Cold Omaha/Zone Coverage, followed the Gophers men's basketball team through the end of their season in the NCAA tournament for 1500ESPN.com, watched Wild games and wrote weekly columns about the team for Cold Omaha, covered two full days of boys' state swimming for the Star Tribune and along the way wrote a few feature stories for various other outlets.
It was a very busy month of March, but it's great at the same time. There's nothing better than covering some of these state tournaments, especially boys' hockey. It's the best state tournament in the country. Still, it's also nice to be done and get a little break, too. Working 80+ hours in one week is kind of a lot.
I had two weeks in between tournaments and the Twins season, so I headed to Fort Myers for a few days in the sun (OK, so I worked a game, too.) Then last week, I still did some Spring Training game work from home. I really felt like I took it easy, almost that feeling of not knowing what to do with yourself when you get some down time. I still worked 40 hours, which felt like about 20. It's easy when so many "work" hours are spent watching sports and writing/Tweeting about them.
All the sports
Anyway, for those that keep up with me on social media, I kept my networks updated with Tweets and story links for all the work I was doing. The boys' hockey tournament didn't offer any dud games this year, which can often happen with quarterfinal blowouts. It was a great tournament from start to finish with plenty of upsets right away, an overtime thriller in the Class 1A championship and just lots of good hockey.
Section final hockey is also fun. The atmospheres are often better than the state tournament, because playing to get there is such a big deal to these high school kids. Swimming isn't one of the most popular sports around, but thanks to my brother's time on his high school swim team, I have no problem getting excited about the meets. The Gophers went on a great winning streak this season before fizzling out at the end in the Big Ten Tournament, then losing in the first game of the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed. I selfishly say it wasn't all bad because if they would have advanced, that meant I was going to have to watch and write about them on my vacation.
Nothing beats a break in The Fort
Fort Myers was great. We really hit the jackpot with the weather. Sure, the winter here wasn't dreadful, but it's hard to be temps in the 80s and sunny skies every day. I got to take in a Twins game from the stands, a rarity for me the past couple seasons. If you don't need to be close to the action, go for the drink rail seats in the outfield. That's the best way to watch the ball game.
The Twins lost that game to the Phillies after a bullpen meltdown. I returned at the end of the week to work a game in the press box doing social media. The result against the Orioles was a tie, something the Twins did four times this spring. Ties in spring training make complete sense, but it's still a little weird and anticlimactic to see the teams just walk off the field at the end of the 9th (sometimes 10th) inning without a winner.
Now that the calendar has turned to April, it's time for the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. It's really hard to believe another season is here already. This past offseason went by much quicker than the year before, mostly because I had a lot more sports reporting freelance work. That's definitely a good thing.
It's no secret last year left much to be desired for the Twins, a team that lost 103 games. The good news? That's a pretty tough task to repeat again, so there's nowhere to go but up from there. The Twins have new bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine in the front office looking to turn the ball club around.
There's already been some uneasiness from fans that the duo didn't do enough in the offseason. Brian Dozier is back with the Twins when many thought he'd be gone in a trade. The price must not have been right for him. With catcher Kurt Suzuki gone as a free agent (with the Atlanta Braves now), the Twins signed Jason Castro, known for his pitch framing and likely a better choice for throwing out runners trying to steal. Through three games, Castro is known for taking walks; he walked four times in one game the other day.
Patience has been the key for the Twins lineup so far, with 23 walks in the opening series. I mean, Eddie Rosario walked twice Thursday. That's a big deal. Patience will also be the theme for the Twins organization as Falvey and Levine work toward bringing the club back to its winning ways that fans grew accustomed to in the early 2000s.
As you know by now, the Twins started off with a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. It's the first time they've had such a good start since 2007. They also broke a streak of eight consecutive Opening Day losses. They've had clutch hitting, strong starting pitching and the bullpen is tossed 10 scoreless innings. The only hiccup so far through the small sample size is Byron Buxton at the plate with plenty of strikeouts. But perhaps he made up for it with his center field defense.
It was a pretty fun opening series; much better than the 0-9 start of 2016. After all the stories, sports and busy tournament-time schedules, I'm definitely ready to turn the page to baseball for the summer. Play ball!