• 2013 Twins Spring Training Guide Part II: The Baseball

    This is the second of the three 2013 Minnesota Twins Spring Training Guides. The first one was a guide on the logistics of how to get there and where to stay etc., including some ways to get there as inexpensively as possible, if that is a consideration. The next guide will be about food. This one is about the reason people go to Fort Myers: Spring Training baseball.

    The Twins' Spring Training Complex:

    Before we get into your options, it helps to have a big picture view of the Lee County Sports Complex where the Twins are based. Here is a satellite image (all images are screenshots from Bing Maps) :




    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch

    The complex is accessible via the Miracle on 34th St, either from Ben C Pratt Pkwy or from Plantation Rd. The best was to go is via the Parkway, especially if there is traffic. Miracle on 34th St divides the Twins' part of the complex from the four county softball field. Hammond Stadium, the site of the Twins Spring Training home games and the home of the Fort Myers Miracle (the Twins' high A, Florida State League affiliate) is on the Northeast corner of the Complex. Those parallel lines in the parking lot that can fit about 2000 cars. The stadium seats about 8000 people, so parking can be tight.

    In addition to Hammond Stadium, there are four full size practice fields and two infield practice fields. You can find Twins' major and minor league players working out in those fields throughout the day, so it might make sense to explore the whole complex or even catch a (free, other than parking) minor league game or two. Some hotels offer free shuttle service to the complex, so make sure you explore this option if it is available.

    During Twins' home games you have to pay for parking, however when the Twins are away, you can come into the complex and park for free and watch the Twins' minor leagues. (You can do that on game days in the morning, as well.) The minor leaguers are using the three full fields further away from the Ballpark and the infield right next to the clubhouse (the tin building). The practice field next to the ballpark is exclusively used by the MLB team.

    Two different camps take place there (the MLB and MiLB camp) but there is not a "dividing line" that folks who are cut from the big camp have to cross to get "down to the minor league" camp. As you can see, all the fields are next to each other. Often, non-travelling major leaguers (I saw Alexi Casilla and Jamey Carroll do that last season) play in minor league games. So do rehabbing major leaguers.

    The best way to watch the minor leaguers is to drive and park close to the clubhouse (there are not too many cars on non-game days, about as many as they are in the picture) and go between the three large fields. Usually AAA plays on the Northwest-most field and AA next to it. With a little bit of imagination, one can sit between both fields and watch two games.

    There are metal bleachers in the area. Bathrooms and a water fountain are in the south of the clubhouse building. Bringing water is a must here because there are no concessions. A lot of lower level or non-playing minor leaguers are around and in the stands watching the AAA and AA games. Actually pitchers are relegated to radar charting duty in tables in the common area behind the home plates and the fence, and standing around there is a good place to look at the radar readings. You can also find Twin Cities sports celebrities in the stands:






    The "dugouts" and "bullpens" are just fenced in areas so you can get a great look of the Twins' minor leaguers. All minor league games are free. The new Twins' lease will provide for a dorm to be build in the area. I am not certain where it will be, but likely South of the fields and just west of the county softball fields.


    Hammond Stadium:

    Hammond Stadium (and the Lee County Complex) was officially opened in the Spring of 1991, the year of the Twins' last World Championship. It is the home of Fort Myers Miracle, a franchise that has Jimmy Buffett and Bill Murray as part-owners. It has been recently renovated and is one of the largest ballparks in the Florida State League, sitting up to 8500 people.



    As with most minor league stadiums, most seating is on the infield between the two dugouts. Hammonds Stadium has a nose bleed 2xx level as well and a small grassy field in short right field for fans to sit picnic style. Spring training tickets cost from $45 to $10 or so, depending on the opponent and the seating. As far as tickets go, there are ticket outlets just outside the park. You can preorder tickets over the web, or you can frequently obtain them from locals in the parking lot who are not interesting in attending the game.




    One thing that you MUST note: bottled water in unopened containers is permitted in the stadium, as are bags up to 16x16x8 (think reusable grocery bags), so please take advantage of that. That said, the stadium has one of the best selections of beers, including more than 20 mainstream, import and microbrew beers and ales. The best variety of beer, including beer sold only for Twins' and Miracle's games, is at the bar at the far left (third base) end of the outside concourse, right before the bullpen

    They only sell Pepsi products as far as soft drinks go. I will have a food guide within a week, but I have to mention that there is an interesting variety of food, including pizza, sweet potato fries, fish tacos, deep fried nachos on a stick, and two artery clogging specialties: the Carolina Dog, a hot dog topped with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw and the Richard Simmons burger a behemoth featuring a 1/4 lb burger, a 1/4 lb chicken, a 1/4 lb brat, held together by 3 slices of cheese and six strips of bacon and contains more calories that the average developing world person eats in a week. There is an annual concession guide for the stadium that yet has to be published.

