Mar 22, 2013 at 7:20 am
Fort Myers, Fla. (KNSI) - An afternoon game for the Twins means an early morning start to work for the grounds crew here at Hammond Stadium. Before the sun is even up, the rakes and drags are already out.
P.J. Botwell is the groundskeeper year round at Hammond Stadium, keeping the playing surface immaculate for the Twins, the minor league Fort Myers Miracle and the numerous amateur tournaments played on the field. In spring, he gets some help, in the form of a big name in the field of turf management.
George Toma, his business card tosses in the middle initial of P, has been one of the best in the business for close to 70 years. His career started when he took over the grounds operations working for the Kansas City Athletics, placing him in the town in which he'd later be a fixture. Charged with the upkeep of the fields for the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Cheifs as a day job, spread his wings around the country working Super Bowls and as a turf consultant, even once for the Minnesota Vikings when they re-fitted their practice fields.
I got the privilege of sitting down with Toma to talk about his past experiences and the road that has brought him down to Fort Myers each year. Hear that entire conversation this morning on the Bob Hughes show on KNSI.
So what does Toma do around here? Well, he mostly takes the time to heap praise on his younger counterpart Botwell. In Toma's words, there are a lot of good baseball grounds-keepers in Major League Baseball, but "none of them could shine PJ's shoes." High praise from the man who graces the cover of a paperback that dubs him the "Nitty Gritty Dirt Man."
And so it is Botwell and Toma that greet the day here at Hammond this morning. Going through their routine, taking pride in their work, and prepping the field for this afternoon's 12:05 CST first pitch vs the New York Yankees.
I will have a bird's eye view of the handiwork of the grounds crew at Hammond today for the big league game. It is very exciting to know I get to see the Twins in a big league spring game for the first time. Maybe it is just hope springing eternal, but there is a good feeling around here about what this team can do.
Today on the air, a pair of legendary Twins. Along with the words from George P. Toma, my conversations with Tom Kelly and Tony Oliva will be featured on the Bob Hughes Show later this morning. Then this afternoon as you listen to SCSU Husky Hockey on KNSI, be sure to keep the radio on during the intermission reports for my live check ins on Twins vs Yankees here from Hammond.
Day baseball in Spring Training! A feeling unlike any other.
KNSI's coverage of Twins Spring Training, directly from Fort Myers is brought to you by Foley Lumber and Milaca Building Center, Jackson Hewitt, Bristow's and New York Gyro. Hear J.W. all throughout the day on the KNSI Morning Show with Don Lyons, The Bob Hughes Show and Ox in the Afternoon. Coverage continues this weekend on the KNSI Saturday Morning Show with Dave Phipps and The Benchwarmers.
Temp: 16°F (-9°C)
Wind: 6mph S
Wind Chill: 7°F