Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers, FL (Spring Training)
I was there!
A GREAT day for Baseball, even if it was 2 AL teams playing! Final week of Spring Training in Ft. Myers, Red Sox tickets were all sold out in January but hey...the Twins are also in town, so who needs the Red Sox anyway?!?
My daighter Kei and I used my birthday gift from Mom & Dad to buy some nice field box tickets smack dab in the peak of the sunshine (with 'baseball burns' afterwards to show for it) - we had a great time (even though the parking staff wouldn't let me park on "Blyleven Boulevard") and Kei even tried scoring the game, her first time. She made it through 4 innings before the heat or the cotton candy stayed her hand for the rest of the game (except her covering two outs for me in the top of the 6th while I took a hygiene break).
Before the game, we walked over to the complex where the second squad and the minor league Twins players were working out...Kei and I saw a fellow in Twinstripes signing a ball through a fence; as we walked by he turned and headed out to the field...it was PAUL MOLITOR, a batting coach for Spring Training, missed him by about 5 minutes. We watched some Pitching/Batting drills, where Joe Mauer (still on DL) was giving some tips to the AAA folks on deck…
I was really hoping to see Bert Blyleven hanging around (as he calls Ft. Myers his home, as does Joe Mauer) but he was already up north getting things ready for opening day.
Some pictures from the game attached, we had great seats. Big event of the day: I CAUGHT A FOUL BALL, my very first time doing so...without a glove also.
It was the top of the 7th, foul tip over the LF net by Rays SS Jason Bartlett off the 2nd pitch of his plate appearance by Twins hurler Brian Duensing (a native of Omaha, NE)...the ball headed for the section next to us (second one of the day), but bounced off of the cement floor in front of a seat, over our heads, then straight off of the back of a seat 4 rows behind us...I was standing by that time, facing the direction of the ball, made a bare-handed catch with my right...YEAH!! Stood up proudly in my Cubbie Blues n stripes to display my trophy to the 5,000 or so in attendance, plus the 5 Twins fans watching on the internet.
I was really hoping to see Bert B hanging around the field somewhere (his home is in Fort Myers these days, as is Joe Mauer's) but I think he was already up north getting things ready for opening day. One humorous note, as the game was starting and it was 86 degrees, light wind, and not enough clouds to mention, the announcer gave us a weather report from 'back home'...winter storm advisory, 30 degrees, 6 inches of snow on the way, etc.
The Twins won 3-2, their game on the following day featured just about their entire second squad, so we were fortunate to see the 'real' starting lineup (except for Joe Mauer on the DL). My father-in-law asked if Bartlett was able to autograph my ball, I told him "he already did"...there's a large black mark on the ball where he signed it WITH HIS BAT.
I shared this story with my Uncle John, who fondly remembered he and my Grandfather listening to Twins games at the Lakes years ago. My Grandpa gave me a Twins T-shirt when I was a kid (I think I still wore it when I was in junior high!!), I sure was thinking about him that day.
Akinori Iwamura on deck! Sugoi desu ne!!
Look, honey! No hands! JASON BARTLETT SIGNED MY BALL!!