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.
One day that’s always a little chaotic for beat writers at
Spring Training is when the club’s charity golf outing takes place and for the
Twins, that day was Thursday. It means the workouts go by a little quicker than
normal and afterward access to the players is limited with guys hurrying to
make their 1:00 p.m. tee time.
For me, it’s also the one day where I can qualify golf as work.
Having played golf for nearly my entire life, I’ll admit that I hardly pass up
the chance to hit the course. That’s especially true when it’s for a good
cause. So when the Twins staff has asked me in each of the last three years to
take part in the annual charity golf scramble outing, I gladly say yes —
getting permission from the boss first, of course.
This year I was lucky to play with three wonderful people who all live in the
Fort Myers/Naples area. Besides being great conversationalists over the four-plus
hours of our round, they also possessed some golf skills as well. We finished a
respectable 9 under par, having birdied five straight holes to finish our
round (nothing like getting on a hot streak late, right?). But we were not even close to the
winning groups. The tournament took place on two 18-hole courses – Nick Punto’s
group took first on one course with a 57 (15 under par) and Matt Guerrier’s
group finished first on the other with a 56 (16 under par).
My highlight of the round came on our last par three when I
stuck my iron shot four feet from the hole — good enough to beat out Kent
Hrbek for closest to the pin.
But the story of the day belonged to outfielder Dustin Martin,
who played for Double-A New Britain last season. Martin recorded the lone hole
in one of the day – the problem was it came on a mulligan. For the non-golfers,
teams can usually buy “extra shots” to use during their rounds. So if no player
hits a good shot or someone just wants a second try, one member of the group can hit again — which is exactly what Martin
did on that particular par three.
If Martin had hit the ball in the hole on his first try, he
would have won a Bose Stereo sound system. Instead, he just won closest to the
pin on that hole – with a very unusual “Zero inches” marked on the card.