FORT MYERS, FLA. – D.J. Smith's parents bought a home in 1991 in the Brookshire development that was then in the 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, Smith came to Fort Myers from January into April, helping to care for his mother and also 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. "Two of the 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.
"It's crazy. I might head back home before April."
What was the best event D.J. has ever witnessed back by 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, D.J. That might work.