Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Outdoor Baseball is Back!" and so are we

My insistence that Melvin and I include the final season of the Metrodome in last year's cross-country itinerary is old news. Melvin, who lived in Minneapolis for several years, enjoyed sharing this plan with Twins fans encountered along the way, playing straight-man for the inevitable and universal reaction: "Why?" Most, regardless of whether or not my explanation made any sense to them, followed up by asking if I would come back for the opening of Target Field in 2010. Like many questions ("Do these pants make my ass look fat?"), there was only one answer. There was no doubt I wanted to, but I had no idea how that would happen. As it sadly turned out, Melvin and Watson and I went to Minneapolis for today's celebration of the too-short life of Roger P. Miller. Melvin's ex-wife Red also attended the memorial, which exceeded the capacity of the room. All four of us went to Target Field yesterday and Melvin and I will go to Miller Park tomorrow, but two baseball games are not why we made the trip.

Target Field is stunning. This is no "retro-park" but a stadium for the 21st century. The exterior is native Kasota limestone, the large golden blocks rusticated individually to break up the massing, with glass and metal features. Shoehorned into a site where downtown meets the Warehouse District, there isn't a lot of public space outside. This is particularly true on the north side, hard up against a co-generation plant, where most of the walkway is taken up by an ad hoc queue for the light rail stop right outside the stadium. However, Populous managed to make a walkway above a street into a plaza on the south side. I took this picture --
-- to compare to a picture from the same perspective last year.

The tight site results in a very intimate stadium. We sat five rows from the top, albeit above first base, and the seats were excellent. The concourses are comfortably scaled and offer, if you can elbow through the sold-out crowds, fine views of the field. I had a Cuban sandwich, a salute to Hall of Famer Tony Oliva or just marketed that way. It was tasty but maybe not worth the wait--they can only make them four at a time. There are numerous food options, with many local establishments represented. Summit, from St. Paul, was our beer of choice. The beer wasn't the only thing that was cold; it was chilly in the mid-September shade. The Twins are going to the post-season for the sixth time this decade but 2010 will be the first since "Outdoor baseball is back!"

The Twins beat the Athletics 4-2 on Danny Valencia's three-run homer in the sixth. On the way out of the stadium, we stopped to chat a bit with Sam Graves (right), who with Michael Sacks blogs "on baseball, accessibility, Target Field, and more!" On the day we saw Sam, he posted his thoughts on the Twins post-season pitching, scooping Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse by a day. Another post-season debate is who the Twins are better off facing in the division series, the Yankees or the Rays, whichever is the wild card. Having lost to the Yankees three times (2003, 2006, 2009) in the ALDS, the consensus is the Rays. Then again, it's not like the Twins have a choice.

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