Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18- Fort Myers Miracle

I don’t think I can ever express into words how much I absolutely adore my girlfriend Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie). I also realize my affection for her is probably causing a lot of you to projectile vomit as we speak; for which I make no apologies for. :D

A few days before I arrived in Florida she had informed that she had a “big” surprise for me when I got to town. Now, in my head this could have gone any numbers of ways; all of which exceeded a PG-13 rating, but as I walked into her house and into the bedroom to throw my bag in the closet, I was met with this…

For those of you who are unaware what this is supposed to be, watching this video:
When I was living in New York City working for the MLB Fan Cave I shot this video to show people how to make their very own hat walls in an effort to show off their collections for cheap. Knowing that I would be staying with her for an extended period of time, she constructed her own little hat wall to make me feel more at home. She even took the liberty to start my new collection by attaching a Fort Myers Miracle hat she picked up during a Minnesota Twins Spring Training game in March. Needless to say, a hug, kiss and “I love you” soon followed. This is bar far one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me. I am so lucky and so grateful to have her in my life.

I’ve dated quite a few ladies in my life. Some of them were great, while others made my question if I had a fully-functional brain to stay with them for as long as I did. In almost every case each one of the previous wanted me to change something about myself; despite the fact that they had said they liked everything about me. (Every guy reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. Every woman reading this now doesn’t know what I’m talking about.) One of the biggest habits I was asked to change was the amount of time I devoted to baseball; something that I will never bend. In the case of Angie, she has been more than supportive of my passions. Whether it’s my writing, my New Era Cap collecting, my fantasy baseball teams or even just staying up late to watch a game, she fully supports my lifestyle 100%; all to the point where she’ll do something as thoughtful as buy me a hat to help continue my goal of a new post a day for the whole year. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky, but I thank the Lord every day I wake up to see her smiling face next to mine. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s beautiful, but most important, she’s a baseball fan. And I’m madly in love with her.

I’ve touched up on this in previous posts, but Angie is a die-hard Twins fan. She hails from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and grew up watching the Twins because her father was an avid fan. Much like myself, my father was a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan; however, I of course took the latter route, like most smart mouthed kids do, and rooted for the most opposite team, the Oakland Athletics. Angie is currently attending physician’s assistant school at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida, a hotbed for baseball talent. Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez has a home there, and just down the street at Nova High School several Major League stars cut their teeth before getting drafted. Such talent includes: Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak, former Chicago White Sox shortstop Harry Chappas, former Baltimore Orioles and Athletics outfielder Jeff Fiorentino and Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Morse. We met, like so many people, through the magic of Twitter while I was in the Fan Cave last season. Since I was the Athletics representative she took it upon herself to routinely remind me how great Josh Willingham was doing for the Twins. I was immediately attracted to her smack talk. We talked off and on throughout the three months I was in New York as well as during my baseball road trip following my exodus. When the time came to head to Florida I gave her shout and asked if she wanted to go to a Miami Marlins game with me. Not only did she say yes, she offered me her couch to crash on for the night. If you want to know the rest of the story, please go back and read my post on the Florida Marlins from February 23. It’s been seven wonderful months, most of which has been separated by over 3000 miles, but our love for each other grows just as strongly as our first common love, baseball, by the day.

Tomorrow we are headed to Tampa to catch the Rays play a three-game series against my Athletics, but for now we are in Venice Beach. Angie, always full of surprises, kept this little trip from me until last night; at which I asked her if there was any chance we might be able to catch a Miracle game tonight if they were in town. Always the baseball enthusiast, she was happy to oblige. We looked over the schedule and saw that were on the road. Rats! No matter, we had the whole day to ourselves, and that’s what mattered most.

