The last outdoor major league baseball game I attended in Minnesota was on September 30th, 1981 at Metropolitan Stadium. It was also the last Twins game at the Met. After the contest ended, I joined the mob that clambered on to the field in search of souvenirs. Somewhere in my sport memorabilia archives, I have a jar that still contains some infield dirt that I scooped up that day and a ripped piece of the canvas that covered the outfield wall.
I also had the "privilege" of attending the first regular season Twins game at the Metrodome the following spring. Between then and now I've suffered through all the indignities of indoor baseball. At times, I grudgingly put up with these artificial conditions as the price to be paid for seeing the local nine in action. At other times--especially on those all too few splendid days of summer--I chose not to spend my time indoors watching baseball as it most certainly was not meant to be played.
It's been a long drought, one that I am happy to say came to end last Saturday. Thanks to Atomizer and his well-placed connections, my eldest son and I were able to attend the exhibition game against the Cardinals at Target Field. Saint Paul and his lovely bride were also the beneficiaries of Atomizer's privileged position as one of the architects of the ballpark and they shared the view from seats next to ours:
Okay maybe they were a little close to the Bob Uecker section, but under the blue skies and warm sunshine at Target Field, there truly ain't a bad seat in the house. With temps in the fifties and bit of a brisk wind, being in the sun definitely made a difference. And our vantage point of downtown was better than in other areas of the ballpark.
The only downsides were that our view of the big scoreboard was skewed:
And the left fielders would disappear from view on well-hit balls. Which at times might be a blessing when Delmon Young is fielding the position for the Twins. It also probably was better not to be within actual earshot when Atomizer and the other members of the "Mortenson Construction Choir" belted out the National Anthem before the game:
The park itself is a beauty. Good aesthetics and attention to detail create a pleasant visual atmosphere. It's not a cookie cutter stadium and definitely has character. Most of all it's built for baseball, which means not only that the dimensions of the field flow seamlessly into the stands, but that the seats are actually set up to watch the game. From a practical standpoint, the open concourses, comfortable seats, good variety of food at plenty of concession stands, and easily accessible bathrooms make for a enjoyable fan experience.
It was my son's first ball game ever and he seemed to have a great time, even if he really didn't know what was going on down on the field most of the time. Four-year-olds aren't exactly renowned for their attention spans and the fact that he last through seven full innings without getting too antsy is a testament to the ballpark's appeal. Rumors that he chucked an empty water bottle in the deck below us are greatly exaggerated. If anyone in our section would be capable of such loutish behavior, past history would tend to point to Saint Paul as the prime suspect.
There's been some whining about the parking situation, but we found it more than manageable with just a modicum of planning. After consulting a map of downtown parking options, I chose the ramp on 11th and Harmon. Yes, it's a bit of a hike, but on a nice day what's wrong with walking downtown? You get a bit of exercise, have an easier exit after the game, and save a spot of change. We paid just $4 to park as opposed to the thirteen clams that Saint Paul shelled out to park in one of the ramps near Target Center. I also saw surface lots charging $5 and then $10 and $15 as you get closer to field. Now, this was a Saturday and I imagine it will be dicier on weekdays, especially for day games. But still, if you do your homework and come up with a couple of parking options beforehand, it should not be a big deal.
My only complaint from Saturday--other than the limited selection of good beers--is that you run into some "can't get there from here" frustration at Target Field. Once you're safely inside the turnstiles, it's fairly easy to move about the ballpark. But before you gain admittance, it can be challenging to get from point A to point B or in our case on Saturday from Gate 34 to Gate 6. Some of this comes with the territory of having a ballpark built on a small footprint in an urban area. It's not going to be as easy to get around the outside as the Dome was. But again, with a bit of planning and forethought, this shouldn't be a big deal to work around.
And work around it I will. After twenty-seven years inside, Twins fans can finally enjoy baseball outside in all the natural elements again. Saturday afternoon reminded me once more just how much fun that can be.
UPDATE: Yes, we did boo the legislators before the first pitch. On a bipartisan bias too, we didn't hold back for the Republicans. Sadly, we seemed to be among the few fans who cared about the legislators one way or another. I suppose when you're in a beautiful ballpark anticipating an afternoon of baseball, abject apathy to politicans is only natural.