Thursday, March 3, 2011

10 things I learned from my first trip to Spring Training

With Spring Training well underway, many fans will be making their first pilgrimage to watch the Twins in the sun of Florida. My first journey the Lee County Sports Complex occurred in the Spring of 2006. The Twins would have a magical season that year and the best part was I was there from the start.

Inspired by Ian Casselberry's List over at Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports, I have created my own list of things I learned from my first trip to Spring Training with the Twins. 

1. Interaction with players is great- I learned more about the Twins players and coaching staff than I had ever thought possible. The players and coaches are laid back and enjoying the drills that they are doing. Players will have conversations with you. Tony Oliva stole my pen to sign autographs and eventually returned it to me. Harmon Killebrew might be the nicest man alive. Ron Gardenhire will let the players know if they aren't performing up to par but he allows the team to have fun too. The interactions were more than I would have ever imagined.
Bad Sunburn

2. Wear sunscreen- You will be excited to get to the field for the first time. You will rush out of your hotel room and race to the rental car. Remember to take a minute to put on some SPF. My first trip I thought that I could handle being in the sun for part of the day. I was wrong. I got really burnt and my leg was not the same for the rest of the trip.

3. Autographs are easy to come by- If you know the names of the players by their faces, it helps a lot. The first year I went I was really excited to get an autograph from Jason Kubel. Not too many fans knew who he was when he walked by the crowd. My buddy called him over and he signed right away. I was on the other side of the dugout and Kubel was nice enough to wait for me to climb over the seats. Pick out some of the younger players at the minor league camp and try to get some signatures there as well. Having a copy of the Twins Minor League Handbook always helps to find the stars in the minor leagues. 

4. Florida drivers stink- I may be from small town North Dakota but I know when I see bad drivers. There is a large amount of the population in Florida that is of retirement age. That doesn't help with the driving situation. Just be careful when you are on the roads. On another driving note, there is an abnormally large amount of Florida license plates. See how many you can find on your trip.

5. Minor League players work just as hard- Instead of always hanging out at the major league camp, spend a day with the minor league players. These players work their rear ends off all year and there is a good chance you won't get to see them. Get to know some of these future Twins. Some former players, like Paul Moliter, spend time working with the players in the minor league camp.

Sanibel Island
6. Sanibel Island isn't worth your time- All of the tourism sites will direct you to go to Sanibel Island. Don't listen to them. It isn't that great of a destination. The beaches were rocky, the traffic on the island was terrible, and it is mostly a family friendly atmosphere. It wasn't what I had in mind for my college Spring Break. The highlight of the island for me was the fact that there were wild dolphins that would swim right up to you in the water. Other than that it was a big disappointment.

7.There are many restaurants to enjoy- The food selection in the Ft. Myers area is outstanding. You will find many different seafood options, a variety of sports bars, and many other unique dining experiences. Spend some time eating on the waterfront. There are different establishments from which to choose, but the experience is unforgettable.

8. Travel to other cities to watch games- If the Twins don't have a game on one of the days that you are in Florida, travel to another city to watch baseball. The Red Sox play on the other side of Ft. Myers and their stadium is a great experience for fans. The Rays train 44 minutes up the road in Port Charles. The Orioles and Pirates train in the Sarasota area, which has a great beach front area to explore. Most of the teams in Florida are within your reach so get out there and take it all in.

The M&M Boys
9. Access to Hammond Stadium is easiest on non-game days- The easiest time to move around Hammond Stadium and the surrounding Lee County Sports Complex is on non-game days. The amount of fans is significantly less, parking is much easier, and the players are much more relaxed. Jump to some of the back fields and find other games that are happening at any given time. There will be college teams that come in for spring warm-ups against the minor league talent. My alma mater, the University of North Dakota, was playing games at the complex and that was exciting to watch. 

10. Bring a glove, take your shoes off, and enjoy the grass- The greatest thing I remember doing on the trip happened one evening. My buddy and I went back to Lee County Sports Complex one evening after supper. We kicked off our saddles and pulled out our gloves. Nothing will cure your winter blues like feeling the fresh cut grass under your bare feet and playing a game of catch in the outfield grass.

1 comment:

Craig said...

I remember this trip! I have to agree with everything that is said especially #4 and #6. It was an awesome time though!