So you spent the whole winter longing for spring, more specifically a spring filled with the return of your favorite pastime. "I'll take anything," you thought to yourself back in January, "just give me some damn baseball."
Well, how is that working out for you?
But if you think that you're not having much fun, imagine what it's like in the clubhouse.
Actually, come to think about it, they probably know better than to read too much into two weeks of baseball, especially when there's some sort of virus going around (which nobody would publicly blame even if it were the case).
Just for fun, I looked back at 2010 and found no less than six days when the Twins were 5-10 in their past 15 games. Anybody remember that big swoon last June? Nope, me either. How about the last two weeks before the All-Star break? OK, I do remember that one, but I had to dig in my memory past the 12-3 that they were in their last 15 games of July, and the baker's dozen other days later in the season when they were at or better than that record. (The peak was 13-2 on September 16.)
At Bat 2011 -- Should You?
The free version of MLB's At Bat app for my Droid 2 was sort of stifling, so I ponied up $15 for the upgraded version. At this point, it actually seems pretty much worth just about that.
You get the Gameday feed, access to either team's radio broadcast, in-game video highlights, and a few other digital trinkets.
The biggest draw for me, based on some reviews I read, turned out to be a bust. I'd read that I would be able to watch the condensed games after the fact, but that turns out not to be true (it must have been in the beta version sent to reviewers). Those remain available only to MLB.tv subscribers (which I am not).
Even the promised free live daily game turned out to be a bust when my first free game was the Twins in Tampa Bay and it was -- you guessed it -- blacked out. So this means that I don't exactly get a free game every day, only on those days when the Twins have not been selected as the free game, which presumably happens once every two weeks.
Both video and audio quality have been passable to good on my home wifi network. Haven't tried it on 3G yet, but I'm not especially hopeful. And I've had about one lock-up per day while using the app. It's the only app on my phone which does that, and it usually happens while video is playing.
I'm taking comfort in the fact that it works out to about $3 a month for a reasonably good scoreboard (better than I could find for free) and the ability to watch a few highlights.
Before you buy, check to make sure your device is on the supported list, and that you have wifi available most of the time. Many reviewers complain about video and audio quality, but it seems to be noticeably worse on those devices which didn't make the list, or are getting data through the cellular network. Overall rating: C+
Dr. X went a step further, noting with an air of hope that, "in 1991, the Twins started off 4-10. During those first 14 games they had a seven game losing streak, and in only two of those first 14 games did they score more than four runs. They were shut-out three times."
A big difference worth noting is that expectations for the team have changed quite a bit in the past 20 years. Nobody was wringing their hands over a slow start for a team which had finished the previous season dead last in the league. (The Braves, by the way, emerging from a similar basement, went 7-7 to start the 1991 season.)
Nevertheless, numbers are numbers: World Series, here we come! (And the only NL team at 7-7 this year while the Twins were 4-10 was the Cubs. That will be a helluva WS!)
My point, as if it has to be made, is that teams slump, and only accumulations of slumps doom seasons. These early games may count, but they mean very little in the larger scheme of things. The 2011 Twins are far from doomed, as we saw yesterday (well, as you saw; I was watching Toronto at Boston, and only saw a handful of highlights on my phone -- see sidebar).
And before anybody accuses me of being a Kool-aid drinker (I know, you're already crafting your comment in your head), realize that, like you, I'm painfully aware of how thin the ranks are when the stars aren't performing (or even present). There are a lot of eggs in a relatively few baskets on this team. Jose Morales sure would have looked good on this roster, just for starters. Bill Smith, we need your best stuff now.
And speaking of sugary drinks, here's a little nugget from the back of a current Justin Morneau baseball card (one must always believe what one reads in such a context) which may be explanatory:
Could the departure of Nick Punto really be responsible for this whole mess? Perhaps the question we all need to be asking is, "Who's making Justin's Slurpee now? Whoever he is, can him!"
