FORT MYERS, FLA. – It will never carry the emotional impact of photos of Texans desperate to stay alive during last week's devastating Arctic blast, shivering in their cars or burning furniture to stay warm, nor should it. But the image of a baseball player firing fastballs at a gym wall all by himself, propping open a door for light in his electricity-deprived city and pitching despite temperatures in the 30s, might represent to some the whatever-it-takes attitude that the Twins count on to carry them to another division championship this fall.
Or so Tyler Duffey hopes.
"It's kind of what had to be done at that point," Duffey, a lifelong Houston resident, said on a video call with reporters on Monday from Twins training camp. "Guys in the north, they do that all offseason, stuff like that. Especially after COVID last year, you just find a way sometimes. It worked out."
Now he's working out daily in Fort Myers, putting one of the craziest weeks of his life in the past.
"It was a pretty wild four days for us. We didn't have water. A lot didn't have water or power, so therefore no heat," Duffey said. "We were fortunate that our families lost power and water back-and-forth, so we bounced around from house to house."
Making sure his extended family stayed safe meant Duffey skipped his flight to Fort Myers on Feb. 15, but the situation improved enough by Thursday night that he, his wife Sarah and 10-month-old son Teddy were able to head to Florida.
"It's a pretty awful scene in some of those places," but warm weather has restored a bit of normalcy to his hometown, Duffey said. "It'll be a busy month for plumbers fixing all the broken pipes. Hopefully some good comes from it, and makes some changes to stuff around Houston and Texas as a whole."
Andrelton Simmons hasn't yet reported to Twins camp, but the glove-and-arm highlight show is due to begin on Tuesday. Matt Shoemaker was a big fan during their seasons together on the Angels, to the point where actual words, and even made-up ones, don't do it justice.
"Amazingness. That's such a bland word to use," Shoemaker said of his not-actually-in-Webster's description of the four-time Gold Glove shortstop. "There's more to it, right? Having him behind me just excites me through the roof."
Asked to describe a particularly physics-defying play, Shoemaker pleaded not ignorance, but abundance. "Not one single one. The reason is, it happens so much," the fellow free-agent signee said. "A lot of backhanded in the hole, maybe jump throws, balls up the middle with glove flips — all kinds of stuff."
Getting used to it
Duffey said the players he's talked to take this year's COVID protocols seriously, and for good reason. After earning only 37% of their paychecks last year, they know that literally hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in playing all 162 games in 2021.
But after successfully navigating that 60-game season six months ago, Duffey said, 2021 should be easier, simply because it all seems so routine now. Mask-wearing is mandatory practically everywhere in camp except the pitcher's mound and batter's box, he said, but he long since became so used to it, he would wear one without realizing it.
"I was sitting [in my hotel room], like, 'Man, it's warm in here,' and all of a sudden I realized I'm wearing a mask," Duffey recounted. "It's 11 o'clock at night and I'm in my room by myself. You have to tell on yourself for that one, but it's all fun."
The gang's all here
The Twins will hold their first full-squad workout in Hammond Stadium on Tuesday, but only after some opening ceremonies at home plate. Rocco Baldelli will address all 74 players — well, the 70 or so who have arrived safely and cleared virus testing, with the exact number still in flux on Monday — with a microphone on the socially distanced playing field, rather than the normally intimate setting of the home clubhouse.
The team will also be welcomed, and briefed, by President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey, clubhouse manager Rod McCormick, head athletic trainer Michael Salazar, Senior Director of Communications Dustin Morse and Senior Director of Team Travel Mike Herman.