ORANGE — Bradley Hanner flew to Florida in January in preparation for his first full season of professional baseball in the Minnesota Twins organization.
That journey was placed on hold last week when Major League Baseball suspended the final two weeks of spring training because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I wouldn’t say much panic was going on,” Hanner said. “It was more of just like I wonder what will happen with us. We had a mandatory meeting at 6 p.m. [last Friday] and we all kind of knew we what was going on. They just told us we were being sent home.”
The former Orange County High School standout was one of a handful of minor league prospects in the Twins’ organization invited to an offseason camp at the club’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida.
“I was one of 25 people who were here in early January,” Hanner sad. “Most of my teammates and such got here in February.”
While in Florida, Hanner had been working on his craft as he tries to build off last summer’s introduction to professional baseball.
After two standout seasons at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Hanner was selected by the Twins in the 21st round (629 overall) of the MLB Draft.
He signed a month later and was assigned to the Twins’ rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League. In 11 appearances, Hanner compiled a 2-3 record and a save in his introduction to professional baseball. In 26.2 innings, he allowed 13 earned runs on 16 hits and struck out 30 to post a 4.39 earned-run average.
Last month, he celebrated his 21st birthday just before all pitchers and catchers reported to training camp and has been focused on getting better.
“It’s work, every day,” Hanner said. “You stretch, you run, you lift, you throw every day.”
The right-hander said spent the offseason trying to gain velocity on his fastball. Hanner got involved in the Twins’ weightlifting program and started throwing weighted balls more to help build up his arm strength.
Early returns this spring were promising.
“I feel really good right now,” Hanner said. “I’ve thrown in an inter squad [game] one time and I threw one inning and struck out three. My fastball was sitting at 92 to 94 [miles per hour] and I’ve been up to 95. Down here so far, I feel like my arm and everything is starting to get stronger and work together.”
That development was halted last Friday when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred cancelled the rest of spring training and delayed the start of the season because of the coronavirus.
Hanner admitted that the decision was meet with mixed reviews, especially from the minor league players as they compete for roster spots throughout the organization.
“The teams break at the beginning of April and we were all fighting for spots for different [minor league] teams,” Hanner said. “Now we have to go home until further notice. I know as much as everybody else. I don’t know when we will be coming back [to play].”
The former Orange County standout was expected to join the Twins’ Class A affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, next month in the Midwest League.
Instead, Hanner flew home Tuesday to Central Virginia and will continue to train and prepare for the start of the season, if and when it happens.
“I will work out every day and throw just like I was down here,” Hanner said. “I plan on hooking up with some of my buddies from different organizations and throwing live to them. Nothing will be different for me. I have the resources at home to do everything I need.”
Hanner’s training regimen includes three days a week of weight training and running sprints. In addition, he throws five days a week as well as other baseball stuff throughout the day.
One of the toughest parts for Hanner is not having the one-on-one training sessions with the coaching staff.
“The biggest downside is not having somebody there to tell you if you’re doing something wrong,” Hanner said. “You can be doing a workout a certain way and you might think it’s right, but it’s wrong and they will tell you.”
Hanner has already coordinated workouts locally to remain sharp. He’s contacted several friends from other organizations and they plan to work out together in Charlottesville until the season resumes.
“Nothing will change for me except I will need a sweatshirt when I throw,” Hanner said.