FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Twins spent most of this decade far in arrears in staffing when it came to baseball’s analytics craze. Jack Goin was given the title of director of baseball research, but mostly he was directing himself and eventually a couple of interns.
Goin was allowed to hire Nick Beauchamp a year ago as a full-timer in the analytics area. Then, Derek Falvey, now 34, took over as the Chief Baseball Officer after the World Series.
Soon, there was construction taking place in the Twins offices on the fourth floor at Target Field to make space for the added brainiacs that would be hired to take part in research in the Falvey baseball operation.
There were also changes being made with the third floor offices at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, to make space for these whiz kids of the information age.
I was doing a radio show from a small booth on the fourth floor one day in February, when I was informed by Dustin Morse, the Twins head of communications, the fire department had ordered power to be shut off at precisely 5 p.m. local time.
The inspector had taken a look at the new wiring tied to the changes in the Twins offices on the third floor and feared it was not properly grounded.
Did this mean if action wasn’t taken, one of the brainiacs could touch a power cord for his tablet and get a severe shock, or worse?
My response: “What you’re telling me, Dustin, is the Twins have gone from being deemed to be among baseball's slowest-moving organizations in analytics, to an organization with such a dedication to analytics that it's now life-threatening?’’
Fortunately, the grounding problem was solved quickly, and when the whiz kids arrived, there were no casualties.
I noticed these young gents walking around with their tablets and thin computers. I didn’t know one from the other, and they probably were asking co-workers:
“Who is that tubby, T-shirt wearing, bald, old guy walking around the fourth floor with a Diet Coke in his hand?’’
At least, we all survived – them avoiding electrocution and me, well, being 71 ½ and suffering from extreme impatience with the overly cautious driving of my fellow super seniors here in The Fort.
If I had five bucks for every time I shouted, “Make the bleepin’ light, you bleeper,’’ I’d be even with southwest Florida financially after 2 ½ months here.
My first spring training covering the Twins was in 1974. I’ve missed one in that time, when Clem Haskins took the Gophers basketball team to a regional in New Orleans in 1990, trumping a planned trip to the Twins’ final spring in Orlando.
God willing, I’ll be back next year, but as an old guy sitting in right field at gorgeous Hammond Stadium, and mildly curious over the identity of the player who just replaced Kepler in right field, No. 78, rather than wondering if he might be a potential column.
I started off covering Calvin Griffith. He had a large wooden booth built on the top of the home dugout on the first-base side at Tinker Field. Maybe twice a week, you would go over during a game, knock on the door and try to get Calvin to answer a few questions.
I was providing the copy from Orlando for two cycles, the morning Pioneer Press and the afternoon Dispatch in St. Paul. You would run through the features on all 45 players in camp through the first three weeks in Orlando, and then start concentrating on the “battles’’ for positions and roster spots.
We would treat identifying the 23rd, 24th and 25th players on Calvin’s roster as dramas for the ages. You had to get a couple of days’ worth of stories out of who could be the fifth (or sixth) outfielder.
Some days you would be admitted to Calvin’s booth, where a rattling air conditioning unit kept the temperature at about 60 degrees, and he would provide quotes to assist the overhyping the roster situatuon..
Other days the Tinker crowd would be tinier than usual, or the Yankees had left their stars back in Fort Lauderdale, or the Dodgers in Vero Beach, and he was grumpy as a water moccasin.
On those occasions, you wouldn't get assistance for a story, but you could leave before catching pneumonia in Calvin's ice box of a booth.
Moving forward four decades, to last Thursday, LaVelle Neal and I were asking Falvey about the decision to send ByungHo Park across the parking lot to the minor league facilities. He explained the process thusly:
“We had to pivot a few different times to the different iterations of those rosters.’’
I looked down at the scratching in my little notebook, knowing that I would have to get the exact wording of this quote off LaVelle's recorder.
I also knew I missed the days when Calvin would say, "There's no way I'm trading Carew to the Yankees unless they give me Gooler or Gooder,'' and I could write down Gullett or Guidry without wondering what I just heard.