On a slightly more serious note, I do wonder just who is the current life-of-the-party in that clubhouse. And who is the spark plug? Punto's stats may not have been much to write home about, but he did get a lot of credit (both from inside and outside the organization) for instigating the Twins' style of play over the past few years.
(You will be forgiven for thinking that is the job of the manager and coaching staff.)
I'm late in getting to this, but I had a blast last Saturday night in Section T. It was great to meet so many of you, and my apologies to anybody that I missed.
It was a chilly night, but I never wished I had an extra layer.
As you can plainly see in the image, the french fry lights were on. At one point I hovered on the Captain Morgan deck, but the heat didn't really seem necessary. (Also, I was more than a little out of place among that crowd.)
These guys were there, but it wasn't any of you, right?
Gardy was honored before the game for his Manager of the Year win (hold your tongues, now), and Tom Kelly was there to celebrate with him. Later he caught a ceremonial first pitch from his wife.
It had threatened rain all day, but I only got a couple of drops on my scorecard during the late innings. And at one point, I even saw some sky almost peak through the overcast.
At one point, for technical reasons I'm told, all the ribbon boards in the ballpark went dark for about a minute. Kinda creepy. Makes you wonder how baseball fans knew when to clap and make noise before there were ribbon boards.
The Powerball winner was just a few seats away. People sure seem to love getting on the big scoreboard.
There was also a very big bug which landed near us in the aisle and was summarily squashed by the bottom of a beer bottle, amid screams -- literally -- from people nearby. I've never seen anything like it, but it was probably some sort of flying cockroach. It was, indeed, huge and very creepy-looking. Can anyone provide more entomological illumination?
The new tower added to the interesting reflections visible in the Metropolitan Club windows.
As ballpark amenities go, the tower has to be classified as a confection. But the clock at the top is handy, and the whole setup out there adds to the park's distinctive shape.
A revolutionary element? No way. Welcome? Absolutely. Distracting? Not in the least. Useful? Not really (except for the clock).
The video board is definitely useful, and an essential addition for folks in certain parts of the ballpark.
Sure would be nice to cover that metal grid with more wooden louvers, eh?
I should note that Twifi was again a no-show, but I hear that it's gotten better since then, albeit at a game which was not sold out.
Though the official explanation was "a 'weak link' in the technological chain," I have to wonder if they underestimated demand. I know that my device tried to stay connected even when I wasn't actively using it. If 30,000 people's devices did the same thing, that's roughly double the capacity they designed for. Just a thought.
Don't forget that the next scheduled BPM night will be August 23, and that we may have other opportunities before then. I'll let you know.
Former Twins DJ Kevin Dutcher got in touch with me about a program he produced for The Current:
It's called "A Decade of Twins Music Memories", it's an hour of anecdotes and music from my 11 seasons with the club. If you've followed the Twins for the past decade I think you'll enjoy it!
I didn't get a chance to listen live, but the show will ultimately be available for archive listening here.
I've read a lot in the comments about disdain for the new music, and I have to say that I didn't really notice it one way or the other. The exception would be that extremely annoying "clap your hands" bit. I noticed that one because everyone around me behaved like Pavlovian dogs when it came on, and it seemed to come around way too often.
The sound at TF remains a very big challenge. From the concourses you can't hear anything. Maybe that's by design, but I think it's a shame. No matter where I go in a ballpark, I should be able to hear the hitters announced. That's a cardinal rule.
I also have seen mention of this very weird silence before the Twins take the field. I am in agreement that this sort of sucks all the life out of the crowd at exactly the moment they should be pumped up.
In a different world, silence before a big crowd cheer would be welcome. But in a world where the pregame show has been (literally) blaring over the speakers for 45 minutes, silence at that point feels like somebody has missed their cue.
I'm sure there's an explanation (pregame show ends, team not ready to take the field maybe?), but it's a pretty awkward moment at pretty much every game.
And finally, props to the concession stand behind section T (between the escalators and the Townball Tavern). I had the single most delicious burger I can remember -- not just at the ballpark, but anywhere -- during the middle innings. Juicy, flavorful, the perfect temperature, on a very fresh and tasty bun, with fresh and tasty lettuce, tomato and cheese. With lots of perfect fries.
