls have magically transformed in to JJ Hardy and John Rauch) simply because he wanted to play on the "big stage" in New York and, in the process, make a bajillion dollars (since merely a zillion dollars from the Twins wouldn't be enough to provide more used firetrucks to his home town in Venezuela).
Don't misunderstand, I do NOT wish death or serious disfigurement on Johan Santana. I'm not that kind of person. I hope he lives a long, healthy life. I also hope that throughout that long life, he has to live with the knowledge that leaving the Twins was the biggest mistake of his professional life because he never gets a whiff of the playoffs the rest of his career, while the Twins go on to become a dynasty... or at least really, really, REALLY good for a long time.
The Twins' manager and coaches were joking around with Johan as he walked in from the bullpen before the game started. Obviously, Gardy and the others still hold Santana in high esteem. The hitters that made the bust trip across Florida treated him a bit less friendly.
Before Johan walked off the mound with 1 out in the 4th inning, he had been taken "yard" by Danny Valencia and Wilson Ramos. Gardy was apparently so upset with Valencia's rude treatment of his former superstar, that he immediately demoted Valencia to the Rochester Red Wings after the game. No doubt Ramos will soon follow.
Santana faced 19 Twins/Red Wings hitters. 11 reached base on 1 walk, 1 error, and 9 hits (including the two home runs). He left the game having given up 3 runs. Thanks to his friend Sean Green (not to be mistaken for Shonn Green of the New York JETS), the two runners on base when Santana exited also scored. This made him responsible for having given up 5 runs, all earned, in his 3.1 innings.
I stayed for the rest of the game, but nothing else really mattered. I saw what I wanted to see.
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