Twins fans

Friends Shawn Lee (left) and Dean Roles are headed to Twins training camp in a couple of weeks.

When asked how he decided to attend the Minnesota Twins 2009 Spring Training Camp, Dean Roles said that the decision wasn’t actually up to him.

Instead, he was “told to go” by his wife Ann, an instruction that he was all too happy to follow. At a surprise 40th birthday party last year, the accountant for the city of Mankato received tickets to the spring training camp — which begins Feb. 14 when pitchers and catchers report — along with the announcement that his good friend Shawn Lee would be traveling to the camp with him. The men, who met through their mutual day-care provider, bonded over the fact that they are both sports fanatics, especially when it comes to the Twins.

Of the two of them, Roles and Lee agree that Roles is probably the bigger fan, although not by much.

“I have a couple of years on Shawn, so I’ve been at it longer,” Roles said.

Much to his wife’s chagrin, he has also managed to get their three children, Carter, Brooklyn and Nicole, interested in the joys of fandom, too, especially when it comes to rooting for the Twins. The kids aren’t too thrilled with the fact that their dad is going to spring training without them, but Roles is sure to bring home a souvenir or two for each of them to add to the many bobbleheads, baseballs and bats that currently decorate his basement family room.

Even without their families accompanying them, Roles and Lee are anticipating a relaxing week in Fort Myers, Fla.

“I’m looking forward to just being there,” Roles said as he listed baseball in the spring, fresh cut grass, the warm sun and enjoying the Twins in general as the obvious highlights of the upcoming trip.

Lee said that he is looking forward to being around his favorite sports team, seeing the players and enjoying a vacation from his duties as a teacher at Mankato’s RiverBend Academy Public Charter School.

The Twins training camp is similar to the Vikings training camp held in Mankato every summer. The facility where the camp is held, Lee County Sports Complex, has five fields that are used for spring training so there will be plenty of activity going on.

“We’ll be able to watch the players from the fence and the stadium,” Lee said.

Networking with other fans has given them a heads-up on what to expect. The two plan to get to the camp early and hopefully have a chance to chat with the players as they enter the park. They plan on watching plenty of practices, seeing a few games and getting all the autographs they can.

Roles hopes to get Justin Morneau’s and Denard Span’s autographs, and his kids have requested that he brings home Joe Maur’s signature for them. Lee has met most of the past and present Twins but said that he never gets tired of seeing them.

Practice is held every day until around 2 p.m. While Roles and Lee are at the camp they’ll have the opportunity to see the Twins play exhibition games against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

They’ll spend their evenings at a no-frills motel about two miles from the camp. To keep costs down they made sure to find a suite that offered a microwave and a refrigerator. “Can you say cold beer and frozen pizza?” Roles said.

With the rough winter Mankato has been experiencing, Roles has a few qualms about the weather when they fly out of Minneapolis.

“I don’t want to be stuck in the Minneapolis airport,” he said. “But it’s OK if we can’t get out of Fort Myers.”

When all is said and done, Roles and Lee’s week of fun in the Florida sun will cost each of them around $1,000. For a couple of Twins’ fans, the price tag will be more than worth it.

Roles admitted that he definitely owes his wife a special gift on her birthday. He said that he considered bringing her along to the training camp next year but that he is fairly certain that he might have to come up with another idea.

“Actually, I’m sure this present screams ‘week away with the girls somewhere nice with room service.’”

Lee disagreed. “We will never make up for this. It will be ammunition forever.”

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