Greetings from Fort Myers

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Hrbek Road.jpgPro tip: when the GPS in your car tells you to take a boring interstate and the map in your hand shows you a nice, winding rural route, follow the map every time. Interstates are death.

The trip across the state to Fort Myers was a lot of fun. No traffic, nice weather, a big lake and lots of ranches where cattle grazed amongst palm trees. I stopped and had lunch at some little roadside joint with a sign that said “best food in Okeechobee County.” I didn’t ask if it was the only food in Okeechobee County. That would have been rude.  Good burger, though.

I made it to Fort Myers mid-afternoon, checked into my hotel and decided to run by Hammond Stadium — spring training home of the Twins — to pick up my media credentials for today’s game. The place was mostly empty — the Twins were up in Sarasota playing the Orioles — but the gate was open so I drove on in to what may be the most beautiful ballpark parking lot I’ve ever seen.  There’s a grassy mall lined with palm trees leading to the main gate, with nicely landscaped parking rows on either side. Each row has a street sign, naming it after a Twins great.  As you can see from the pic, I parked on Hrbek Road.  Strangest thing happened though: when I thought I was safely parked, a big dude came over and wrestled me off my space. Cop standing nearby didn’t do anything about it. Huh.

I walked into the empty ballpark and wandered around a bit.  Port St. Lucie and Tradition Field remind me of an office park. Hammond Stadium screams spring training. It’s really a beautiful place. There’s the landscaping, sure, but the facade has this Churchill Downs thing going which walks that line between cheesy and quaint that characterizes all good minor league ballparks.  Inside some men were attending to the infield while the outfield grass was being watered. I sat down on a seat near the third base dugout for a bit, smelling the grass, enjoying the sun and thanking the fates that I get paid to do this.

After a few minutes of bliss I found an elevator which led to the Twins’ offices. It was mostly empty, but a fellow named Dustin Morse was still working. My credential had already been sent down to will call, it seems, and will call was closed for the day, but Dustin was nice enough to fill out a new one for me so I could get to the ballpark early this morning before the ticket booth opened up. After that he gave me the lay of the land at Hammond and patiently answered my questions despite the fact that he probably had 100 more important things to be doing. Great guy, Dustin. And friendly with the sabermetric media too!

I left Hammond, and decided to take a drive down to the beaches, which were emptying out for the day. I met three baseball fans walking along the beach. The first two were a young couple wearing Cardinals’ t-shirts. I chatted with them a bit. They’re from central Illinois and are down here to follow the Cards around (they had been to the Red Sox-Cards game here in Fort Myers that afternoon).  Seems they come to spring training every year. It’s the wife’s obsession more than the husbands, they said. I’m a happily married man and I’m not violent by nature, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have thoughts of bumping the dude off and taking his woman to be my bride.

I met the second one in the parking lot near the beach when I decided to play good samaritan and gave him my little pre-paid parking ticket that still had some time left on it so he wouldn’t have to buy one of his own.  I had on a Giants’ t-shirt and he said “your giving me this may make me have to rethink Giants’ fans.”  I told him I wasn’t a Giants fan. I just liked the shirt.  He said he was relieved to hear that, because he really doesn’t want to have to start liking Giants fans, what with him being a Dodgers guy.  And no, he’s not happy that the Dodgers train in Arizona now.

Back to the ballpark first thing this morning. Twins vs. Cardinals at 1:05 PM.  I’ll be checking in throughout the day. Also if you’re on Twitter, follow me at @craigcalcaterra. I have a tendency to bring the snark during games if that’s your bag.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 5, Rays 4: That’s 12 in a row for Houston, with this one ending dramatically. Down 4-0 early and still down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Marwin Gonzaelz drew a leadoff walk, Max Stassi singled, Tony Kemp bunted the two of them over to second and third, George Springer reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases and then Alex Bregman doubled in two in walkoff fashion. The Astros have won two games with walkoffs this year, both coming off the bat of Bregman.

