FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring training officially got under way around 9:35 a.m. this morning, with 31 pitchers and six catchers jogging across the grass on field No. 6. Already, the normal rhythm of the spring has begun — the squad has split into groups, some working on fielding their position, some learning the signs, and a big group already throwing in the bullpen for pitching coach Neil Allen.
As I walked toward Hammond Stadium, I heard “Atta baby, atta baby,” coming from the fielding drills, and I was immediately struck by a noticeable change — it wasn’t Tom Kelly shouting his approval on Tom Kelly Field, it was Ivan Arteaga, Chattanooga’s pitching coach, running the fielding drills. This marks the first spring in 48 years that the Twins Hall of Famer hasn’t been in uniform. The toll that managing workouts takes on his body had become too much, Kelly decided over the winter.
“I’ll miss him,” Byung Ho Park told me earlier this week. “He made me work hard.”
Patrick Reusse spent some time talking to the former Twins manager this week, and he’ll have a column up shortly.
A couple hundred fans are on hand for the first workout, a remarkable crowd considering he Twins’ last-place finish in 2016. I heard a few fans welcoming Jake Mauer to camp, his first with the major leaguers; Mauer spent three seasons in this stadium managing the Class A Miracle.