On the third day, we drove from West Palm Beach to Fort Myers, Florida. It was the only chance I got to spend a significant amount of time on the roads of Florida. The number of orange groves we passed made it patently obvious that we were down south. We listened to a good deal of country music as that was what I was into at the time and he didn't mind it too much. When Radney Foster's hit, "Nobody Wins" came on, he pontificated on how that was certainly the case when it came to marriages breaking up, as his and my mother's was. Well, I thought, if one of the parties wasn't happy in the relationship, leaving it could be construed as a win of sorts.
In the early afternoon, we arrived at our destination, Hammond Stadium, the spring training home for the Minnesota Twins.
The complex was beautiful and though the game would be split-squad, meaning only half the team would be playing, being able to see my heroes up close and outdoors was sure to be a treat. We headed to our seats which were about eight rows up along the first base line. I was disappointed that Kirby Puckett, the most popular Twin, wasn't in the lineup, but a relatively new guy named Chuck Knoblach was there. I actually had a poster on him on my apartment wall that had him jumping in the air at second base to throw someone out at first called "New Kid on the Blauch". I still have this baseball card of him in the basement:
There were some clouds in the sky as the game got underway, but they moved on. I took a number of pictures during the early innings, including one of the moment that a hitter made contact with a ball. I ended up having it converted into an 8 x 10 so that I could look at it from time to time in my apartment and remember that lovely March afternoon.Later, I purchased a Minnesota Twins Fort Myers T-shirt that had pictures of alligators on it. I wore it with pride that summer, that summer when I would gain so many friends, but my happiness would rapidly erode. I was feeling great that day, however, breathing in the warm air. I don't believe the Twins won, but it didn't matter. This was merely spring training, a time for the players to get back into shape.
When the game ended, I encouraged my stepdad to sit outside the stadium for a time so that I could see some of the players leaving in their street clothes. I got a nice little thrill seeing Knoblauch driving off the grounds in a nice car with a smile on his face. We headed off for a bite and then to Orlando, where I would have my first bite of Universal Studios Florida.