Diamondbacks 7, Angels 4Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer and Zack Greinke was solid, as the Dbacks won by three. It could’ve been a different outcome if it were not for this play from Jarrod Dyson — made when Justin Upton was batting with the bases loaded — which may very well have saved four:

The Diamondbacks have won 12 of 16. The Angels have lost 7 of 8 and have gone from 3.5 back in the AL West to 10.5 back in that stretch. Mike Trout reached base four times. Over the last seven games, he has reached base in 24 of 33 plate appearances. The Angels are 1-6 in that stretch.

Indians 6, White Sox 2: Trevor Bauer tossed seven shutout innings allowing only three hits and would’ve gone longer if it wasn’t for a rain delay. Jason Kipnis homered and drove in two and Roberto Perez knocked in two with a ground rule double. The White Sox have lost five in a row. Matt Davidson homered. He’s like a poor man’s Mike Trout insofar as the “he does well, the team loses lots” thing goes.

Pirates 1, Brewers 0: Jordy Mercer‘s seventh inning RBI double plated the game’s only run. Trevor Williams allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings for the Buccos, outdueling Jhoulys Chacin. The Brewers notched only two hits all game long. Or all game short, as this one lasted only two hours and thirty-two minutes.

Phillies 6, Cardinals 5: Phillies starter Nick Pivetta struck out 13 while allowing only two runs in seven and a third, but the bullpen blew it and the Cards to tie things up in the ninth on, of all things, a dropped third strike that allowed a run to score. On to extras, where the Cardinals took a one-run lead in the 10th. In the bottom half the Phillies rallied, however, putting two men on. With two outs, Aaron Altherr lined one into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, limiting the damage and giving his team a chance to end it with one more out, Marcell Ozuna tried to dive for the ball and . . . missed. It trickled past him and the Phillies won it in a walkoff:

Nationals 5, Yankees 3; Yankees 4, Nationals 2: The first game was the resumption of a game from May 15 that was suspended due to rain. Juan Soto of the Nationals was in the minors on May 15, but played in the resumption, hitting a two-run homer which gave the Nats the win. Technically he is considered to have done so on May 15 even though he did not make his big league debut until May 20. He also happened to go 3-for-4 with an RBI for Double-A Harrisburg on May 15. Some day you can look up stats online and win a bar bet with that, at least if you find websites that don’t put asterisks on such things. In the game actually scheduled for last night Sonny Gray allowed two over five, Aaron Hicks hit a two-run homer and Giancarlo Stanton drove in two.

Rangers 6, Royals 3Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer, Shin-Soo Choo went deep and Bartolo Colon earned his 244th victory, passing Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for the most by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic. The Royals — who just before the game, traded away closer Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals — have lost seven straight and 13 of 14. The Rangers have won three in a row.

Mets 12, Rockies 2: For the first time in ages Jacob deGrom got some dang run support. Most of it came late, as New York scored nine of their 12 runs from the seventh inning on, but that’s better than what deGrom has been getting. For his part, he allowed two runs — one earned — over eight innings of work and likely enjoyed the heck out of himself watching Brandon Nimmo hit an inside-the-park homer to lead the game off AND hit a conventional bomb in the seventh. Wilmer Flores and Devin Mesoraco went yard too. Here are Nimmo’s heroics. Come for the long drive, stay for the Rockies’ awful defense which allowed the inside-the-parker to happen:

Marlins 5, Giants 4: San Francisco had a 4-0 lead as late as the fifth inning and still led 4-2 in the ninth when Hunter Strickland tried to close it out but didn’t. Brian Anderson led off with a walk and the next man up, J.T. Realmuto, doubled him in. Then Justin Bour walked, Cameron Maybin erased him with a fielder’s choice and took first base followed by Lewis Brinson singling in Realmuto. The next batter up, Miguel Rojas singled in Maybin to complete the rally which held up.

Dodgers vs. Cubs — POSTPONED:

Now I will stand in the rain on the corner
I watch the people go shuffling downtown
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I’m turning around, ’round
And the clock on the wall’s moving slower
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found, found
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I found
Oh, that I found