    Here is the seating guide from the Miracle web site. Also, this is a great article about Hammonds Stadium with a lot of detail about the ballpark. Also, here is a must see panoramic view of the seating area from last year's spring training. The Twins' dugout is on the third base side and the bullpen on the end of the bleachers in short left. The new lease provides for major renovations to the ballpark including a catwalk area at the outfield. Not sure when this will start and whether it will be around for the 2013 Spring Training.

    Other things:

    Last but not least, the Twins do not play home games every day. So what to do in an off day? I would chose from one of the following: either drive to the complex trying to catch minor leaguers (my favorite choice) and non-traveling major leaguers in action, or drive to watch the Twins in an away game. Here is a map of Florida that shows all the Grapefruit League home team locations:



    The Rays play their home games about half an hour away and the Pirates and Orioles about an hour away or so. The Red Sox play in Fort Myers. Those are the most convenient ball parks to visit.

    Next: The Food Guide.
    This article was originally published in blog: 2013 Spring Training Guide to Fort Myers Part II: The Baseball started by thrylos98
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. bdhenders's Avatar
      bdhenders -
      Good article.. I'm looking forward to more insights. I have a question for you.

      In spring training, I hear one of he best things to do is go in before the games begin to see the team practice. Once the games start, is there less of an opportunity to do that, or do they still have early morning practice? I'll be going down in mid-March, so as an alternative, I see there is an "OFF day" scheduled during the week I'll be down there. Does anyone know if there will be practice that day for minor leaguers or is it truly an off day?
    1. ChiTownTwinsFan's Avatar
      ChiTownTwinsFan -
      Don't the Twins players have some kind of charity golf thing on their off day? Or maybe they do that earlier before games start. Can't remember.

      One thing to note about seating ... if you buy seats in the 2nd level (sections 203-206) on the 1st base side, about half way up and higher ... you stay in the shade for most/all of the game. Nothing in that stadium is that far away so it's not that 'nosebleedy.' After years of going to games there, that has become my 'preferred' area for day games. While the average temps might be around 80, towards the latter part of March I'd up that. Combined with sitting for a couple hours in the sun, surrounded by other bodies, it can feel even warmer. But if it's your first time there, get seats anywhere; you'll likely want to wander around anyway. Night games, of course I prefer the lower section. Do they still sell standing room tickets? I don't see that option, maybe they do that only after a game is officially sold out. But if they do offer that, you can get into the stadium, find a place, and 'scavenge' someone's seats when they leave the game early, or don't show up.

      Also, getting to the park on game day ... plan ahead and leave early! Parking fills up fast and you don't want to be one of those cars in line out on Six Mile Cypress into the early innings trying to get into the game. I can't stress it enough how bad traffic is that time of year. I've said it many times already and likely will again.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by bdhenders View Post
      Good article.. I'm looking forward to more insights. I have a question for you.

      In spring training, I hear one of he best things to do is go in before the games begin to see the team practice. Once the games start, is there less of an opportunity to do that, or do they still have early morning practice? I'll be going down in mid-March, so as an alternative, I see there is an "OFF day" scheduled during the week I'll be down there. Does anyone know if there will be practice that day for minor leaguers or is it truly an off day?
      They practice every day, esp. the minor leaguers. The off days and the days when the MLB team is playing away are actually the best days to watch the minor leaguers (and the major leaguers who were left behind) practice or play in minor league games. Some minor league teams (the minor leaguers are divided into very fluid AAA, AA, A+ and A squads) will play away but others will play at home. Usually there is at least one minor league game. Also the ones that are rookie level always practice (no games at that level) at the flield next to the clubhouse (the SW most field). Lots of players do infield practice with the likes of TK and Paul Molitor. Rookie pitchers usually do pitching drills.
      Great times to see some of the unknown players in the organization
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChiTownTwinsFan View Post
      Don't the Twins players have some kind of charity golf thing on their off day? Or maybe they do that earlier before games start. Can't remember.

