Target Field: First Time!

(Click on pics for full-size.)

The new job has  continued to really suck up my creative juices, which has made it very hard to write blog posts. It’s not for lack of ideas, I have months worth of those in the pipeline. The problem is that my job now consists of writing lots of formal documents and endless emails to try to get others to implement designs.

That makes other writing seem like more of the same; just another day banging out thoughts and ideas. Not fun. I miss the fun. Unless this job stabilizes somehow, I may have to all but give up blogging until I retire.  (Fortunately, that could be as soon as this June… I’m very tempted!)

Anyway, for now, a post from last year from my all-but-defunct baseball blog:

My First Trip to Target Field

The Minnesota Twins are rained out tonight, so the first game against the Chicago White Sox is postponed until a later date. It’s our fourth rain out this year; the first three came in April. We’ve already made up one of those (in a double-header, double-loss April 28th, but let’s try to forget that). We owe the Damn Yankees a game (to be determined) for the April 6th rain out, and we’ll play the Cleveland Indians on July 18 for the April 22 rain out. April showers may disable Mauers, as the saying goes. At least, I think that’s how the saying goes.

In other news, the Detroit Tigers took the Indians tonight, so the Tigers are now the champs of the American League Central Division. The Tribe has slipped to second place, which was not unexpected. They’re 2-8 on their last ten compared to 7-3 for the Tigers. As has been mentioned before, it’s looking like the Tigers are the team we need to beat. Kudos to Tigers’ pitcher, Justin Verlander, who threw a shut out and had a no-hitter until the eighth inning (the eighth seems the point where many no-hitters fall; Twins pitchers Frankie Liriano and Scott Baker both lost their no-hitters in the eighth this past weekend).

As an aside, baseball games are a bit like a good cigar in that the last third can surprise you and be quite different from the first two-thirds. I’ve smoked many a cigar where the last third was not at all predicted by the earlier, greater portion. Some have gotten so good at the very end, you want to smoke them until they burn your fingers. So, too, I’ve seen baseball games turn around in the later innings and become very different from what came before. My thought is that it’s because a pitcher begins to wear out as the game goes into later innings. There’s often a window between when a pitcher’s performance flags and when he’s finally replaced with a fresh pitcher. And sometimes a fresh pitcher takes a while to lock in or, in some cases, is having a bad day. Either way, opportunities exist later in the game to change the game.

Which all, in a round about way, brings me to the topic of today’s article. Since the Twins are rained out tonight, gather around the fire, and I’ll tell you the tale of My First Trip to Target Field.

As I’ve explained before, I glommed on to baseball late in life, and being a re-born Minnesotan (I was a Minnesotan in an earlier life during my Wonder Bread years), naturally I became a Twins fan. This all happened last year, in 2010, which was also the inaugural year of the new Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins.

Any Twins fan needed to be there at least once that year. You can hardly call yourself a Twins fan if you didn’t go at least once that year. I’m a single guy (ladies!), so going out has lost some luster, but I really did want to make the pilgrimage to our new Mecca of baseball. I finally got my act together enough to go October 2nd for the penultimate game of the regular season.

It all happened through serendipity: someone in my office, for a charity drive, was selling tickets. The pressure to go was enormous, and time was most definitely running out, so I jumped at the chance. (Target Field, in its inaugural year, and a year in which the Twins were doing well, was sold out for the season, so tickets weren’t easy to get.)

Well, we’re talking October here; October in Minnesota. The ticket I got turned out to be in section 330, which didn’t mean a lot to me until I got there. I went as early as possible (about 11:00 for a 1:10 first pitch time) so I could explore and check out the place.

Turns out the ticket was for the last row in section 330, which put me about as far out in left field as possible. Very high. Very, very high. Those sections are steeply graded, too. I made the climb up to my seat, and two things were immediately apparent.

First, I was in a state of near vertigo! I could just see myself getting up to get a hot dog and tumbling down the steep, steep steps and—with my luck—bouncing over the railing and falling to the level below. “Man dies in bizarre baseball park fall,” is what the headline would read. Laugh if you must, but too many events in my life lie far outside the bell curve. It’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen to me.

Second, there was a cool (no, let’s be honest: cold) breeze blowing in from outside left field, and sitting in the last seat it hit you smack dab in the back of the neck. The air temperature was cool enough; the breeze put it right out. (Or in this case, Left Field out.)

These seats, I said to myself… Will. Not. Do. So I carefully repelled my way back down to saner altitudes and sought the box office. “Can you find me any seat, any seat at all, that’s better than this?” I asked the very nice man behind the glass. (Remember, we’re talking sold out season in 2010 at Target Field, so I had my doubts.)

Well, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, they did have a seat. It was in the Legends Club, section “A” (just a bit beyond first base). Not a regular seat, but a seat in the wheelchair section. That puts you at the back of the built-in seats, in a folding chair, but it also grants you tons of arm room. And I’ve found that, as with most venues, arm room is not a common commodity. When you’re built along the short and stocky lines, as I am, arm room is a blessing. Not that I don’t like close physical contact with my seatmates… no, actually I hate it.

That wasn’t the only blessing. These seats, at the back of the section, made it easy to get up and take refuge from the cold in the closed in section that comprises the Legends club. This part is closed unless you have a ticket, so the concession stands aren’t as crowded, and they have these wonderful glassed-in fireplaces. Perfect for putting your wrists directly on the hot glass to warm up.

And make no mistake; it was chilly. At one point I went and bought a pair of Twins gloves to help keep my hands warm. But enough about the cool seat or the cool day; let’s talk about the cool game.

One more aside: I recently stumbled across an article on the AARP site that suggested that words such as “cool” or “whatever” were in the past for folks my age. To which I respond: kiss my grits (which, yes, I know, dates me). I’m not one of those who think dyeing your hair fools anyone, so my hairs are grey, but my heart is young enough that I enjoy rap music. So the seats were “cool.” Whatever.

As Twins fans will recall, the Twins had a good season and clinched the Division title for the sixth time in nine years when they played the Indians at home on September 21st. (For the record, Scott Baker started and pitched five innings, walked one, struck out seven and allowed only two runs (one earned). Matt Capps closed the ninth 1-2-3, and the pennant was ours 91-60. Cool, right?)

The problem is that the Twins kinda fell off a ledge after that. In the last eleven games of the season they were 3-8 (.273; ugh, blech, yuck). They took the Tribe in the final game of the series and then won only two more games for the remainder of the season. (And let’s try to forget how the Damn Yankees knocked them out of the playoffs 1-2-3.)

But one of the two games they won was on October 2nd, and I was there to see it!

On that October day we played the Toronto Blue Jays. Brian Duensing pitched five innings and gave up four runs (all earned) to the Jays. Meanwhile the Twins only posted three, which looked like another loss for us. (In an interesting bit of foreshadowing, Alexi Casilla hit a two-run bloop double in the fifth inning that took the game from 4-1 to 4-3.)

No one scored in the sixth, seventh or eighth. The Jays went down 1-2-3 to Matt Capps in the top of the ninth. Then came the bottom of the ninth: our last chance…

Delmon Young doubles. Joe Mauer flies out; Danny Valencia flies out; two outs. Ben Revere replaces Young as pinch runner. Jason Kubel walks, and is replaced by pinch runner Jason Repko. Jose Morales walks, and bases are loaded.

And now Alexi Casilla steps up to the plate, takes strike one, swings at strike two and takes three balls; full count. Pitch six: foul. Pitch seven; foul. Everyone in the stands is on their feet. Pitch eight, and Alexi Casilla knocks it right up the middle! Revere scores; Repko scores… The Twins Win!!!

And that’s why Alexi Casilla will always be my favorite Twin! His two-run walk-off single won the first Twins game I saw; the first Target Field game I saw (in its inaugural year); and one of only two wins in their last ten games. (And it’s arguable that his two-run double in the fifth inning positioned that win, which makes him a double game-winner!)

“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” —George F. Will, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, 1990

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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