Hello again everyone...
First of all, permit me to apologize for not sending out the standard email/Facebook/Twitter announcements about Friday's column. As many of you may have guessed, I was so psyched to get headed to Target Field for the first ever Twins exhibition game at the new ballpark, that I just flat forgot to do it.
Sorry about that...
But my preoccupation turned out to be more than justified. I've spent much of the time since I left Target Field Friday night trying to come up with words to appropriately describe it. No matter what superlatives I use, I still don't feel like I can accurately paint you a picture. Mostly because I suck at painting!
So instead, I'm going to give you a brief picture-tour. Mind you, these pictures were taken from my cellphone, so I offer no guarantees about their quality. Think of them as mere teasers of what you can expect to see when you enter in the ballpark. I don't care what anybody tells you, no picture can do it justice. It's something that has to be seen to be believed.
One last thing before I get to that: HAPPY OPENING DAY!!! That's right. Forget about Yankees/Red Sox (whom I hate) from last night. Today's the true lid-lifter for Major League Baseball. In a fortunate turn, the Twins are opening their season in Anaheim, CA this evening. I love West Coast baseball any time of the year. But especially tonight since it means I'll get to watch most of the game at home after I get done with work!
Wherever you are, take a moment to watch some baseball. Opening Day is as good as it gets!
Let's get on with my Target Field pictures, shall we?
”I despise the pleasure of pleasing people that I despise.”
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 - 1762), English aristocrat and writer
I'm not usually a fan of English aristocrats, but have to say, I like the Lady Montagu's style!
Without further ado, here's my...
Target Field Photo-Tour
Again, allow me to reiterate that these pictures are only intended to whet your appetite. I could've taken dozens more, but it was so much to take in that I couldn't photograph it all in one day.
First of all, we had the weather to contend with. Obviously that's something that baseball fans here in Minnesota aren't used to dealing with. I'd checked the forecast frequently all week and bugged the crap out of Chris Shaffer over at WCCO-TV trying to figure out what kind of precipitation we were in for, and how long it was going to hang around on Friday.
As it turned out it did rain, but only til about 2:30pm, which left plenty of time for the grounds-crew to have the field ready to go.
But just in case you were wondering what it looked like, here's me and my season-ticket partner Chris Ellston huddled under the overhang at the Rod Carew Gate, waiting for the gates to open:
What do I mean by the “Rod Carew Gate”? Each of the gates at Target Field has been given a number from the list of Twins retired numbers. The signs say: “Gate 34”, “Gate 29”, etc., but if you ask me, I think they'll come to be known as “Kirby Puckett Gate”, “Rod Carew Gate”, ect.
Here's a picture of the “Rod Carew Gate”:
Once the gates opened at 3pm, we went inside and I made a beeline for the open end of the concourse to get a look at the field and scoreboard. I've heard plenty about both, but none of it fully prepared me for what I was about to see.
I mentioned it earlier, but words can't really describe how beautiful it really is, and a picture can only do so much. You really have to see it to fully experience it. That being said, here's the first view I had:
Once I'd taken a few moments to soak in my first impressions, Chris and I decided to walk a circuit around the lower level. The first thing you notice is how wide the concourses are. They're twice as wide as the Metrodome, and since they are all open to the field, they feel even bigger. That doesn't mean they can't fill up with traffic. I went back downstairs just before game-time, and they were plenty full. But what would've been a dead-stop traffic jam at the Metrodome, flowed pretty well at Target Field.
The next thing you notice is the variety of concessions stands and restaurants. Here's a picture of the entrance to Hrbeks:
It's a standing-room-only bar/restaurant that has access to a deck as well. The Hrbek-related paraphernalia inside is worth stopping by regardless of whether you want to eat there.
The transit options at Target Field are plentiful. As we walked by the Tony Oliva Gate, we were able to look out and see where the Light Rail drops off right next to the ballpark:
One thing you should know, getting to the ballpark by train is pretty easy. Leaving the ballpark by train, well that's another matter. I'm hoping they'll become more efficient as the season goes along, but the line to the LRT ticketing area as we left was a full block long. I have no idea how long it would take to get through that line and onto a train, but it couldn't have been a brief wait.
As we walked along the lower level, I decided that I wanted to start taking pictures of the various views the ballpark affords.
First up was the view from down the left field line:
You can see a couple of Cardinals warming up in the outfield. The tarp was still out. It had stopped raining, but they waited a bit before removing it. You can also see where our seats are from this shot. In the upper left corner of the shot, you can see a small wedge-shaped section. The section to the right of that one is Section 302, where our seats are located in Row 4!
Next up is a shot from center field:
This is from nearly directly over the batter's eye in center. This is as far as you can get from home plate on the lower level, and it's still a spectacular view.
After we completed our circuit on the lower level, I couldn't wait any longer and insisted we go upstairs to see what the view was from our seats. I wasn't at all disappointed.
Here's a shot of our view of the infield:
The tarp was still on at this point, but you can see where the sun was trying to peek out from behind the clouds and light-up the field.
