I returned to Minnesota on Sunday night after a six-day excursion to southern Florida that featured plenty of baseball, beaches and beer. The vacation was perfect medicine after a long, cold winter here in the northland.
If you haven't journeyed to Ft. Myers in March before, I can't recommend it highly enough. Beyond the incredible weather and tasty eats in the area, the Twins do a great job of providing fans with a stellar experience at Lee County Sports Complex, whether you're taking in a Grapefruit League contest or simply wandering around the side fields watching major-leaguers and minor-leaguers practice (which is totally free on non-game days).
There's something for everyone, whether your bag is collecting autographs, chatting with players and coaches (who are largely friendly and accessible), or simply standing around and watching really talented baseball players do their thing under the sun.
Today I thought I would take one last look back at the week that was with some notable highlights and regrets from the trip:
* Watching Aaron Hicks hit a bomb over the right-field fence in his first at-bat in Wednesday's game. Considering how long I've been on this kid (and how heavily I praised him in my TD Top Prospect writeup
), that was pretty sweet.
* Cheering for middling prospect Daniel Ortiz, who entered in the final innings of one game we attended and seemed pleasantly shocked when we called out his name from our seats behind the plate (considering he didn't even have a name on the back of his No. 95 jersey). He proceeded to lace a triple to right-center. I take full credit for the hit and all future success.
* Meeting and chatting with MLB.com's prospect guru Jonathan Mayo
, who was roaming the minor-league fields on Thursday. Nice guy.
* Checking out jetBlue Park, the new spring training home of the Red Sox, where the Twins played on Friday night. Nicknamed "Fenway South," the stadium – which opened last year – was very impressive and had a lot of neat features intended to imitate the legendary ballpark in Boston. Makes me excited to see how Hammond Stadium will look after the Twins implement $40 million in planned renovations for next year.
* Seeing Doug Mientkiewicz and Terry Steinbach back in Twins uniforms. As much as some folks complain about this organization's tendency to "keep it in the family," it is fun to have these guys back around. Both Mientkiewicz and Steinbach are reputed for owning very high baseball IQs.
* Inhaling some scrumptious Cuban food with the hilarious Jake Nyberg
and MLB.com beat guy Rhett Bollinger
. They both gave Fernandez the Bull a thumbs up. Take that Seth!
* Spending plenty of time with my pal Topper Anton
, who was a terrific host and cohort during my stay. Now we just need to get him blogging again
* Neglected to slather my pale white skin in sunscreen before my first day spent out at the spring training complex. The back of my neck paid the price, turning about as red as the stitches on a baseball.
* Didn't get a chance to talk to minor-leaguer and Twins Daily blogger A.J. Pettersen, who was busy with drills during the times I was around him. I was summarily reprimanded
. Sorry A.J.!
* Failed to get Star Trib beat writer Phil Miller drunk, despite multiple attempts.
* Missed out on Hicks' three-homer outburst in Clearwater Thursday, as I was on the other end of the split-squad series in Ft. Myers. I did get to see Kevin Correia get knocked all over the place instead, so that was cool.
* Did not challenge any of these guys to a home run hitting contest:
I coulda taken 'em.
* Made a point of finding places to watch the Gophers basketball team lose against a shabby opponent… twice. That squad is just an epic disappointment.
* Didn't capitalize on an opportunity to tell Terry Ryan about my nasty slider despite the fact that he was sitting four rows behind me at Wednesday's game. All I need is a chance!