      One thing to note about seating ... if you buy seats in the 2nd level (sections 203-206) on the 1st base side, about half way up and higher ... you stay in the shade for most/all of the game. Nothing in that stadium is that far away so it's not that 'nosebleedy.' After years of going to games there, that has become my 'preferred' area for day games. While the average temps might be around 80, towards the latter part of March I'd up that. Combined with sitting for a couple hours in the sun, surrounded by other bodies, it can feel even warmer. But if it's your first time there, get seats anywhere; you'll likely want to wander around anyway. Night games, of course I prefer the lower section. Do they still sell standing room tickets? I don't see that option, maybe they do that only after a game is officially sold out. But if they do offer that, you can get into the stadium, find a place, and 'scavenge' someone's seats when they leave the game early, or don't show up.

      Also, getting to the park on game day ... plan ahead and leave early! Parking fills up fast and you don't want to be one of those cars in line out on Six Mile Cypress into the early innings trying to get into the game. I can't stress it enough how bad traffic is that time of year. I've said it many times already and likely will again.
      Indeed. The traffic is an issue and great point about coming early. I guess I never been at the ballpark later than 10AM because I want to catch the minor leaguers play and some Twins taking BP outside the ballpark before the game.

      Great point about the shade. Last year temps were close to 90 in late March.

      Last season they did not sell standing room tickets. Not sure whether the RF walk space will be ready this season. If it is, I bet that will be standing room only. They do sell $10-12 tickets at the grass area at short RF.
    1. rickenbacker's Avatar
      rickenbacker -
      Thanks for this guide! I'm considering going to ST for the first time this year to root on my favourite player as he tries to recover from major surgery - he's a nonroster invitee with the Twins.

      I'm considering going over President's Day weekend to avoid extra time off from work. Are there any special considerations with going that early in the preseason? I would just be going to take in the practices, which I understand are every day about 9am.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickenbacker View Post
      Thanks for this guide! I'm considering going to ST for the first time this year to root on my favourite player as he tries to recover from major surgery - he's a nonroster invitee with the Twins.

      I'm considering going over President's Day weekend to avoid extra time off from work. Are there any special considerations with going that early in the preseason? I would just be going to take in the practices, which I understand are every day about 9am.
      Actually, since your favorite player is a non-roster invitee, the earlier you go the better the chances you have to see him with the big team. But that would be just practicing because President's day (the 18th) is 5 days before their first game (the 23rd in Sarasota against the Orioles). The Twins will be practicing mostly at the North East most practice field (next to the Stadium) with occasional practices in the Stadium and the other fields. You might get to see some scrimmages as well; these are pretty fun.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      I would encourage anyone who makes the trip to take in one or two of the other parks in Central Fla. I've seen games at seven of the parks, and would rank Bright House Field (Phillies) in Clearwater at the top, and Space Coast Stadium (Nationals) at the bottom--although the location is great if you are sightseeing Cape Canaveral. Arrive early, and stick around late if you have kids that would like to get some autographs. My boys filled up their baseballs with signatures, and many pictures were taken with players and coaches, especially after the game by the locker rooms. Security controls the crowds, and the players are more than accomodating. Great fun for your little leaguer, and Dad too.
    1. severson09's Avatar
      severson09 -
      When is part III of this series being published?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      An aspect of the minor-league games I did not know about until my visit last year: these games play fast and loose with some of the rules you usually take for granted. At one game, for instance, one of the non-traveling major leaguers batted third in *every* inning, I guess to let him get his repetitions in. And sometimes innings get called after the pitcher has thrown a certain number of pitches and the manager doesn't want to deal with putting in a reliever to get the last out - talk about a rally killer! Probably people who have been several times can come up with more instances like these. I'm sure no one goes to these games thinking they are for keeps, but it's best to think of them as less of a game and more of situational practice against live pitching. Which is still plenty entertaining - for example there is on-the-spot instruction during a game that would be taken as showing up a player's mistake during the regular season - I still savor Tom Kelly's deadpan "let's keep the 360s to a minimum out there" after Darin Mastroianni took a less-than-optimal route to a flyball.

      Edit: with that business about pitch limits in an inning, I just remembered, when the limit was near, someone would yell across the field, "last batter!", much like in some forms of youth league play. And as with those youthful games, the last batter would keep running until some fielder could finally put him out. Just a little Spring Training wackiness.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Excellent article,Thrylos.
      Thank you
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