Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Caravaning in the sub-tropics

Justin MorneauThe Minnesota Twins have announced what, in effect, amounts to the Twins Caravan efforts in South West Florida, the annual free youth clinics. 11 clinics are scheduled for each Saturday starting on January 13 and continuing one through February 10th.

While the coaching staff for the clinics was not formally announced, look for some of the local Twins coaches such as Milt Cuyler, Rick Knapp and Eric Rasmussen to be in attendance as well as the cast of local players (::cough::cough:: Tommy Watkins) who always seem to show up to help out at these functions.

There is no pre-registration, the Clinics are free and open to boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 16, irregardless of skill level. Hitting, fielding, and throwing will be taught at each clinic, and parents are encouraged to join their children on the field.

There are two clinics on January 13, 2006, the first from 10 a.m. until Noon, the second from 1 until 3 PM. Both those clinics along with the Challenger (children with handicaps) Clinic on February 10, will be held at William Hammond Stadium at the Lee County Sportsplex on Six Mile Cypress.

The remaining 8 clinics are as follows:

Jan. 20  10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Cape Coral (TBA)
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Fort Myers Little League, Deleon
Jan. 27 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Buckingham Little League
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Lehigh Little League
Noon to 2 p.m. Centennial Park, Fort Myers
Feb. 3 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Desoto County Little League
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Charlotte County Little League
Feb. 10 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. San Carlos Little League
Locations addresses and contact numbers are as follows:

Jan. 13 & February 10 (Challenger)
Minnesota Twins/Lee County Sports Complex
14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway
Fort Myers, FL 33912

Jan. 20
Jason Verdow Memorial Park
801 Se 27th Street Cape Coral, FL 33990
Art Avellino
- 239-772-4232

Fort Myers Little League
Sam Fleishman/Deleon Community Park
1750 Matthew Drive Fort Myers, FL 33907
Don Overhouser
- 239-872-7787

Jan. 27
Buckingham Little League
9800 Buckingham Road
Fort Myers, FL 33905
Pat Shannahan - 239-33-8355

Lehigh Little League
1400 West 5th Street 33936
Darrel Willis
- 239-823-6126

Feb. 3
DeSoto Little League
Speer Recreation Center
185 West Winifred Street
Arcadia, FL 34266
Tara & Matt Anderson
- 863-990-0529

Charlotte County Little League
Harold Ave Recreation Center
Port Charlotte, FL 23400
Lou Agusto - 941-629-6552 or 941-629-0114

Feb. 10
San Carlos Little League
18215 Three Oaks Parkway
Three Oaks Park Fort Myers, FL 33912
Todd Backster
- 239-989-5868

It should be noted that Jeff Smith will NOT be at the clinic scheduled for January 13th, as he will be holding his annual baseball camp at the Community School of Naples. Visit GCL Twins or phone 239-659-6543 or 239-269-8742 for additional information on the Jeff Smith Professional Baseball Camp.

The clinics will take us pretty much up until the start of Spring Training in February. Major League pitchers and catchers will arrive on Sunday February 18th, with the first workouts scheduled for Monday, February 19th. Position players report on February 23, with the first full-squad work out taking place on Saturday, February 24.

The twins have invited minor league catchers Korey Feiner, Jose Leger and Jose Morales to Major League spring training. Free agent infielder signee Ken Harvey has been invited to camp as has Gil Velazquez and Tommy Watkins (New Britain/Rochester) and Glenn Williams (Rochester).

Outfielder Josh Rabe, who appeared in 24 games for the Major League Twins last season was also invitied. Rabe was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this year and outrighted to Rochester, where he spent most of last season.

Pitchers invited to camp include free agent signees Carmen Cali, Mike Venafro, and Jeremy Cummings, as well as Jason Miller and Australian Tristan Crawford, who have both been playing in the Twins minor league system. Also on the list of invitees, is the Twins second round pick in 2005, Kevin Slowey.

Aside from the major league coaching staff, the following coaches will also be at major league spring training: Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva, Phil Roof and Terry Steinbach, as well as National Baseball Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Paul Molitor.

The Twins have signed short stop Nicholas Papasan, who was their 24th round (726th overall) pick in the 2006 June Draft. He's been scouted as having an excellent bat with surprising power for his size (5'9", 175 lbs). He'll be joining the GCL Squad this season, where he may end up being switched to second base.

Josh Taylor
mentioned on his blog Taylor's Twins Talk the signing of Jesus Carnevales from Puerto Rico and Jae-Hyung Jang from South Korea. Both are expected to join the GCL Twins for extended spring training. There is little information forthcoming, I guess I'll just wait for the media guide.

Speaking of the GCL, for a league that was close to being disbanded at the end of the 2005 season, it sure has become lively. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the St.Louis Cardinals have opted to field GCL teams this season, bringing the number of teams in the league to 15. The Toronto Blue Jays were considering joining the League as well. The addition of the Orioles means that I'll get to see a few more games this year, as the league will be play every other Sunday now as well.

Unfortunately, it means the boys will not get as much time off as they had last year.

Meanwhile the Appalachian League will operate with only 9 teams this season, as Pulaski was unable to drum up any interest once the Blue Jays pulled out.

I have been in an organizational mood of late - very strange since anyone who knows me will tell you I've never been organized a day in my life. In any case, I've gotten all of the 2006 photos for the Twins and the Miracle into albums and tagged. There is something in the range of 1,500 of them (not counting spring training pictures). I've now started working on 2005. What this means is that if I have your address (like Vicki Harrington) I've finally dug out and sent the photos that I was supposed to send back in oh August...September...

If I don't have your snail mail address (Leavitt, Buenrostro, Parmelee) and you'd like to e-mail it to me, I'll be happy to drop said photos in the mail to you. Otherwise, you'll have to look me up at spring training.

No, sorry Eli. No photos for you until I get an autograph.

The baseball portion of this blog is now being duplicated on Blog Spot: Rookie Whites. If you'd like to exchange links, please let me know, links will appear on the Blog Spot location not on Xanga or Myspace.

I've also been doing some hockey blogging through the offseason at Live Journal for the entertainment challenged.

Finally, there was article in the Naples Daily News which related to lefty shooters on the ECHL Florida Everblades and the ratio of lefties to righties in hockey in general. What I found interesting about it was the a number of Canadians in the Twins organization - Justin Morneau, Rene Tosoni and Jon Waltenbury -- all bat lefty even though they they seem to be otherwise right handed.

Everblades president Craig Brush advanced the following theory in the article: "Your top hand on a hockey stick is your strong hand, so if you start playing hockey when you're a little boy, if you're right-handed you're going to shoot left-handed and if you're left-handed you're going to shoot right-handed. All three of my kids are right-handed, Matt played baseball first, he shoots right-handed, the other two shoot left-handed. If you played baseball first, like a lot of American kids do, and you learned how to hit right-handed then you'll shoot right-handed, whereas if you surveyed Canadians, there would be more lefties."

Could all the lefty batting in the Canadian contingent stem from playing hockey first? It's an interesting thought. Perhaps I need to have a chat with our neighbors from up north during spring training this year.