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 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
These two sections are within a few feet of one another.
Click to see the full-size image.
Click to see the whole, beautiful image. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
The beautiful Promenade has become a sea of temporary barricades. (Smoker's Row outside the unnumbered gate)
Not sure what those supports are for -- probably stadia.
Photo by Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune
Note that the sign in the background will NOT be changed because "Twins Way" doesn't extend this far north.
Secret entrance exposed!
The start of the VIP entrance and loading dock.
(Click to enlarge greatly)
Seventh inning sing-along.
This is a little section of what looks like a finished foundation. It will be approximately below the Pro Shop (I think).
Wrigley Field viewed while approaching on foot from the northwest
An escalator was going in the day I was there.
I meant to include this shot the other day. It's the new LRT bridge being built next to the remaining half of the Fifth Street bridge. The new half is almost TWICE the width of the portion torn down. And the other end runs right into a HERC administration building! (Click to see the view from nearly the same spot about 85 years ago.)
One of the sweetest sights of the day -- the Dome, and only through passing bus windows.
Carew atrium menu part 2
Heaters over standing room (the backs of the retired number circles visible above)
Door to the visitor's clubhouse.
The Northstar circulation building is starting to take shape.
TCF Bank Stadium. Not for baseball, but still pretty cool to watch being built.
A slightly different angle, and you can see some of the structural elements.
CBP: retro in facade only
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
Roped off for the LRT crowd
A last look on the way out.
The sign reads, "Mortenson Radio Channels".
Also from the B ramp entrance off of Third, a look up at the tiny crack between ballpark and parking ramp
This is as close as I could get to a pedestrian-eye view of Seventh Street (looking west away from downtown). It's inviting, not imposing, and remarkably dignified.
Here's the view of the entrance ramp to 394. Looks like they are painting...
A final glimpse from the street of stadia installation along the left field line