Irene Jacobson, at right, her daughter, Linda, center, and their friend, known only as "Goldene from Owatonna," are faithful Twins spring training attendees at the stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Irene Jacobson, at right, her daughter, Linda, center, and their friend, known only as "Goldene from Owatonna," are faithful Twins spring training attendees at the stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. SUBMITTED PHOTO
For the past 12 years Irene Jacobson, 94, of Wykoff has traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., to see her favorite team in spring training. This year was no different as she and her daughter, Linda, watched the Minnesota Twins from March 19 to 26.

She and her daughter have been fans for many years as was Irene's late husband, Burton.

"We went to the World Series in 1991," Irene explained. "We had tickets that Sid Hartman had in the paper. You could send in to buy the tickets. They hadn't made the playoffs yet, but I thought that my husband, Burton, would want to go, but he didn't, so Linda and I went. We went to all but the sixth game."

The pair had been baseball fans long before the '91 World Series, and after Burton died, Irene and her daughter, Linda, were restless to travel and became interested in being spectators in the stands under the palm trees, escaping the late-winter Minnesota blues. Traveling to Florida was a great way to gear up for their favorite sport's season, taking in the wins and losses.

That first trip south - over a decade ago - was the beginning of something big...like "baseball-Chevrolet-Mom-apple pie" big.

They've stayed at an extended stay motel each year, located approximately five miles from the stadium, taking taxis to and from games. They root from the outfield, ducking when there's a stray ball. Together, Irene and Linda have sat through rain, long hot afternoons and have met up with a delegation of dedicated baseball ladies from Owatonna to talk statistics and rookies.

The two enjoy having a stadium snack or two and shopping for microwavable meals at the Target store neighboring the motel at night. Irene admitted she loves occasionally going out to a local pizzeria for thin crust pizza.

They're so devoted to baseball that they've even made side trips to small ball diamonds while on social visits in Minnesota and Iowa. Irene recalled they once made an effort to see the minor league teams getting into the final innings.

"We went to a wedding in Iowa and we stopped in Cedar Rapids to see the Kernels play. Byron Buxton was already up before we got there." Linda explained, "He's one of the top minor league players."

This winter threw Irene a foul ball, however, as she was diagnosed with cancer and had to be hospitalized for surgery. This lady certainly wasn't down for a strikeout, though. Once her doctors declared her well enough to be released from the hospital - sending her off with instructions to return several times over the next three to five years - the big decision to go to Fort Myers had to be made.

She related, "When I had surgery, we didn't know if we were going."

Her daughter declared, "You were feeling better, and I decided that if the pipes freeze or not, we've got to go."

They packed their suitcases, boarded the plane, settled into their motel, taxied to and from the games, rain or shine, and cheered the team at spring training.

Both women admit they have doubts about the current Twins lineup - they liked the well-known names such as Puckett, Morneau and Mauer. However, their loyalty to the Twins remains steadfast.

Irene stated, "It's just fun to see them win, but right now, they aren't very good. They aren't going to get anywhere, in my opinion."

Linda appreciates that "it's a summertime game," something that she and her mother can take in together and talk about after they've returned home from Fort Myers.

Irene counts her blessings each morning and in the moments throughout the day that she's still nimble enough to travel to Florida.

She also enjoys an opportunity to stay home with Linda, watch sports on television, give advice on what to plant in the gardens surrounding their house and to take in a day made by God.

"I thank God for being able to do things - that the cancer didn't spread to other parts of my body," Irene added. "I feel he has other things for me to do in life. Otherwise, the cancer would've gone through other parts of my body."

Irene has grandchildren and great-grandchildren whom she loves and prays for all the time that everything will be all right for them. She is also grateful to her daughter for caring for her.

Finally, the ladies like watching other sports on television, though they don't like hockey because it's too hard to keep track of who has the puck.

Irene noted, "Now, we're watching the Timberwolves."

Linda concurred, "We watch and yell at basketball now.