It's September, and minor league baseball players are normally packing up their cars or pickup trucks for the drive back to their homes. The year 2020 is anything but normal.
"It's really weird. It's a weird feeling that we haven't, nothing's really happened, and it's about time that we'd be going home," Tom Hackimer said.
Hackimer had been anticipating starting the year with the Minnesota Twins' Class AA Southern League team in Pensacola, Fla. Instead, he's been in an apartment in Fort Myers, Fla., most of the season.
"It's not too bad. I've been down in Fort Myers the whole time," he said. "I've had pretty nice weather and not too restrictive of a lockdown to work in. That was nice."
Hackimer, a Long Island native, pitched for the Pittsfield Suns in 2013 while he was playing baseball at St. John's. He turned down the New York Mets, who drafted him in the 15th round of the 2015 First Year Player Draft. One year later, Minnesota drafted the right-handed sidearm relief pitcher, taking him in the fourth round.
This was to be his fifth year in the Twins organization.
"For me, the frustrating part is the thing that I have to work on is command, basically," Hackimer said in a phone interview with The Eagle. "There's no way to show that really, without throwing in games, which I haven't been able to do — because we're not playing.
"That's really the frustrating part."
Hackimer was part of a 25-27 Pittsfield Suns team that was led offensively by Great Barrington's John Kinne, who hit .323 to lead the team, and Kyle Singleton who hit .306 with six home runs.
Hackimer provided the Suns a quality one-two punch in the bullpen with former Detroit farmhand Adam Whitt. Hackimer was 1-1 with a 2.54 earned-run average. He appeared in 12 games and threw 17 2/3 innings. The reliever struck out 24 and gave up only three earned runs in his last 11 outings.
In 2015, instead of signing with the Mets, Hackimer pitched for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League. He was 1-1 with a 0.47 ERA. He had 10 saves in 18 appearances. He struck out 28 in 19 1/3 innings and walked only six.
In 2019, Hackimer split time between Fort Myers in the Class A Florida State League and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He was 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in nine appearances at Fort Myers. Moving 585 miles to the northwest, Hackimer was 4-2 with a 3.27 ERA in 27 games for the Blue Wahoos. He struck out 48 and walked 19 in 41 1/3 innings, and averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Major League teams sent some 30 minor league players to alternate sites. For example, the Red Sox had their farmhands working out at Pawtucket. The Twins were using CHS Field in St. Paul as their alternate training site. Coincidentally, CHS Field is where the St. Paul Saints of the American Association play. The Saints are owned by the Goldklang Group, who also own the Suns.
Hackimer, who had been in Florida since January for a development camp, had not been in the Twins' Major League camp, so staying in shape early on was a bit of a challenge.
"For a while, fortunately the apartment complex I'm staying at has a little bit of a gym that was still open, so I got to work out there which was good," Hackimer said. "I bought a bike and did a lot of bike riding before the weather got too hot down here, and just throwing with my roommates who are still around."
The pitcher said he expected to start the season in Pensacola, spend at least a month in Double A, before possibly heading to Triple A. The Twins' Triple A team is the International League's Rochester Red Wings.
"We don't really know" what the plans are for the immediate and long-range futures, he said. "There's been a lot of stuff floating around, but it's been very much in the theoretical realm because we don't know what's going to be feasible over the next few months."
Hackimer did say that he had been looking forward to the 2020 season.
"I've had some definite ups and downs, but I think that happens to everybody," Hackimer said. "I thought that this year was going to be a very good year for me career-wise. The virus came along and there's not much you can do about it. I've tried not to dwell too much on that."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.