Twins fans: Who are these guys?
The Jays sent a ragtag group of representatives to play the Twins in Fort Myers today, led by Dustin McGowan, John McDonald, Reed Johnson, Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas. Meanwhile back at the ranch. it was a loose and relaxed morning for the true Blue Jays. It was fun to be around, watching grown men acting like kids. And why not? It is a game.
Frank Thomas seemed to be everywhere, like Forrest Gump. Wherever you looked, there he was looking over someone's shoulder in the money shot. When Armando Benitez threw his bullpen session to Sal Fasano, with Bruce "Pappy" Walton watching, there was the Big Hurt standing in the batter's box with a war club on his shoulder watching strikes buzz by. Hey, that sounds like his game action so far.
"Wow. I thought he was behind," Thomas said of Benitez on his way to hit on the main diamond. "He had good stuff, in and out, hitting his spots."
Then, when Thomas took his hacks, even despite his 2-for-28 struggles, the other guys, showing no mercy, were cackling and howling whenever a Hurt bolt would fail to clear the fence and ohhhing and ahhhing in mock admiration when he crushed one into the trees. He seems to be fitting in much better with teammates this spring. Then, amazingly, there was Frank, shagging in the outfield -- not too vigorously, but present nonetheless.
At the end of the morning, the highlight was Alex Rios bringing his five-month-old hobby out onto the field -- a four foot long, gasoline-powered, remote control helicopter. As Rios set up, refuelling his impressive looking machine on the warning track in front of the bullpen, one of his teammates remarked jokingly, "I'm staying away. I don't trust a Puerto Rican with a sharp object in his hands." This was just men being boys. Rios quickly showed his proficiency, as the copter rose into the air and toured the empty stadium apparently looking for traffic tie-ups or O.J.'s Bronco, chasing a lone jogger on the warning track and alarming the ospreys nesting in the light towers.
Rios, after a 15-minute flight plan, brought the chopper in to land and handed the controls to Roy Halladay who can often be seen flying his own airplanes inside the Rogers Centre late into the post-game night. After Doc had aimed the copter straight at the gathered media corps, veering abruptly off into the sky, we wondered if it was equipped with machine guns. A good way to control the news. Ouch. Standing off to the side, among the half-dozen curious players to come out for the air show was, of course, Frank Thomas.