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Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Dinner With Johan: Visiting Spring Training At Fort Meyers In 2000


It was the Spring of 2000 when I first saw
Johan Santana, that kid with the wide back
and big legs.  It wasn't even 3 months after
the Y2K scare, and 8 months before the
contentious Bush-Gore Presidential election.
 OK.  There was no dinner.  Or a cup of coffee. Or even much eye contact.  That would have seemed a bit weird, for him and me. But I did score 21-year old Johan Santana's autograph ten years ago, (thanks to Mark, my brother-in-law doing the hard work with the program below) in what was the lefty's first spring training with the Twins. He had been a rule 5 pickup by the Astros from Florida before being traded for Jared Camp the previous December.


Yes. He has a lovely Palmer script. Large portion at end of post.
I was content just scouting the "new guy" from a set of bleachers with a bag of peanuts while young Santana traveled with the other new recruits on the 2000 Twins roster from one workout field to another at the Hammond Stadium field. His first big league manager, Tom Kelly, kept his charges pretty busy, with various drills, batting, and fielding practices going on simultaneously at several fields in that morning's workout.


Memory serving me correctly, I saw Johan and
some other rookies enter the field near Section 115
(past third base)at Hammond Stadium on that March day in 2000.
Click on image for larger view.

What, exactly, is a rule 5 draftee? For a summary of it's whys and whereofs, I'll let this excerpt (from Fanhouse site, Dec. 8, 2010) link tell the story, if you're so inclined.

On a lark, we (Mark, my sister-in-law Nancy and I) had taken a 4-day jaunt down to Fort Meyers for a few days of warmth and baseball in March, 2000.  That's a golden memory of details worth repeating for print another time...

In any event, it's fun to think I was a witness to the beginning of the career of one of the greatest Twins pitchers to date. Johan went on to have three years of up-and-down  success (with an11-9 won-loss record) before becoming a sensation as a starter in mid-2003.  Credit pitching coach Bobby Cuellar for some minor league refining on that cool, circle change in 2002 at Edmonton AAA before sending Santana back as a polished lefty! 

The skinny on the "new kid."
I attended his first major league game on April 3rd, of 2000, in which Brad Radke gave up a homerun on the first pitch of the game and of the season to Gerald Williams of Tampa; yet, I don't remember seeing him pitch that day.
No, this Johan didn't invent a printing press.  But he could pretty
much print his own money after signing a 6-year contract in Feb., 2008
with those city slickers from the Big Apple. [sigh].
#36 Butch Huskey (right half) was the "big" off-season signing for the Twins.  Ay caramba!
May Your Taters Fly Far!
TT

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