You can also see the one mild draw-back of our seats. The entryway to our section is between us and the infield. It's not a problem at all, unless people walk out to the railing you see at the bottom of the picture to look out onto the field or turn and look up into the surrounding sections. We tried our best to be understanding since this was the first Twins game in the park and people were trying to take it all in, but here's a bit of baseball etiquette for you folks: when returning to your seats, wait until an at-bat is over. Even if you're not one of the dopes who were standing there gawking, just walking up the stairs blocks someone's line-of-sight. So do your fellow fans a favor and wait back in the entryway until an at-bat is over before heading back to your seats.
As we turned to our right, here's our view of the outfield and scoreboard:
Several things to note from this shot. Starting in the upper-left, you see the Budweiser Party Deck. Tickets up there are virtually sold out and with good reason. It's a great view, and they've got a fire-pit up there! Moving to the right you see perhaps the best feature of the ballpark, the video-board. I'm not sure what the correct term is I guess, but “scoreboard” sure as hell doesn't do it justice. It's essentially a giant HDTV. How giant? From what I understand, each of the four advertising signs that surround the board is bigger than the Metrodome Jumbotron.
To the right of the video-board is the Minneapolis/St. Paul logo. It looks nice here, but it's even better when the sun goes down. The entire sign lights up, and when a Twin hit's a home run, the two players shake hands while an LED pulse races around the outline of the state of Minnesota. It's very cool. If you look down from that sign, you see the batters-eye. I was standing behind that when I took the earlier shot of center field. I love the look of the pine trees down in front of it.
Next we decided to walk the length of the upper deck, again to see the different view points. Here's a picture from the upper deck, behind home plate:
You can start to see where the Minneapolis skyline comes into view to the right (it gets better in just a bit, be patient). You also get another angle on the video-board, Minneapolis/St. Paul logo and batters-eye.
Then we went all the way around to the opposite side from our seats. Here's a shot from the “Skyline View” seats:
The view of the skyline is spectacular. It will be even better on a sunny day. From here you can also see the Target Center, which is nearly adjacent to Target Field. The only thing I didn't like about the view from here is that you don't get quite a good a view of the video-board. Otherwise they're just as good as where our seats are.
After checking out those seats, we headed back to our seats. We stopped along the way so I could grab something to eat, then sat in the Twins Pub and watched the grounds-crew take the tarp off the field. I've seen it done at other parks, but for some reason watching the process at your home park was pretty interesting.
Then it was time to head back to our seats, where we watched the grounds-crew go about prepping the field:
Not too long after that, it was time for the moment I'd been dreaming about for ages, the Twins took the field for the first time ever:
The ovation was prolonged and very loud. It was such a special moment, I took another photo:
Before we go any further, permit me a moment to gush about the video-board again. Look at this freaking thing:
That's not photoshopped folks. That's what a camera shot of live action looks like on the thing. It's amazing, utterly amazing.
As for the the game itself? Well, the Twins lost 8-4 to St. Louis, and I couldn't possibly have cared less. The outcome of an exhibition game is pretty much pointless. All I cared about was the experience of being in the park and watching big league baseball being played.
I didn't take any pictures of the game being played. I was too busy soaking it all in. But there were were a few special moments to mention. Denard Span got the first big league hit at Target Field, and it was a triple. Count me squarely amongst the camp that says the triple is the most exciting play in baseball, so to have Denard christen Target Field with one was a lot of fun. Span also hit the first big league home run in the new ballpark. A shot down the right field line to account for the second run of the evening for Minnesota.
Joe Mauer got a loud, prolonged standing-ovation before his first at-bat. This was the first chance that most Minnesota fans had to say “thank you for re-signing” to the hometown hero. Yes, there were goosebumps. Actually I got goosebumps so many times over the course of the day that my skin might be permanently pebbled.
Equally fun was the ovation Jacque Jones got when he came to the plate for his at-bat in the 8th inning. Jones formed part of the Twins' “Soul Patrol” outfield with Torii Hunter and Matt Lawton back in the early 90's as the tide turned and the Twins became relevant again. This past off-season, Jones signed a minor-league deal with the Twins. He'll start the season in triple-A Rochester, but if the Twins have an injury in their outfield, he'll be the first in line to be called up. Since there's no guarantee that he'll be called up, however, the fans wanted to take the opportunity to say "thanks" to one of the guys who helped turn things around for the Twins.
Before we left for the night, I snapped this picture of Chris and I in our seats:
And Chris took this picture of me standing at the bottom of the section:
Once we made our way out, we headed back to the Tradition Wall, where we'd found my inscription before we got into the park. I couldn't take a picture then because of the rain, but we got this one after the game:
For any of you who want to see it yourselves, it's on the panel labeled “Family”.
So what can I say? It was a fantastic experience. The ballpark is simply amazing. I don't have the words to accurately describe the awe I felt. I can't possibly recommend going to this Valhalla of baseball enough. Go. Enjoy it. Drink in the wonder. It's absolutely worth it.
I've got a new hat:
I've got a new jersey:
And I'm ready to go for 2010. Win Twins!!!
That's going to do it for today. I don't know about you, but I'm spent!
I'll be back on Wednesday with more of the usual nonsense and skullduggery! Until then, thanks for reading!