Modern ballparks have about as much in common with their mythical ancestors as freeways have with cobblestone streets.
You may have heard stories from the early days of baseball when a team would leave town for a road trip and return to find either a substantially changed or even completely new ballpark waiting. This happened to the Senators a couple of times.
But in those days, the ballpark was a playing field surrounded by seats. To describe the modern counterpart in such a way would be technically true, but somewhat laughable. The permanence of modern facilities is welcome, of course (all but eliminating fires started by cigars mixed with hot dog wrappers -- the cause of many of those earlier redos), but a little of the charm is lost.
Oh sure, incremental changes take place during the season. The Twins returned from the All Star break last year to a much darker batter's eye, just as an example.
But these days only the off-season holds the potential for anything really substantial.
Nothing like that happened this year. When you get back to Target Field, you'll find it very familiar. That's a good thing, and just a little bit disappointing. It's always fun to explore new things, right?
The most notable change will certainly be obvious, and I think it's a good one.
The Twins Tower is nestled between the staircase to the Grandstand and the B ramp. (Brennan Boesch's blast would have sailed right past it.) Together with the added video board, it cost about $3 million.
The technology is a little unusual in that it's not just a vertical ribbon board. In fact, the tower is sort of see-through, looking like it's still waiting for the final surface to be installed.
But each little strip attached to the frame contains the LEDs which will allow images, including animations, to be displayed.
The tower is actually finished, though it looks like a work in progress.
Here's a detail from the above image, showing the LED strips up close.
While it's 100 feet tall (according to the fact sheet), and visible from far away, part of me wishes it were taller. I still think that one thing TF lacks is a distinctive profile on the horizon. Admittedly, one tower sticking up may not be the solution to that.
But I'm remembering from the early design concepts two towers, placed down the lines but 50 feet or so beyond the foul poles. In right, that would have been on the plaza, and in left it would have been off the corner of the admin building out by the LRT station.
That's the kind of dreamy idea which comes out of design charrettes, but rarely actually makes it into many finished buildings. (The Steve Berg book has a couple of sketches of this idea.)
But the height of the tower is definitely sufficient to make an impression on people entering through the ballpark's "front door" on Sixth Street -- especially when it's lit at night.
And you'll notice that it has a "cap" which will serve as something that every self-respecting ballpark needs: a clock.
In my heart, I probably would have preferred an old analog Longine's...
No, that's not Kent Hrbek. It's catcher Glenn Borgmann.
Here's a closer look.
...but time marches on (so to speak), just as it should.
Last season it took me about two months to figure out just where in the ballpark the current time could be found between innings. (I always note on my scorecard the time innings begin and end. And finding a clock beats the hell out of either wearing a watch -- which I don't -- or fishing out my phone.) Eventually, I realized that there were a couple of spots where the time was always shown, even when the ribbon boards were otherwise frantically occupied.
Now, I'm not sure that this is sufficient reason to spend $3 million, but my little annoyance will be gone forever once this baby lights up.
Some may believe that this amounts to trading one annoyance for another. I don't feel that way. My first impression of the Twins Tower is wholly positive.
I might have liked some larger adjustments to the ballpark (and I know the hitters would have), if only to have more to explore. But there is something to be said for starting the new season all comfortable.
Tomorrow, I have a few more random images from my tour.
One more thing. While I was babysitting a sick toddler today, I decided that the perfect task to fill in the cracks would be to create my personal schedule for the year. So I went to the Twins site to print out a blank schedule, and discovered that they don't actually have a printable version available for 2011 yet (it's supposed to be coming later this week).
Well, it turned out that I had enough time in the cracks to do what I had hoped to avoid, and that is creating my own printable version of the Twins 2011 schedule. It's a Word document for now because my PDF creator choked on some of the formatting. And you'll notice that, in the interest of sparseness, I've only included the subset of events that matter to me (for example, I'm not into giveaways that I have to either wait in long lines for, carry around with me for the whole game without breaking, or feel guilty about wanting to throw out).
So you'll only find Bert's day, the two fireworks dates, the 91 reunion weekend, and all the games which will be on Fox's Saturday baseball. I also have used color to help me track the homestands, as I have a personal goal of getting to at least one game in each homestand every year.
Let me know if you find it useful.
Thanks for stopping by today, and for making this site part of your preparation for the 2011 season.
"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.
Sometime in the late 1980s: B ramp is under construction. Not yet built: Target Center, I-394 and the A ramp.
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
This view is from the roof of a warehouse which stood where the A ramp is today. The HERC is now located where the tracks turned north (toward the top).
Here's another view up Sixth Street toward where the plaza will meet First Avenue (it will hug Target Center all the way).
I suppose that one day my son will graduate from Mrs. Fields to Hooters. At least he won't have to travel too far. *Shudder*
(Click to enlarge.)
Go get 'em, boys!
The creative design of the admin building stands in stark contrast to the horribly pedestrian appearance of the LRT platform. This design looks like it came out of a public transportation manual.
Signage for the concession stand which is available from the plaza (plaques are up on the fencing)
...but you can get a feel for what it will be like.
Seventh Street circulation
Someone please get those poor people a drink of water. (Gate 34, after the game had started)
Yes, it's pretty tempting to just walk right in...
Here's the current overview from the south side of the B ramp (from which the banner at the top of this page was culled).
Poles through the gap
Click to enlarge. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
A mini-freeway! (Police action in progress...)
I don't think this will remain a knothole, but the view is pretty cool.
These two sections are within a few feet of one another.
This looks from the base of the stairs, behind the big pillars, toward the street.
The gate has grown a row of sponsorship
Touring the Rapid Park site (L-R: Commissioners Wade, Vekich, Sykora, Cramer, and tour guide Chuck Ballentine, source: RP)
No offense, TC, but you're pointing exactly the wrong direction if you want people to use the ramp opening to your right...
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
A peek through a tiny gate.
From the TV camera platform -- the view you'll see on TV
Despite what those signs say, every one of these places was selling either snacks or Yankee memorabilia out of its front door. Do you suppose anything like this will spring up anywhere near the new Twins ballpark?
The circulation ramp on the north now has its louver framing.
A cold afternoon in 323, but we had our trusty Twins blanket -- made by my mom when Noah was born.
I had to hold the camera as far over my head as I could to get this shot, in which the infield is finally visible. It's a spot made for your average Timberwolves player.