FORT MYERS, FLA. – There were five years spent as the full-time Twins reporter in the middle of the 1970s, and I’m not sure what qualified as the annual organization meetings.
It could have been owner Calvin Griffith’s birthday dinner. Calvin’s actual birthday was Dec. 1, although the dinner would be held in a fine restaurant at the site of the winter meetings.
Twin Cities sportswriters covering the meetings generally were invited, where we could sit at the far end of the long table enjoying the finest beverages and vittles, and get some laughs.
Plus, if Calvin’s right-hand baseball man, George Brophy, wanted an organization meeting, he could walk over to Jim Rantz’s desk for a consult, or ask the secretary, Ruth Harvison, to get a scout on the phone.
“Don’t forget Lucky, the dog Ruthie found on the beach at minor league camp in Melbourne [Fla.] one spring, and brought back to Minnesota,’’ Rantz said. “When I gave dictation, Ruthie would sit in one chair and Lucky would sit in the other.’’
The environment surrounding the Twins changed dramatically when they moved here to the Lee County Sports Complex in 1991, and it has changed dramatically again since Derek Falvey took over the baseball operation from Terry Ryan.
Falvey will turn 35 in March. The Twins hired him to leap with both feet into the Theo Epstein Era of baseball. Falvey and his right-hand man, Thad Levine, arrived together in November 2016.
Falvey initially allowed most baseball employees to keep a job. What was new in spring training of 2017 was the presence of several young people with ever-present iPads who would greet you with a nod.
These were serious young baseball brainiacs involved in research either ordered or of their volition. Falvey was OK with either.
“Collaborative,’’ Falvey said, smiling. “That’s the word people use to give me a hard time. I use it a lot, I guess, but it’s also our philosophy as a baseball organization.’’
That philosophy played out for three days this week, when 162 employees of the baseball operation — managers, coaches, majors, minors, Latin America, scouts, analysts — assembled for the annual “org. meetings.’’
The Twins have added 40-plus positions to the baseball department since Falvey took over and “several million dollars’’ to the staff payroll. They will be adding more jobs over the course of 2018.
Two important hires at the end of last season were Jeremy Zoll as minor league director, and Daniel Adler as director of baseball operations. As has become baseball’s profile since Epstein, a Yalie, got the Red Sox that long-awaited World Series victory in 2004, both come from Eastern private schools of high academic standing:
Zoll is from Haverford, Levine’s alma mater, and Adler from Harvard. Falvey is a graduate of Trinity in Hartford, Conn.
I found Adler’s résumé interesting, since his previous sports job was as the director of football research for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
The ability to analyze historic and current tendencies no longer has boundaries dictated by sports.
“I’m enjoying the Jaguars’ success, but don’t give me even a hint of credit for it,’’ Adler said. “I worked there for two years, and then went back to school in 2014 to finish up.’’
What Adler finished were a master’s degree in business and a law degree, to go with the bachelor’s degree in economics — all from Harvard. Before that, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., at the same time Epstein and the Red Sox were winning that first World Series.
“I’m from Cleveland and was raised an Indians fan,’’ Adler said. “Theo and the Red Sox did get me thinking about sports as an area in which I’d like to work, if possible.’’
Adler’s first job in sports was as an intern driving a van for the New England Patriots’ staff and families. The wife of defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, Julie, was a frequent passenger. She put in a good word with a friend in Cleveland for Adler, and he wound up doing research with the Browns, and then in the NFL office.
“My theory is, if I had been a poor van driver, I never would have gotten another job in sports, and I wouldn’t be here with the Twins,’’ Adler said.
There are 10 employees involved in different areas of analytical research. Adler is in charge of bringing that information together in a cogent fashion for coaches, players and scouts. Most important is what Adler and other researchers can pass along to assist in the development of minor leaguers.
“Do you have bilingual communicators to pass along this information?’’ I asked.
Without being snobbish about it, Adler answered in Spanish. He studied the language in high school and also spent four months in Spain.
“Being there for that time helped, although it’s a different style of Spanish than in the Dominican,’’ Adler said. “The Spanish spoken in the Dominican is very fast. I have to get better at it.’’
We can only hope that Daniel has the academic wherewithal to make the adjustment.