Metrodome memories

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October 12, 2009 // UPDATED 11:37 am - October 13, 2009
By: Mike Oakes
Mike Oakes
When I moved to Portland from Minneapolis five years ago, I would tell people it wasn’t my beautiful family that was the hardest to say goodbye to, but the Minnesota Twins.

Then, when a close friend — another Minneapolis transplant — asked in June if I’d be interested in getting tickets to the Twins’ Metrodome finale, I said of course, adding:

“Hopefully we’ll be playing for something.”

Ha.

How could we have possibly guessed that day in early summer that we would not only see a finale that meant the season for our beloved Twinkies, but also witness the next day the very best baseball game we will ever see in our lifetimes? Not hyperbole.

Because of this game, my life as a Twins fan changed. And I imagine it changed Tuesday for 55,000 other fans who were lucky enough or fortunate enough to be contained in what is considered possibly the worst venue to see a game in the majors. But in multiple moments where it was probably the loudest place on earth, we were in some sort of party paradise fairytale land.

The significance of the game was unquestionable and obviously very tangible. But the magnitude of the moment hit me like a ton of bricks in a strange way.

It was the moment my ticket was swiped and I was handed my second Homer Hanky in two days, and it struck me: I could double-fist my hankies, and if everybody did the same, we could together lift this team on to our magic white-cloth carpet and fly to a Central Division title. I started to feel light as Jason Kubel’s bat, and confidence started to spike. Good things were going to happen.

Twenty minutes prior to game time, it occurred to me I should probably deplete my bank account because I would not want to be limited in the amount of food, beer and merchandise in which I douse myself.

The concourse at that moment was like a preview of Madison Avenue in summer: hot and sardine-like. How long must that ATM line be?

Somehow, as if ordained, I approached the machine uncontested, and it wasn’t even out of order! Things were getting better still. I opted to not view my balance out of fear, and I was in business.

It was as we approached our seats in Section 227 that the nerves seriously set in, and I started to wonder if things were going too well.

I started to consider, as the small blue dots scattered throughout our Dome became filled in, Rick Porcello’s poise and prowess for a rookie. I started to consider the failures of late from Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier. I started to wonder if Michael Cuddyer was human after all.

But worry gave way to feelings of elation, brotherhood and renewed confidence as the Twins took to the turf for the final time in any regular season.

What happened over the next four-and-a-half hours is all at once a blur and a series of crisp snapshots. We all know how the Tigers scored early and for a brief moment, quieted the raucous dome. And how Orlando Cabrera’s unlikely power display made the dome erupt anew, ensuring it could be heard by neighboring fans in the Dakotas. Then hushed again by Magglio. The roof then blown off again when O Cab finished the ninth with a head’s-up, less-conventional double play. Then Alexi was a goat. Kind of. Then Lil’ Nicky threw home on a slow chopper instead of trying to turn a double play that wouldn't have happened. “Eighty-five percent of second baseman would've tried to turn two there,” said my A's-fan buddy who joined us for the weekend (the Twins are his second-favorite team, and he bought a Cabrera shirt). Back and forth, inning by inning, pitch by pitch. I felt like a restless couples' bedsheet.

In the twelfth, after three minor heart attacks, I helped Alexi out and told him he was going to win it right then (I might have even said it out loud). On the next pitch, the crowd lost its collective hearing as Carlos Go Go hydroplaned home and leaped like the Superman we know he is into his teammates arms. I jumped out of a shoe. We jumped into one another's arms. Strangers hugged strangers and it would take forever to come down.

From a selfish standpoint, I'm excited the TBS-broadcast-game was the only show in town for sports fans nationwide (the Wild home opener notwithstanding). I'm excited national media and baseball pundits embraced the game and that some understood it as one of the greatest games ever played. I thought about postponing the partying to go watch everybody and their mother sing our team's praises on every sports highlight show and on every sports page.

As we spilled one more time through the wind tunnel corridor into the din of blurred street lights and hoarse voices still working out powerful screams, I turned to the dome and puffed my chest.

Behind us, vehicle owners oblivious to the cold rain hitting their upholstery blasted “We are the Champions” and high-fived passersby. A horn symphony ensued. And I stared at what my father affectionately called the Metrohump in pride.

When I was a child, the place was all I knew of professional baseball. My mother took me to see the Twins and Tigers in the '87 playoffs. Later, I would go to dome playoff games in 2002 and 2003. And by now I've visited beautiful parks all over the country, and understand now how awesome watching good baseball outdoors truly is. I'm 100 percent sure I will love getting snowed on at Target Field. But a huge chunk of the baseball me is filled with personal and awesome Metrodome memories.

As we turned and started to walk away, my mother called. “You were there in 1982, by the way,” she offered. I was 2, she had taken us when she was eight months pregnant with my sister, and we sat in right field. What a beautiful surprise. I had no idea I got to book-end the Twins’ tenure in the dome.

And we had no idea we'd make division-era baseball history Tuesday. But we did.