Welcome to the Fort

Greetings everyone from sunny Fort Myers, Fla. (I can’t say warm because it hasn’t exactly been that way over the past week. I know, I know, no complaining to those who are still in Minnesota).

I was on vacation for the last seven days, although I spent that time down here in Florida –working on my golf game. (It’s training time for everyone, right?) Today was my first day back at the ballpark and so I thought I’d share a few of the sights and sounds at the Lee County Sports Complex two days before the club’s official reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

While I’d heard that players had been slowly trickling in all week, there was quite a bit of activity there today. Among the notable names who were working out at the ballpark today were Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Michael Cuddyer, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing and Pat Neshek. A few of them, including Nathan and Guerrier threw bullpen sessions while Neshek threw some live batting practice. In addition to the numerous players on the fields, there were plenty of fans wandering about. I got a chance to catch up with a few of them and always enjoy hearing about their enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

After hanging around the fields, I headed over to the main clubhouse to see who might be dropping off stuff at their lockers. Joe Mauer and J.J. Hardy were there, having just returned from a week up in Minnesota. As I tweeted earlier, Mauer was sporting a new beard that he grew while spending time up at his cabin. Mauer took Hardy to the cabin where they worked out and even did some ice fishing there. Hardy said he can’t believe how famous Mauer’s cabin has become, but did add that it was a pretty impressive place to visit.

Golf was a common topic of conversation in the clubhouse, and not just from me talking about how my swing was feeling this week. Nathan and Carl Pavano were headed out to play 18 holes — one of many rounds of golf that they’ll likely play this spring. While my golf game goes on hiatus pretty much over the course of Spring Training, the players get to enjoy their time on the links (especially during the short workout days early in camp). So I’m sure I’ll get to hear quite a bit about how their golf games are progressing.

One person who was only too happy to share his golf story was manager Ron Gardenhire, who got the opportunity to play Augusta National on Friday. The timing was not ideal as the South was hit by a massive snowstorm on Friday afternoon, and Gardy’s playing group had to golf in the snow for the final three holes. He said he got some pictures of the group on hole No. 18 with the snow falling. Augusta got a total of four inches — something that hadn’t happened in 37 years — so Gardy was proud to at least have pictures of the event. He didn’t shoot too shabby either, telling me he was only one over after the front nine

Tomorrow will be the final day for players to work out before the official reporting day. It’s often a little quieter around the ballpark as guys enjoy their final day off before things really get underway. I’ll be back out at the complex tomorrow to start working on a few stories so I’ll share more at that time.

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