“I have a very maternal feeling towards the players these days,” Linda said. “I’m not Susan Sarandon’s character Annie Savoy in Bull Durham. They’re the sons I never had. But maybe if I were 20 years younger, I’d feel a little less maternal,” she chuckled. Linda went on to explain that she is very proud of the players who develop in the Twins farm system— players she cheers on at the Fort Myers Miracle (High A) games and the Gulf Coast Rookie League games that are also played at the Hammond Stadium complex. There is no better feeling than seeing these players playing in the “bigs” 2-3 years after she gets to know them. She jokingly thanked Twins General Manager Terry Ryan for drafting “nice guys and cuties.” Again with the chuckle and I laugh along with her, she is very easy to talk to and is sharing her passion of baseball, the players and her history with me very easily, which is very much appreciated.
Linda is 48 years old, a free lance journalist by trade which is very apparent when I am asking her questions and she is filling me in on all the details I would need to write this piece. She was a Mets fan when her family lived in New Jersey for a couple of years in the 70s. Her love for baseball started when she was a toddler in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she was born, and where her dad said she would watch Phillies games with him on television and then go outside and hit the whiffle ball around. Her family eventually settled in Evansville, Indiana where Linda went to high school and the University of Evansville, where she received a B.S in Communications.
She has lived in Fort Myers for the past 8 years and attends baseball games as much as possible. She still calls Evansville her hometown and she grew up a mile and a half from Don Mattingly the current manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a journalist, she has interviewed Don along with former NFL players Bob Griese and Kevin Hardy, former NBA player Calbert Cheaney, PGA golfer Jeff Overton, and former MLB pitcher Andy Benes and former Twins infielder Jamey Carroll. What do these players have in common? If you guessed that Evansville is their hometown you would be correct!
As we sit talking behind home plate at Hammond Stadium on this beautiful cloudless warm February afternoon, Linda points out the changes that happened since the last baseball season. She explains the left field grassy berm is new and the whole outfield has a new walkway to spots where fans can get home run balls she tells me excitedly. Linda says that if she ever gets married her husband would need to be a baseball fan or it probably wouldn’t work out since she loves to spend her summer days and nights at the ball field. She has never been to the new Target Field in Minnesota and jokes with some of the players that she wants to be their date for the All Star Game which is being held there this year.
Linda says she does her homework when it comes to the players and has developed somewhat of a rapport with them as they have come through the system. She inquires about their injuries, kids, weddings, hobbies and other life moments, and she says the players seem to really appreciate it when they are away from home, she treats them like normal people even though they get to live out a dream, she understands that their is a lot of pressure on them to perform. She also loves interacting with other Twins fans who are knowledgeable about the team, she especially likes to dissect the different players and positions they play and guess on how the season will unfold.
The Twins are now her favorite MLB team and thinks they are one of the most fan-friendly teams in the majors; howerver, she says the 1973 New York Mets will always be a special team for her, and Tug McGraw, a relief pitcher on that team, will always be her favorite player.
Linda said she “stalked” (her word, not mine) Tug in 2003 at the Phillies spring training complex and got to meet her idol, which was bittersweet because 3 days after meeting him he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and died the following January. Linda says she has been passionate about baseball her whole life, she was the only girl on her Little League team and played competitive softball for 27 years. As a pitcher, she imitated her idol Tug by slapping her glove on her leg when coming off the mound, and by wearing Tug’s number 45 on softball and volleyball jerseys, and she had a phone number that ended in 4545. She is grateful that she got to tell Tug all of this before he passed away. Linda thinks he got a good chuckle out of it and it made his day that he was still remembered.
For those who want to know more about Tug McGraw click on the following link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tug_McGraw and yes he is Tim McGraw’s father…
Linda you were a great and easy interview, I understand the draw and allure of baseball, you have gentleness about you that I enjoyed, keep that passion for the game and I am sure Terry Ryan will keep the Twins flush with “good looking” baseball talent!
If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014” which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html . Please also share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!