In lieu of my new gift, I decided to wear the Miracle hat. Even now as I write this post I’m still beaming that she got it for me. We left the house around 11:00 AM and made a quick stop at Chick-Fil-A for lunch. True story: I hadn’t eaten at a Chick-Fil-A in over 13 years, so I was especially happy for this little perk. We finished up and continued our journey, always telling each other that we loved one another during moments of silence, but always trying to make the other laugh as we tore through the vast, desolate wasteland that is Alligator Alley. For some strange reason I had forgotten that we were going to be passing through Fort Myers, despite having looked at the map about 20 minutes before we left. I asked Angie if she wouldn’t mind stopping by real quick for a photo. Being the amazing girlfriend that she is, she was more than happy to oblige. As we pulled into the parking lot we were greeted by a slew of recreational vehicles for an upcoming weekend RV Show. We parked the car, stretched and headed on a merry way to the façade of the stadium whilst holding each other’s hand. Angie led the way around since she had been there before. There are two practice fields on the left side of the stadium that we walked past, one of which had two members of the grounds crew watering the field. Neither of them paid much attention to us as we walked through a tunnel next to the batting cage facility on into Hammond Stadium. And when I say we walked into the stadium, I mean we were standing 10 feet away from the dugout. The sprinklers were on in left field and Angie had mentioned how awesome it would be to jump the fence and run through them, which we easily could have done. I laughed and said we should. She just smiled back. I popped out my camera, held her close and popped this photo…

I’ve always preferred to have some sort of a theme going on in the photos of me wearing the hat, and what better one to take than while wearing the hat of the team at their facility with the person who got it for me? As I slipped my camera back into my pocket I looked around to see if anyone noticed that we were there; crickets. I then asked Angie again if she would run onto the field with me. She laughed, but said no. I then asked one last time to make sure. I could tell in her eyes that she really wanted to, but didn’t want to take the risk of getting caught; a move I totally understood.

The whole walk back to the car plus the first 15 miles away from the stadium we kept talking about it. Both of us are avid fans of the film “Bull Durham” and we both brought up the scene when Crash Davis, Nuke LaLoosh and a few of the other players sneak onto the field the night before the game to turn on the sprinkler system to force a rainout. But alas, we both chickened out, but perhaps not for long. It may not happen in Fort Myers, but at some field we’re going to have to make it so.

The Miracle have been using this hat as their game style cap since the start of the 2011 season. The logo of the “M” with a palm tree was first introduced at the start of the 1993 season, but featured an all-black cap with a red trim logo. The Miracle are an advanced-A affiliate of the Twins and have been a member of the Florida State League since 1964. The team was around in 1963; however, they were set as a Class D squad. An interesting fact about the Miracle is that two of the minority owners are musician Jimmy Buffet and comedy legend Bill Murray. Both of whom bought into the team in 1989. Another cool fact is that the original team was called the Miami Hustlers from 1927-1928, one of the most badass, yet foreshadowingly (not a real word) ironic team names for the area in sports history.

Since this cap has only been around for the last two seasons I really didn’t expect to find anything worthy enough to mark it up with. Boy was I wrong! For those of you who didn’t know, Joe Mauer’s older brother, Jake, is actually the manager of the Miracle; however, I’ve all ready written a post about him back on January 11 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Instead I found two up-and-coming studs currently on the Major League roster.

#5- Throughout Spring Training there were very few players making a case for themselves much like #98 prospect Aaron Hicks. With the loss of Denard Span to the Washington Nationals Hicks went into preseason with the starting centerfield spot up for grabs. With only motivation and raw talent in his favor, Hicks went on to hit .370 with four home runs and 18 RBI. With an OPS of 1.051 it was hard for Ron Gardenhire to say no to the former 14th overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft. While Hicks’s regular season hasn’t been quite as prosperous, he’s still young and willing to learn.

In 2011 Hicks played 122 games in Fort Myers, having played the previous two seasons with the Beloit Snappers in the Midwest League. With the Miracle he hit .242 with five home runs, 38 RBI and five triples.

#11- This guy was an eighth round pick in 2009 out of Southern Mississippi and made his Major League debut on May 7, 2012. Brian “Bull” (as I like to call him) Dozier played two seasons with the Miracle in 2010 and only 49 games in 2011. In his combined one full year Dozier hit .291 with seven home runs and 64 RBI and has been a fan favorite of the organization for a number of years. So far this season he’s hitting .279 with zero home runs and six RBI as the Twins’ second baseman.

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