The food at TF (like any ballpark) is sort of hit and miss. This one was just perfect. I'll remember it as the perfect antidote to a slump.
As I left TF after BPM night, I realized that the sky had cleared when I saw this:
A banana-moon over a ballpark. Ahhhh, there's my happy place.
Ain't life grand?
More pictures are coming from opening day. And the online games (with prizes) will start as soon as my new system is fully functional later this week. I hope to have the first one up for the Cleveland series. Watch for it!
Also, be sure to check out TC Traders for tickets. Listings are coming and going pretty quickly, so you may have to be fast, but the deals have been pretty good.
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This page was last modified on May 29, 2011.
"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.
Click to enlarge greatly.
"I've never seen them do that before," said a Metropolitan Club waiter as I snapped this picture.
Train. (What is it about baseball and trains?)
I see an opportunity in this view for an Abbey Road-style promotional photo! Mauer, Morneau, Nathan and Cuddyer walking toward the ballpark. The only question: which one takes off his cleats?
Gate 29 "Carew" is at right.
Up there is where I plan to buy a lot of hot dogs. You can see the vending areas developing rather quickly around the completed portion of the upper concourse.
The shade of the canopy gives way to a brief shaft of light. It would do the same again a short while later when the sun passed through that tiny open sliver between the View and Terrace levels.
Press box, hallway to the print room
Note reflected sunset (7:30 PM). Could be a worry...
2007, Noah's first game (Torii's last)
Here is the most recent outfield configuration, captured from the animation video. We probably shouldn't make too much of the logos seen on the scoreboard: Best Buy, Dairy Queen, Target, Pepsi, Dodge and Qwest...
I took this picture just moments before Morneau's homer landed almost exactly where I had been standing. If only I hadn't wanted to watch the game...
Typical standing room crowd which started early and lasted the entire game.
Looking back toward downtown from the end of the balcony
OK, people are definitely riding their bikes to games! (Photo by Tim Davis, courtesy MBA)
Rich Pogin (left) and Bruce Lambrecht (Source: Skyway News)
Click to enlarge greatly. See yourself?
Here's where the plaza will empty out around that skyway emergency exit tower at the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street.
Here's a curious little room at the end of the circulation ramp. What could they be selling there?
Look beyond the gigantic hand (a hounds tooth jacket? really?) and you'll get a glimpse of the main grandstand configuration. The two (or is it three?) levels of suites are visible, as is the design of the so-called "split upper deck," and the extensive use of limestone for decorative accents. Let's hope these little touches don't get cut as costs increase, because they make a nice tie-in from the outside of the park to the inside. Of most interest to me is the way that the very best seats are physically separated from all the rest of the seats by that limestone. There will be virtually no way to sneak into these seats. On one level, that's a somewhat sad design feature...
Looking through it, you can see the outfield pavilion (upper deck at least).
Playing surface dirt out there? Maybe. (click to enlarge)
The view from the Penn Ave entrance to 394 (and all the way into town! Click to enlarge)
Close-up on the diagram of the Club Level with finishing materials (click to enlarge)
Harmon is visible (barely) at the very center of the crowd.
This is the entrance behind home plate (not visible in the renderings which have been released). It shows that the upper deck is set back from the facade -- a very good thing if it remains in the final design.
Click on this photo to see what it looked like on this spot 101 years ago (I'm not kidding)
Replays on the out-of-town scoreboard!
The green is a composite of the topmost seating areas in the new ballpark. The gray is a scale diagram of the Metrodome.
A true fan out in the bleachers
Name that ballpark
Here's one big problem with a retractable roof: completely terrible seating in left. These scant few seats would have been tucked under the track. No sunshine, no open concourse, it was a terribly kludgy idea. With some hindsight, it's very clear that adding a retractable roof on this small site would have required compromises which would have just been too extensive to tolerate. Without it, the design was free to grow into something much more memorable.