A few weeks ago while in the midst of another long cold night of hacking it, I was slumped behind my steering wheel and stuck in yet another traffic jam from **** along the West Side Highway. The only thing that kept me going was baseball, baseball, and more baseball. With opening day a little less than a month away, I was in baseball delirium. Who would make the 25-man rosters? Who were the top rookies? How many fantasy leagues should I enter in this year? My wheels were spinning, I had to get out of this traffic jam, the April itch needed some scratching.
As if the baseball gods were listening, the next day I got a message from my brother inviting me to go down to Fort Myers for the weekend to visit our cousin and take in some Twins’ spring training. Hallelujah! I packed my sports illustrated duffel bag, grabbed my lap-top, and like the birdies, flew south with my Cabbie crew (brother Tony and 8-year old nephew Isaiah) for some sun, fun, and a whole lotta hardball.
I could probably lull you guys into a pleasant slumber with details about the luxury hotel that my brother sprang for, which included a heated pool, a water slide, a lazy river pool, a jacuzzi, an excellent buffet breakfast, and a hole-in-one golf patch in the middle of a lake. And while I am very grateful for this royal treatment, make no mistake, the best part of this vacation was not the swirling soft baked cinnamon french toast (though it was rather scrumptious!), no the jewel of this adventure was Twins’ spring training camp!
The first morning, I jumped on my lap-top, tossed a pen to my nephew and relayed the names and
numbers of all the Twins players so he would know who to ask for autographs. My brother barked about being charged $5 for the bottled Figi water, "I can’t believe they’re charging for the water, for the amount I’m paying… I can’t believe it!", while he packed the video camera. By 9:30 we were on the road. We rolled into the Lee County Sporting Complex at about 10:00 and I got my first glimpse of Bill Hammond Stadium. I was giddy with excitement. Just a few nights earlier I was honking my way down third avenue on my way toward the Bowery, and now here I was passing through Blyleven Lane, Mauch Manor and Puckett Pkwy. If one saw my nephew and I in the car at that moment, they would have a hard time making out who was the 8-year old.
My cousin Andy and his son, little Barry, met us inside the complex.
Andy, a local sportswriter, played tour guide and introduced us to some
of the Twins’ players and personnel. So, here at INSIDE PITCH we send a
big Cabbie "Thank You" to cousin Andy!
Now without further ado I welcome you to the Vlog portion of this Twins’ spring training exclusive!
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We decided to get in a little practice just in case the Twins’ split
squads were a little shorthanded. I taught my nephew Isaiah how to
throw the mysterious Gyroball and he tested it out on little Barry.
were called on to pinch hit.
Next, we sidled over to the batting cage to make sure Jason Bartlett
and Mike Redmond were keeping their head down and eye on the ball.
Hanging out in the stands of Bill Hammond Stadium watching the Twins
take batting practice sure beats sitting in traffic on the West Side
Highway any day!
During spring training players are always testing out new bats.
Here’s an interesting interview with X-bats owner Jack Kasarjian.
X-bats are the second most used bat in the major leagues next to
Louisville Slugger. Almost 300 players used X-bats last year including
Day one at camp ended with us buying some memorabilia in the Twins’
store. We headed back to the pool and hit the water slide. Since my
nephew Isaiah and I had some time to kill, we decide to teach little
Barry some new vocabulary and came up with a very creative game where
we decided to rename everyone who passed by us. Ode to be eight years
We started out with a little breakfast by the pool before heading
back to training camp to watch Cousin Andy take part in a charity
softball game between the local sportswriters. The game was organized
by the Twins as a "thank you" to the writers. Bert Blyleven, maybe the
greatest curveball pitcher of all time, pitched and managed one team.
The great Tony Oliva managed my cousin’s team. The game was loads of
fun and getting to chat and fact check the "roster options" rule
(which I recently wrote about) with GM Terry Ryan was a nice caveat
Well, Cousin Andy ended up 1 for 3 but unfortunately his team went
down to defeat 9-5. To blow off some steam we decided to head to the
"Speed Gun" booth and throw some fastballs as hard as we could. Plus,
we heard rumors that anyone who threw got a free Twins’ baseball. In
between a "Star Spangled Banner" singing contest and chow time, we
chatted with a few more players before enjoying a special lunch thrown
by the Twins for all the writers. They had one of those business
cards-in-a-hat contests with the winner getting an autographed Tori
Hunter Super Doll. Guess who won?
After lunch we went back to the hotel to lounge about in the lazy
river pool. Thank god we didn’t take a dip in the lake next to the
hotel, cause it might have turned into an ugly scene from Jurassic
The next morning we flew out of Ft. Lauderdale and back to the grind
of New York. But, boy did I feel refreshed. This little adventure was
exactly what this Cabbie needed. Thanks to Cousin Andy, Kevin W. Smith
(Twins’ Executive Director of Public Affairs), Mike Herman (Twins’
Manager of Baseball Communications) and all the great people who
organized Twins’ spring training camp. It’s good to know that their are
still organizations out their that understand the importance of and the
value of the fan. Twins’ spring training was a FAN-tastic experience
and gets this Cabbie’s endorsement as a great vacation experience. With
opening day in the books and the season now under way there’s only one
thing left to say, "PLAY BALL!".
Carl The Cabbie’s "Herb Carneal" Contest
This last set of videos is a fun loving tribute to "The Voice of the
Twins", Herb Carneal, who passed away on April 1st at the age of 83.
Carneal was the Twins’ the play-by-play was for Twins’ radio broadcasts
since 1962. He received the Ford C. Frick award from the Baseball Hall
of Fame in 1996 and was a member of the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting
Hall of Fame. Another great Minnesota radio personality Garrison
Keillor once wrote this in honor of Carneal:
"Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer.
And the Twins’ game on radio next to my ear.
Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal.
But, I love the voice of Herb Carneal".
in honor of Carneal, here is a group of Twins’ players and personnel
pretending that Barry Bonds is on the cusp of Henry Aaron’s home run
record. We asked each of them to give there best radio call for Barry
Bonds’ potential tiebreaking 756th home run. I ask that you vote in the
comment section for who you think gave the best call.