Becoming a Baseball Town
October 1, 2006 11:02 PM
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.
And that's enough to make a great baseball place.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.
"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 3046 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Harmon is visible (barely) at the very center of the crowd.
Uh oh. A code of conduct. Clearly posted. I'm not gonna mention any names, but you know who you are... (Click to enlarge.)
The bases for the player statues have been recently upgraded.
An early concept drawing for the site
The Ron Coomer corner features a bar.
Where you are, and where you can go.
Section 125, Row 1
Plaza extension reaches toward First Avenue
The brown grass was left over from the first attempt at groundbreaking (canceled after the 35W bridge collapse)
4th inning in the thinning crowd of the Grandstand.
Another over-my-head shot
Photo by Jeff Ewer (Click to enlarge.)
Visual depiction of current stadium legislation
This area will supposedly show the Twins chronology. Will it stretch back to 1901?
Ben took this picture of me (carrying my mostly useless camera) and Twins rep Chris Iles down by the admin building
Miller Park: Gymnasium with skylight (Source: RP)
Looking through the Oliva gate, you can see the outfield stands.
An arch under construction.
Bench seating just off the plaza
For executive entertaining
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
The future history of Minnesota ballparks will go here
Denard Span ready, in a swoop of sunlight.
The canopy as viewed through the outfield stands. The lighting approach, despite what you may have heard, is actually very traditional.
The same section seen from Target Center. Yep, looks like bridge supports.
Click to enlarge greatly. See yourself?
Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures