illustration by Samara Pearlstein
—It was hot in Minneapolis. Really hot. Really, really hot. The kind of hot where you need to take a shower after the first inning because it is also stupidly humid and everything becomes disgusting upon immediate exposure to the air. It is a little difficult for me to accurately judge a ballpark under those circumstances* because I’m so busy being miserable about being hot, but Target Field still seemed nice.
Wiiiiide concourses, everything still clean and new (the seats aren’t busted-up yet and so on), radio piped into the bathrooms, friendly employees so far as I could tell, very little seat hounding from ushers even though the park was full (although there also seemed to be very few seat jumpers– maybe this is a Minnesota politeness thing? or maybe it was just too hot for people to mess around), multiple Dippin Dots stands, and the limestone looked better in person than it does on TV.
Nice park. I like the way they’ve embraced the innocent goofiness of the logo with the Minny and St. Paul characters shaking hands in front of the state of Minnesota. I like the way they set off fireworks for the ‘bombs bursting’ bit of the National Anthem. I like how easy it is to walk there from the downtown area. I wish the field had a slightly less regular shape, and I do wonder how good the view is from some of the seats way up high, but overall a very nice park. Nicety nice nice.
—Seriously though, there is a line on my scorecard where I can note the temperature at a game, and for the Friday night game I just wrote “humid, hot as balls.”
—We accidentally stayed at the team hotel. Let me tell you, it is really A Thing when you get into an elevator and Jim Leyland is right there. And then the doors close so nobody can escape and then your dad makes a small speech about being a lifelong Tigers fan, which is only slightly mortifying, but Jim Leyland is wicked gracious and does not act creeped out in the least. That is definitely A Thing.
—Lester Oliveros was also there for this bit. He wasn’t going to get on the elevator but Leyland called him Ollie and told him to cram himself on in.
—There are multiple video boards around Target Field, so the Twins can show a lot of different things at once. They had simple facts about their own players (favorite sport aside from baseball, favorite food, etc) showing on one when each guy came up to bat. For Michael Cuddyer, they listed his ‘favorite stores to shop at’ as Target and Best Buy. FOR REAL.
I mean, I know those are major sponsors, but that seemed somehow much grosser than the Target bullseyes around the field or the Best Buy logos on the dugout rail padding. Tell me you sponsor the team, shove your logo in my face, fine, whatever, that’s how things have to be in MLB these days. But don’t lie to me about Michael Cuddyer’s favorite place to shop.
—Fried walleye is a ballpark food. It comes on a stick. I did not eat it.
—Some ballplayers are not very big when you see them up close and off the field (Oliveros, Andy Dirks). Some of them are about what you expect (Rick Porcello, Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera). Then you have some who, like Papa Grande, seem normally scaled in uniform and on a baseball field, but are ENORMOUS seen in other circumstances. I don’t mean he was fat, because he actually seems less potato-shaped in civvies, but Papa Grande is a LARGE MAN, and you do not appreciate this properly until you are standing right next to him.
—Papa Grande has a diamond-encrusted watch that probably costs more than I would make in 5 years.
(This got super long, so the rest is after the link!)
—Maybe this is because my home ballpark is Fenway, which is small and easy to circumnavigate in a short period of time, but I swear the Target Field crowds were THE SLOWEST MOVING CROWDS OF ALL TIME. Even in those super wide concourses, the crowd was SO SLOW. Trying to walk most of the way around the ballpark ~20 minutes before the game started on Saturday was like trying to swim through molasses. What are you people DOING? If you all just WALKED AT A NORMAL PACE, this would not be an issue!
—I was not a fan of the hot dogs. They’re really thick, like not a normal intestine, more like the lower large intestine of the hog, if you know what I mean, and I know you guys all know intestines. I also wasn’t in love with the flavor, although it wasn’t terrible. I prefer a hot dog that tastes more like beef than pork regardless of its provenance, for obvious reasons, and this was not a beefy hot dog. But the size was the most off-putting thing. I couldn’t finish mine.
My dad and brother both liked them, though, so clearly YMMV.
We were at the freakin’ team hotel. We saw the entire coaching staff, most of the players, and Rod. We never saw Mario. I am starting to suspect that he doesn’t actually exist, and in that case I must commend the FSD digital animators for their fine realistic modeling and texture mapping work.
—There was a Rockies scout going around, doing his Rockies scout thing.
—There were loads of Tigers fans at the Friday night game. Not so many at the Saturday game. This may or may not be the case in other parts of the ballpark, but I never felt like it was not OK to cheer for the Tigers in Target Field (in other words, NOT the Fenway Park experience).
—On Friday they put up a video board fact about their double-A minor league team, but had them up as the “New Brighton Rock Cats”. The Rock Cats are in New Britain. The mistake was still up for the Saturday game. The RotT little brother, who went to school in Connecticut and works in minor league sports, was filled with disgust. Their own affiliate!
—They do this pregame thing where they have two little kids in miniature bear mascot uniforms come out with TC Bear. It is pretty aggressively adorable. I was surprised that the kids didn’t keel over from heat exhaustion, though.
—Brennan Boesch and Andy Dirks went out together for a night on the town, or whatever the Minneapolis equivalent of that would be. It was like 9pm on Saturday when we saw them going out, so don’t worry, they were not being irresponsible.
—Justin Morneau is on the DL but I spied him in the Twins dugout, keeping Joe Mauer company when Mauer was waiting to bat.
—Speaking of Mauer: I had heard that the Minnesota media was getting a bit ugly about him and his injuries, but none of that was evident in the ballpark. He had two not-great games while I was there (0-for-7 with one walk) but was given nothing but enthusiastic cheers, and I saw approximately 40,000 Mauer jerseys, shirseys, and other shirts on Twins fans. In fact it seemed to be a law that if you were a Twins fan, you had to have on a piece of Joe Mauer apparel, and if you did not, at least one other person in your party had to wear one.
—If you type ‘Mauer’ enough times it stops looking like a real word, even by proper noun standards.
—One good thing about the incredible heat: it had a bunch of Tigers wearing their socks up. On Friday the high socks were sported by Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly, Victor Martinez (at first base), Carlos Guillen, and Papa Grande. On Saturday they were worn by Brad Penny, Victor Martinez (DHing), Carlos Guillen, Don Kelly, and Raburn. I was disappointed in Magglio and Miguel for not wearing them. Carlos looks great in them, though.
—The Target Field bullpens are constructed so that there is very little separation between the home and away sides. Sure enough, we spotted Papa Grande leaning on the fence and fraternizing freely with the enemy in the middle of Saturday’s game.
—Former Colts and Bengals tight end Ben Utecht sang the National Anthem on Saturday. He was quite good.
—Jhonny Peralta seemed wicked chatty with the Twins. He was chatting more than the first baseman both days, and everyone knows that first basemen are supposed to be the heavy duty schmoozers. Maybe he’s extra friendly because he’s been so ridiculously successful against them of late.
—Hot. As. Balls.
*I had similar problems with Camden Yards. Everyone has told me how nice it is, what a beautiful template it was for all the new-old-style ballparks, etc, but when I went there it was about ten thousand degrees with oppressive humidity, so it was really hard to concentrate on the park’s positive aspects when all I could do was violently hate it for existing in July in Baltimore.