Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Out of the Park: Spring Training Memories

<sn’t until tenth grade that I learned that my grandfather lived mere miles from the Minnesota Twins Spring Training facility in Ft. Myers, Florida. Having been a Twins fan most of my life – despite living in the Chicago area, I cannot honestly root for either the Cubs or the White Sox – this fact was unacceptable. How had no one told me? And when were we going back to visit?
After discovering this, I made it a point to visit my grandpa during spring break. I certainly enjoyed escaping Illinois for a week or so during the early spring to see him (see “A Competitive Legacy” in the Oct. 22 issue), and the added bonus of seeing the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, and others was just icing on the cake. Only at Spring Training can you watch both established stars and recent draft picks practicing ten feet away from one another. Only at Spring Training can you walk up to Joe Mauer and ask for a picture with him. And only at Spring Training can you arrive at a game against the Yankees without a ticket, and get a seat six rows behind home plate at the box office. Ah, how different the world is in Florida in the month of March.

The main appeal, for me and for most other fans, was the chance at an elusive, in-person autograph. Having collected since eighth grade, I knew how expensive it could be to buy a signed baseball by Mauer, Morneau or any of the superstars, and so going to Spring Training helped add to my collection. There was nothing better than watching a player leave one of the practice fields and immediately walk over to the throng of fans; though athletes might see this as a nuisance, most fans are incredibly appreciative for their time and interest in their supporters.

My favorite Spring Training moment occurred as Ron Gardenhire and Justin Morneau walked out of the practice facility together. On being asked by one of the fans if Morneau would be playing today, Gardy replied, “We’re giving Justin the day off. That way, he can give each and every one of you an autograph!” Morneau gave a sideways glance and a wry smile to Gardenhire, but they both just laughed and he happily came over to sign. Moments like this, though long forgotten to most, stick with fans that appreciate the opportunity.

Gone are the days when you can walk up to a star athlete after a regular season game and converse. Now, you’d be lucky to get a glimpse of them as they drive out of the player’s parking lot in their new Mercedes. With multi-million dollar facilities, getting close to athletes is nearly impossible. There are too many tunnels, too many ramps, and too many doors to possibly know when and where someone will be entering or leaving. This is the appeal of Spring Training: the facilities are modestly built, and the accessibility is easy. What’s best, though, is that fans and athletes alike are just generally friendly and welcoming. There’s just something about baseball, sun, and spring that puts everyone in a good mood. Whether talking about the promising season ahead, or waiting in line for an autograph, fans that travel to Spring Training seem to enjoy themselves much more than they would at an official ballpark. There, you are always worried about the view from your seats, or what you are going to eat, and, most importantly, the game. At Spring Training, none of that seems to matter as much: every seat is great, the food is simple yet delicious, and the games are inconsequential. The whole experience, though, is what makes the trip worthwhile.

So, if you’re wondering what to do this Spring Break, I would highly recommend you consider Spring Training, regardless of which team you follow. Nothing can compare to its atmosphere.

-Jon Isaac is a Carletonian columnist

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *