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 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
7:32 PM Glare begins at about the left field foul pole.
Dome, what have you taken from us?
This is a good overview of the spot where the Northstar (bottom) and LRT (top) will intersect.
A mysterious smile from within a very deep planter!
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".
They help create a psychological safe area along the plaza edge, and help you forget that cars are zipping by directly beneath you.
An early concept for the pedestrial bridge. (Source: Ballpark Authority, RP)
B ramp improvements are finally becoming usable. The doors lead to the plaza beneath the skyway steps.
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
One of the sweetest sights of the day -- the Dome, and only through passing bus windows.
I think AP is in there somewhere...
Steps, skyway, and plaza intersect.
Work on one of the side panels
Very nice Admin glass.
Some baseball legends (and Ron Coomer)
Roll-up metal doors visible at right.
At the end of the balcony you can see down the promenade.
This is where you will put out your butts -- I mean enjoy some pretty flowers.
The Ballpark Authority at work (Source: RP)
Then you turn around to this!
Waiting for a train. Reading on the promenade. How urbane.
Do you need to know the score?
Stairs down to Seventh Street now have the start of railings
Look closely and you'll see limestone on the front of the press box!
August 2001 (a month later we were engaged)
Larry DiVito, mowing
Opening day, 2010
Freight trains run in very close proximity (Jerry Bell was standing at my left elbow when I took this picture)
Viewed from the sidewalk on Seventh Street. No skyway infringement needed.
A few weeks ago there were sand volleyball courts here. When the park opens, this will be surface parking. Maybe one day there will be something more interesting built on top of that parking...
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.
Killebrew's mammoth shot on June 3, 1967 is currently memorialized on a wall at the Mall of America
The Pro Shop.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
This is a slightly blurry view of the pavilion in center. It has a quirky shape, but one which is completely consistent with the overall ballpark design. Nice work there. You can also get a glimpse of the greenery which will rise above the fences.