What makes a great baseball place? Great teams and great stories, that's what.
It doesn't happen overnight. It happens over generations. And for those of us among the first generation of Twins fans, it's been a long time coming. But I smelled something other than RBIs coming from the Metrodome today. It smelled way more like the beginnings of a cultural shift than just a division championship.
Justin Morneau, mobbed after a game-winning homer on June 9
Some say that Minneapolis just isn't a baseball town. Maybe it's because on an average weekday in August you have to wade through 12 pages of pre-season football coverage in the Strib to get to the box scores of games that matter. Maybe it's because the hometown nine play baseball in the corner of a football field. Maybe it's because the mainstream media is way more into scandal than stats.
But don't believe it. If the lively blogger landscape hasn't convinced you otherwise, check out the 40,000 people who stayed for 45 minutes after the end of a game to watch a couple of innings taking place very far away. For every person there, 400 more watched the same thing unfold on TV. That's more than just cool. That's the sign of a community that gets it. That's the sign of fans who have come to realize that the game is as small as a single pitch, and as big as a 162-game rainbow -- and you never know exactly which moment is going to matter most.
While other sports hogged the spotlight, baseball in Minnesota has been simmering for a couple of decades -- some would say languishing -- under a teflon lid, just waiting to be let loose. It's been right there all along, growing deep roots and the occasional blossom. We didn't know it, but this town was becoming a great baseball place.
One of those blossoms is before us now. This team may play on fake grass, but boy do they play. They play like today matters, and tomorrow will take care of itself if they just take care of today. They play as if yesterday's elbow troubles are as stale and flat as 2004 locker room champagne.
They play with their wits and their muscle, but also with their noses. And fish glue. And tiny super-heroes. And big lumber. And sideburns. They play with their hearts and boundless joy. And they have written a very good baseball story.
And that's how baseball will get you every time. It's the stories that draw us in and teach us the game. If the reaction to Kirby's death proved only one thing, it's that these great stories don't just stay with us, they define us and become us. Before you know it, you discover that this game is in your DNA -- that it's been there all along. Wherever this happens, you have a great baseball place.
Oh sure, it has something to do with winning. But it also has to do with a hometown batting champ who isn't pretending when he "aw, shucks" his way through a thousand TV interviews. Or an MVP candidate who looks truly shocked when asked what it's like to live in such an accomplished household. Or a Gold-Glove centerfielder in his contract year who plays and celebrates with as much joy as a Little Leaguer. Or a Cy Young candidate who can't stop talking about his teammates. Or a back-up catcher with enthusiasm strong enough to infect you as you watch from your couch. Or a fisherman who insists on taking the ball one last time.
Hennepin County may have cooked up the plan, and the Legislature may have approved it, but the 2006 Twins earned their new ballpark by giving us a story we'll tell for the rest of our lives. They, with their predecessors and teams yet to come, have shown us why we need this game and why we love it. They sealed the deal with four months of the best baseball we've ever seen in these parts. And they are not done.
We don't know what the line-up will look like when the Twins run out onto the freshly-mowed field in 2010, but one thing is for sure: the story of the 2006 Twins will be there with them. The stories of Kirby will be there with them. The stories of Harmon and Tony and Rod and Bert and Kent and every other player who ever wore a TC cap will be there with them.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Solution for a hot night, just inside Gate 34 (that's a cool mist, by the way, not hot steam, which would be kind of cruel)
From the TV camera platform -- the view you'll see on TV
Good seats, but no scoreboard or sky.
A close-up of the rooftop party deck.
Banners on the parking ramp are a great touch. They help manage scale and turn a lemon into lemonade. On my way there today I passed the WCCO building and remembered how the Twins schedule used to be painted in giant form on the side of that building (which is no longer visible). Wouldn't that be a great thing to resurrect on the side of that ramp? A giant Twins schedule. I always thought that was cool.
They can put a camera just about anywhere. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
This is the LRT path looking from the ballpark site (behind me) toward downtown. The line currently ends about two blocks up this street. This bridge over I-394 is also being partially rebuilt as part of the ballpark project.
Someone please get those poor people a drink of water. (Gate 34, after the game had started)
For those who have never seen it up close, that's what it looks like when steam comes out of the HERC plant.
Stairs down to the sidewalk from the skywalk over Seventh
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".
The right field foul pole seen against a backdrop of Butler Square (itself a site of great significance in the history of professional baseball in Minneapolis)
The lot within the lot.
Now looking north, the tracks emerge from beneath Seventh Street as freight tracks only. The Northstar line ends at the northwest corner of the ballpark. One day, however, you can bet that other passenger trains will approach from the southwest metro on these tracks -- if our legislators are smart and persistent, that is.
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
Life in the shadows
Plaza extension reaches toward First Avenue
Trampled, repaired, and re-trampled grass
Nathan greeting the other pitchers on the all-Metrodome team (October 4, 2009)
The renderings and concept model differ here. MOJO thinks this is the perfect place for a party deck. Dave St. Peter seemed to agree!
Bag checking at Ball Park Lanes was incredibly simple, as was the pick up later. The line was short and fast-moving.
Greatest spot in the city for cooking up some hot dogs. And would you kill for that grill?
Perhaps these very bold, Hitchcockian birds picking at left-over popcorn and peanuts were portents of what was to come.
Click to see the full-size image.
Scoreboard as viewed from Fifth Street.
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
The entry from the platform to the ballpark.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)