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First Days Are The Best

by Dan Gunderson

The first day of anything is always one of optimism. First day of school. First day of work. First day of a new relationship. The first born! This logic applies to the first day of full squad workouts for the Minnesota Twins, which took place on Saturday, February 22.

Even though the Twins are not expected to do much this season, there still was an energy present at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers, Fla. Saturday morning. Fans came out early to get a close and personal look at their favorite players.

The players moved around the locker room with a carefree attitude. Whether it be players showing each other funny videos they found online, signing autographs from their large stacks of fan mail or just sitting in front of their lockers relaxing.

Caleb Thielbar (left) talks with Mike McFeely (middle), while teammate Anthony Swarzak (right) tries to make Thielbar laugh.

There was no stress. There was no worry. No urgency. Just a new beginning. Fans, desperate for their baseball fix, were not here to harass players. They just wanted to see players take batting practice or infield practice or shag some fly balls.

The only player who was asked for an autograph when the team came out of their morning meeting and made their way to stretching was Joe Mauer. This is not surprising considering how recognizable the first baseman… man that is weird to write… is to the fan base.

What was a bit surprising was no fans clamored for the young players like Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano to jog over and sign a bat or a ball. Many players just walked on by the two rows of fans on either side as they made their way to the ball field without much of anything said to them.

A relaxed and laid back attitude displayed by both fans and players. It was unique and something both parties will look to savor for the next couple days. Ultimately, it will not stay this way. The Twins need to show some improvement after losing 90 or more games in three straight seasons.

That is why you are seeing Buxton and Sano at the major league training camp. They are here to push the veterans. Let them know their jobs are not as secure as they would like them to be. It is also why you are seeing so many starting pitchers roam around the field for the Twins.

Pitchers like Vance Worley and Scott Diamond are not assured a spot at the major league level. With the signing of Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, along with Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia, the Twins are going to ask other pitchers to prove why they deserve a spot on the major league roster.

All of these facts are in the back of everybody’s mind. Every player understands their position and what they need to do in order to improve their standing. They can’t hide from these facts, but for at least one day it wasn’t the most pressing issue.

It was just about getting back to the diamond for the players. Putting on the cleats. Putting on a new hat and breaking it in. Hearing the ball pop the leather of the glove as they played long toss with their teammates.

For the fans, it was a chance to ask the questions among themselves. Who is that? Where is Buxton? Have you seen how big Sano is? Where are the new pitchers? When you going back to (insert state name here)?

Optimism. Hope. For at least one day, everybody experienced it. 

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.