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February 27, 2017


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A notes column following a two-week vacation in the Fort Myers area.

I had a career in entertainment marketing and have been a sports fan as long as I can remember. I’ve attended local and national sports events, and enjoyed world-renowned attractions such as Disney World and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, but I’ve never experienced customer relations like I encountered at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers.

The Red Sox’s spring training ballpark and surrounding player development fields are physically impressive but what makes visiting the complex so extraordinary is how fans are welcomed and catered to. On a Sunday when the Red Sox were practicing on multiple fields, there were smiling workers ready to answer questions, provide directions, talk Red Sox history, and offer transportation on golf carts.

Near the stadium, two staffers invited visitors to try a Virtual Reality experience at no cost. There was a short line to use the gear and see a player’s field-level view at Fenway Park. It was an opportunity to sample a technology that baseball’s 30 teams will be making a priority for future fan experiences.

JetBlue Park

Parking was free and there was no admission charge to visit the various practice fields. A tour of JetBlue Park costs $7 but my wife and I found a better deal. We struck up a conversation with a staffer who connected us with another worker who provided a free look inside the stadium. JetBlue, with features reminiscent of famed Fenway Park, opened in 2012—the 100th anniversary of the famous Boston stadium. …

The Twins and Red Sox are based in Fort Myers for spring training while the Rays are located nearby in Port Charlotte. For a top price spring training ticket to see those teams, the Rays are a bargain at $29, compared with the Red Sox at $49 and the Twins $45, according to Florida Weekly’s spring training baseball edition. …

The Red Sox are at spring training without retired slugger and DH David Ortiz. In a move that will haunt Minnesota baseball fans forever, the Twins let Ortiz go after the 2002 season. Ortiz had a storybook career with the Red Sox including last year, when at age 40 he hit .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBIs.

In Red Sox history, Ortiz is second only to Ted Williams in career home runs. He is third in career RBIs behind Carl Yastrzemski and Williams—both former Triple A Minneapolis Millers. Despite spending most of his big league career as a DH, Ortiz will be fast-tracked to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. …

It will be interesting to see if Max Kepler can build on his 2015 rookie numbers with the Twins. The 24-year-old German born Kepler was zinging line drives in batting practice recently after hitting .235 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs last season. His 17 homers were a career-high in five seasons in the minors and majors. …

Dick Bremer, who has been broadcasting Twins games since 1983, turns 61 on Wednesday.

Bremer’s broadcast partner, Bert Blyleven, talks more about his birthday than anyone I know. He will be 65 on April 6. Born in the Netherlands, Blyleven is the pitching coach for that nation’s team in the World Baseball Classic that starts next week. …

U president Eric Kaler was scheduled to be in Naples last weekend on behalf of the University of Minnesota Foundation. …

Vikings executive and U.S. Bank Stadium authority Lester Bagley talks to the C.O.R.E.S. lunch group March 9 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Reservations need to be made by March 6. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, …

Ten of 11 MIAC baseball teams have scheduled games at U.S. Bank Stadium during February and March. After a recent coaches poll, St. Thomas is the choice to win the league title. Saint John’s, where coach Jerry Haugen is in his 40th season, was voted second. …

Bill Barnwell, writing for February 15, suggests Green Bay could soon be the new home of Adrian Peterson (see the January 10 Sports Headliners regarding Peterson with the Packers).

Barnwell wrote the Vikings need to look at a number of offseason moves including what to do with two of their major assets who can become unrestricted free agents after next season, quarterback Sam Bradford and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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