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 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
First Avenue at left, bike parking area at lower right
One of the sweetest sights of the day -- the Dome, and only through passing bus windows.
Wrigley Field. Paradise? Not from these seats.
Twins president Dave St. Peter presents his list of fan suggestions to the Ballpark Authority
Best view available from the "B" ramp.
Emergency access as viewed from outside the ballpark
Looking back toward the doorway into the club
There are no caddies in baseball.
I love views like this. They show just how much Target Field shimmers. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
New Concept Drawing - No Roof
Look at all that blank space. Canvas! (What should go on those walls? A giant schedule perhaps?)
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
The outfield stands taking shape.
Not me, but it might as well be.
Complicated pedestrian crossing
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow! (I loved this place as a kid.)
A Killebrew tribute covers part of the wall where the entry doors are located near the escalators.
Hardware in the window! (But why are there three trophies? 1924?)
Um, I think that guy is out.
2014 Twins ASG promo bat.
Champion's Club details (click to enlarge)
TC gets ready to release the hounds. (Kids get to run the bases after Sunday games.)
The original Candlestick Park
Main concourse, looking toward the admin building.
The LRT station, sitting in a brand new urban canyon, takes shape.
Then you turn around to this!
The entrances are all the way around on the other side.
From the roof of the Minnekahda building (courtesy Bruce Lambrecht).
The Northstar circulation building is starting to take shape.
Looking from near the entry doors toward the center, the atrium is just visible at the far right.
Heaters over standing room (the backs of the retired number circles visible above)