As the Twins were readying to face Chicago on Wednesday, their second home more than 1,500 miles away in Fort Myers, Fla., was near the center of Hurricane Ian.
The Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday afternoon, battering Florida's Western Gulf coast with 100 mph winds and a storm surge that threatened to flood the area with more than 12 feet of water. The Twins' spring training facility is about 10 miles inland from the beach and also houses one of the team's minor league affiliates, the Mighty Mussels.
Several players keep homes and vehicles there for when they train in the offseason. Third base coach Tommy Watkins is a Fort Myers, Fla., native, while manager Rocco Baldelli has many friends in the area after spending much of his playing and fledgling coaching career in neighboring Tampa Bay.
Watkins said his family chose to ride out the storm, something they've done for every previous hurricane. Watkins checked in with them frequently, learning they had lost power around 3 p.m. Wednesday but were otherwise doing well.
"Some left and some are bunkered down and waiting this thing out, and it's scary," Baldelli said. "… I don't want our facility to get beat up, but I'm not worried about the facility. I just want to make sure everyone gets out of this OK. That's the focus."
Baldelli said it's hard to watch from afar knowing there isn't anything he can do but hope. But he mentioned he's already looking forward to how he and the Twins organization can lend any aid once the full extent of the damage is clear.
Matt Hoy, the Twins senior vice president of operations, said the Twins started making preparations for the hurricane this past weekend, including sending instructional league players and training staff home by Monday. The staff down there also readied the stadium, including removing any banners or ads on the outfield fences that could fly off and cause a hazard.
In 2017 for Hurricane Irma, the Twins let the county use their academy dorms to house about 60 first responders in between rescues shifts. They're doing the same this year, including acting as a staging area for any emergency vehicles or equipment.
Several injured players, who all rehab at the Florida facility, came back to Minneapolis this week, partially because of the hurricane and the team needing to find a safe place for those major league players. But having them back in town has also given them a chance to go through their end-of-year physicals with the team doctors and reconnect with teammates. Pitchers Kenta Maeda, Chris Paddack, Jorge Alcala and Jhon Romero, plus outfielder Trevor Larnach, are some of those familiar faces back in the clubhouse.
"Normally, you don't have an entire wing of guys coming in all at the same time," Baldelli said. "… It is an unusual set of circumstances where they're all here at the same time, but it's good to see all of their faces."
Sandy Leon was in good spirits, hobbling around the clubhouse Wednesday on crutches, his right knee all bandaged from his recent surgery to repair his meniscus. The catcher is one of several injured players officially ruled out for the rest of the season, which ends next Wednesday at the White Sox. But he might not be the last.
Jorge Polanco, dealing with tendinitis in his left knee, is unlikely to play again in 2022, per Baldelli. Larnach is the same after he endured a wrist injury while working back from his operation on a core muscle injury.
Right fielder Max Kepler, though, might just make a comeback in the next seven games despite hip and wrist issues.
"Kep is still doing some baseball-related things," Baldelli said. "… We'll see how that goes, and we'll see if he has any chance of coming back and returning at this point."