Twins lend hand to Habitat for Humanity

Twins lend hand to Habitat for Humanity

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Getting instruction from Twins' hitting coach Joe Vavra on how to swing a baseball bat is a daily activity for infielder Nick Punto.

But receiving instructions on how to hammer in a nail -- not exactly the same case.

That's precisely what happened on Monday morning though, as Punto and a few other players gathered with Vavra outside of Hammond Stadium prior to the team's workout to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

"It's definitely a different kind of day," Punto said with a laugh. "It's especially odd when you have your hitting coach over there instructing you how to hammer the nails in there. 'Stay short, stay short -- don't take a long swing.'"

Monday's event was part of an initiative by Major League Baseball to help those affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The Twins are one of 10 teams to be involved in the project in help build a house that, when possible, will be designated for families in areas struck by hurricanes over the past year.

Punto was just one of the Twins players that took time out of the day to lend a hand in building the house. Despite a busy schedule filled with picture taking, physicals, an MLB players association meeting and trying to squeeze in a workout as well, a few of the Twins still found time to help out in any way they could.

Putting together the walls of a house may not be a usual activity for baseball players, but it was equally an odd sight for fans coming to watch the Twins workout. Seeing the players decked out in white hard hats and tool belts in the parking lot was enough to cause many a double take.

"Crowds have been stopping by to see what's going on," said Dani Johnson, director of communications for the Lee County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. "It's great because people have stopped to ask questions about why we're doing this."

The setup for the build on Monday was a little more unique than most. Yellow tape roped off the area of the parking lot used to build the walls for the frame of the house. Putting together a house in the shadows of a baseball stadium isn't exactly a common occurrence for the group.

"Normally when we build, we build all the walls in our warehouse in North Fort Myers, drop the walls on-site to where the slab has been poured and volunteers raise walls on the slab," Johnson said. "This is definitely something we've never done before but it's been a great experience."

Twins general manager Terry Ryan and team president Dave St. Peter were also among some of the other Twins staff that came out early on Monday morning to help with the building process. Manager Ron Gardenhire and former Twins greats Rod Carew and Tony Oliva helped to put up the final wall of the house before the crew took the finished frame back to the Habitat warehouse in North Fort Myers.

While the construction job was something that most of his players hadn't been a part of before, Gardenhire said that the day reminded him of one of his first jobs.

"When I ran with the firemen when I was young, I used to frame houses with them on their off-days," Gardenhire said. "That's what I did and I loved it. I'm dangerous here though because I think I actually know what I'm doing."

Giving back to the community is something that the Twins organization as a whole has become known for so it wasn't a surprise when the team decided to add a little extra to their donation.

At a luncheon for media and local leaders in the Southwest Florida area on Monday afternoon, the Twins Community Fund presented Habitat for Humanity with a check for $100,000. The money should be enough to help fund two additional houses for families who have been affected by the recent hurricanes.

The Twins were connected with the project due to the fact that Hurricane Wilma brought quite a bit of devastation to the Lee County area and other neighboring counties. The initiative to help out the area the Twins call their second home was something that everyone felt was a necessary thing to do.

"The fans out here are great just like they are in Minnesota," Punto said. "It's definitely nice to do something down here for them. Someone here is going to get a beautiful house and just to be a part of it is a great feeling."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.