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Twins’ Camp—FAN-tastic!

Twins_camp_sign_1 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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Day One

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.

Little Barry_WHIFFS at Gyroball.mov

Can Little Barry Hit Gyroball?.mov

After a little practice, we decided to scout some of the Twins
pitchers as they warmed up in case we

were called on to pinch hit.

Twins’ pitchers_warm_up.mov

J.D. Durbin_warms_up.mov

Dennis Reyes_and J.D. warm up.mov

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.

Jason Bartlett_rips_in_cage.mov

Mike Redmond_rips_in_cage.mov

Mike Redmond_says_a quick ‘hello’.mov

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!

Twins_take_their hacks.mov

Twins outfielders shagging_flies.mov

One of the great highlights of our visit to Twins’ camp was getting
to hang out with and talk to outfielder Tori Hunter, one of the nicest
players I’ve ever met.Tori_and_us_5

Little Barry shows Tori his swing.mov



Tori_signs_and_chats some more.mov

Tori Hunter’s_Top  3 defensive_CFs.mov

Joe Mauer_says_hello.mov

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
Alex Rodriguez.

X-bats intro.mov

Which players use X-bats?.mov

How heavy was Babe Ruth’s Bat?.mov

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

Isaiah loves water_slide.mov

Little Barry "Can_you_say?".mov

Isaiah’s "Name_Game".mov

Day Two

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
for me.

Little Barry "Baseball".mov

Blyleven’s still_got_it.movBlyleven_isaiah_1

Blyleven_needs_a_third baseman.mov

Tony Oliva manages.mov

Gm Terry Ryan explains "roster option" rule".mov

GM Terry Ryan_on_Cashman.mov

Cousin Andy pops_out against Blyleven.mov

Cousin Andy analyzes Blyleven’s filthy stuff.mov

Cousin Andy_gets_a hit_off_Blyleven!!!.mov

Cousin Andy makes final out.mov

Bert Blyleven shows us his_Curveball_grip.mov

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?


Little Barry’s 12_mph_fastball.mov

Isaiah hits 25 mph on speed_gun.mov

Can Cabbie_hit_60_mph?.mov

Twins_head_for lunch.mov

Johan Santana_is their_hero.mov

Tori Hunter_Super_Doll.mov

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.

Tori Hunter’s Bonds_756 call.movCarneal_3

Blyleven’s_Bonds_756 call.mov

Joe Mauer_WHIFFS on Bonds 756_call.mov

Oliva’s_Bonds 756_call.mov

Tommy Watkins’_Bonds_756 call.mov

Isaiah’s_Bonds_756 call.mov

Carmen Cali’s_Bonds_756 call.mov

Kevin W. Smith’s Bonds 756 call.mov

Brother Tony’s_Bonds_756 call.mov