There are few things that can make this Minnesota Twins fan choke up. A two-minute long standing ovation for Jacque Jones, I learned on April 2, apparently is one of them.
It was a special moment, one of many during a night of firsts as the Twins opened their new home with an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals: The first time our players ran onto Target Field. The first time a Twin tripled and slammed a home run into the limestone-lined stands. The first time this Twins fan experienced a major-league game outdoors.
There was the standing ovation given to $184 Million Man Joe Mauer. There was the ever-permeating scent of hot dogs and hamburgers. There was the massive high-definition screen’s very first Kiss Cam.
There was the re-unveiling of five Twins Greats’ retired jerseys, the unveiling of a bronze Rod Carew and the unveiling of what has to be Minnesota’s greenest April grass. And I can’t forget the late-evening unveiling of a clear sky, when the sun finally came out to inaugurate our new ballpark.
What a night.
Top 3 Target Field must-brings
1. For now, long sleeves.
2. A poncho, just in case.
3. If you like food, a wallet full of money. Those Murray’s steak sandwiches will add up fast.
“Be quiet, Yuhas. I don’t want to hear it.”
Those were (almost) verbatim the words that started my game day, as I listened in disbelief while KARE 11’s morning weather guy told me to pack an umbrella if I was planning to head to Target Field. Chance of game-time rain: something like 70 percent.
“An umbrella?” I thought. “For baseball?”
Welcome to the new reality, I guess, where clouds are actually going to matter on a summer morning.
Luckily, they turned out not to mean much on April 2.
About two hours before the game started, just as I headed for Target Field from the Downtown Journal’s offices, the afternoon’s seemingly non-stop rain stopped falling. It never returned.
In its place were some noteworthy charms: Groundsworkers rolling up a tarp while Target Field attendants went seat to seat with towels. A strong waft of grass occasionally drifting through. An amazing moment around 7 p.m., when the clouds fully cleared and the sun showed up just in time for us to watch it set for the night.
These elements convinced me that the ballpark’s no-roof route was the way to go. A little rain — sometimes, it could be for the better. You’ll know where I’m coming from if you like the feeling of a damp summer night outdoors.
And if you just don’t like getting wet, well, run to CVS before the game and buy yourself an emergency poncho. It’ll cost you less than a Big Dog.
Top 3 Target Field during-game distractions
1. “Locate the Building,” a game where one person points to a spot in the skyline and another has to guess the intersection. Several buildings were ones this two-year Downtown resident had never seen before.
2. “Track the Trash,” a game that — like baseball — can really only be played outdoors. When did you ever see a sheet of concessions paper float up and down through the Metrodome, only to eventually land within inches of Michael Cuddyer’s feet? Ah, the great outdoors …
3. Staring at the massive high-definition screen. It’s hard enough for me to turn away from my comparatively tiny TV at home, so this could actually pose a problem.
About those Big Dogs: Wow. I can’t think of a quicker way to forget all about the Dome Dog than chomping into one of those.
Of the ballpark’s four dog options, it’s the closest to everybody’s favorite Metrodome bite — a fat piece of meat in a bun served with a bag of chips. But it also does the Dome Dog one better, as it’s served with an option of sautéed onion and sautéed green pepper toppings.
Speaking of food, it’s amazing how its scent permeates the ballpark. One second, it smells like fried cheese curds, the next like a grill full of dogs. It’s like a summer barbecue on steroids.
Top 3 Target Field moments so far
1. Jacque Jones’ return. The guy probably doesn’t stand a chance of having a huge impact in the majors, but he received the biggest standing ovation of anyone during the game. After a beautiful run-and-catch, he deserved it.
2. Seeing Pat Neshek’s whacky side-arm throw back in action made my night. (Granted, allowing five runs on four hits while recording just one out probably ruined his.)
3. Seeing the ballpark and Target Plaza slowly light up as the sun went down was glorious. A close tie: Denard Span’s catch/triple/home run combo. What a workhorse.
Ignoring the occasional video-board hiccup, watching the game really is as posh as it’s been hyped up to be.
It starts from the outside, with Target Plaza. The massive piece of public art that is Parking Ramp B’s new wall is beautiful, an amazing structure that ebbs and flows much like ocean water. The gold glove is a nice touch, a sculpture that could challenge the Spoon and Cherry for most-photographed in Minneapolis.
Once you enter the ballpark, it’s hard not to stand in awe of the huge concourse, which provides a spacious view of almost the entire playing field. (I took a ton of photos when I got out there, none of which will probably interest anybody. I just couldn’t get over how beautiful the open space looked.)
Now, if you have time, try to take in the views from as many sections as possible. While my game day seats were actually behind home plate (upper deck, but still, behind home plate), I can’t imagine a better place to sit at Target Field than anywhere along the third-base line. You’ll be able to take in the HD screen, Minnie and Paul shaking hands, the lights of Target Plaza and the great Downtown skyline, all while never having to worry about getting a sore neck from having to turn your head.
This fan also appreciates that the garbage burner directly behind that part of the ballpark wasn’t noticed at any point. Not that it seems remotely possible for any hint of a stench to overpower the concessions’ aromas.
Top 3 Target Field kinks
1. The post-game line of people waiting to get on the light rail wasn’t just long — it was really long. If it hadn’t been for 7th Street being in the way, it could have snaked all the way to Mary’s Place.
2. It might have been a one-game deal, but if the replay board is always going to feature back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth video, I’ll have to start bringing along aspirin.
3. The Twins didn’t win the first game at their new home. D’oh.
I had little to complain about on Night 1. As a fan, there just really isn’t much to dislike. But for the sake of injecting a hint of objectivity into my entirely biased account, here’s one thing I was somewhat disappointed by: light-rail access.
Much has been made of MetroTransit’s multi-modal station directly outside of the ballpark, where fans are going to be able to catch the Northstar train back to Big Lake and the Hiawatha light-rail line down to the Mall of America. Apparently, people — a lot of them — listened to the hype.
By the time I got to the station, no more than 10 minutes after Steve Singleton (Steve who?) popped out to second to end the game, I was told to head to the back of the line. It ended at 7th Street; the station is on 5th. The long wait forced my impatient self to ditch the light-rail plan.
However, while that was a disappointment, it ended up being for the better. That’s because it forced me to head out the other way, along Target Plaza. And Target Plaza at night, with the flowing Wave lit up with ever-changing colors, is something to behold.
Twins fans, this is one place to really be proud of. Enjoy it.