Recap - Twins 3, Astros 0
We are heading into the dog days of August now with only 6 weeks left in the season and it’s pretty clear that I won’t be able to reach my goal of seeing a game at all 30 stadiums this season. But this is fine, it gives me something to look forward to next year! I have 10 more visits all booked and bought, which will have me end up seeing 23 out of 30 this year.
Today is day 1 on my next to final roadtrip this year, a 5 day swing into America’s heartland starting with a city that I’ve been wanting to visit since I was a kid, Minneapolis. For whatever reason, I was a big fan of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in my youth and something about the setting seemed comforting and friendly. Who knows, maybe I’m in for a big disappointment!
I had asked a very old and less than perfectly reliable friend to pick me up and take me the airport at 6 am.
Not sure why I did that. All I can say is thank God for Uber. I made my flight just in time and landed in the Twin Cities at around 8 AM. It was a grey and damp day, but the city was buzzing due to two events. The annual Minnesota State Fair in neighboring St. Paul and a speech being given in the city by Bernie Sanders. Neither of which I cared to attend.
I spent the day wandering around the city into some of the different neighborhoods – my favorite being the North Loop / Warehouse District which has a an extensive and eclectic assortment of great bars and eateries and some great people watching. Later I made my way down to the Mill District by the banks of the Mississippi where there is a nice Riverwalk, some interesting shops and, not far from there, the new US Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings and site of the 2018 Super Bowl. The pulse of the city is Hennepin Avenue which runs through several different neighborhoods and past many points of interests and is a really nice walk if the weather is right. There is a pretty elaborate network of skywalks in the city to get you where you need to go on foot without having to brave the elements (which no doubt are brutal come November). Before game time, I made a stop at Nicollet Avenue which is the downtown’s core shopping and entertainment artery and, the site of the statue of the city’s most beloved icon (aside from Prince), Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat up into the air.
A nearby point of interest where you can kill some time is the Minnesota Sculpture Garden and Walker Art Center. If you're into big malls, the largest in the country, The Mall of america, is only a few stops on the light rail away in Bloomington, but I get to see more malls than I care to already by living in New Jersey.
There was a lot of construction going on and it was a really hot day – so while the city certainly presented its charms to me – it wasn’t as idyllic and soothing as I for some reason pictured it might be.
I got to spend an hour around the Chain of Lakes District where there are some beautiful parks and homes and lots of available activities. I would have budgeted some more time to spend there if I knew how nice it was.
Target Field is downtown in the North Loop/Warehouse District. The ballpark reflects Minnesota's dynamic blend of urban sophistication and outdoor vitality. Built in 2010, it is MLB’s 2nd newest park (Marlins Park was built in 2013) replacing the aging Metrodome. The decision to build an outdoor stadium without a retractable roof in what may be the coldest MLB host city is a little confusing. Many a game in April since has been snowed out or played in frigid temps.
The location is ideal, maybe as good as any ballpark in the majors. It’s an easy walk from most downtown locations, has close proximity to the major highways and is serviced by a great light rail system. The neighborhood is vibrant with lots of bars and eateries to go before/after the game and the streets were bustling with people. A very clean and safe neighborhood. Mary Tyler Moore would be proud.
The facade of the stadium stadium is beautiful and consists of Minnesota limestone. Most fans enter the ballpark through Target Plaza, a park-like gathering area located outside the right field entrance gate. This landscaped area features a 1,500-pound bronze glove, statues of former great Twin players each of which are positioned in front of an entry gate which bears their number (i.e. Harmon Killebrew in front of Gate 3, Rod Carew in front of Gate 29, Kirby Puckett in front of Gate 34, etc.)
Inside the park – it is really clean, wide open and well laid out. Which isn’t surprising for such a new park. The fans, ushers, concession workers, etc. were all really friendly. There’s lots of memorabilia displayed throughout the park– much of it related to the 1987 and 1991 World Series. Although I didn’t see much (if any) old Washington Senators displays or memorabilia. A little odd, given that the franchise existed as the Senators from 1901 to 1960 before moving to Minnesota. Oddly, there is a statue of the great Senator pitcher Walter Johnson outside Nationals Park in DC.
There are open air concourses throughout the ballpark. All fans throughout the entire main grandstand have a spectacular view of downtown Minneapolis.
One of the most unique features at Target Field is the homerun celebration feature. Located in centerfield, this large feature is the Twins original "Shaking Hands" logo from 1961-1981. Twins characters, Minnie and Paul light up when a Twins player hits a homerun.
There are plenty of great food options including 2 really nice sit down bar/restaurants, the Bat and Barrel and Hrbek’s.
‘Tony O’s Cuban Sandwich’ was launched this week and the great Twins legend /Hall of Famer Tony Oliva himself was there to help promote it. I didn’t buy a sandwich, but I did get to meet and get my picture taken with him.
A local favorite, Kramarczuk’s brats and polish sausages are featured at a few of the stands. Another local flair is the ‘ State Fair Classics’ booth who serves up various carnival foods such as walleye and chips, ‘Minneapple Pie’, pork chop on a stick, cheese curds, and fried pickles – all the wonderful Mid-Western 'health' foods. One of Target’s food offering claim to fame are there obscene Bloody Marys which come with enough food in the cup to feed a small Guatemalan village.
I had great seats for the game. I was in a section that had their own private restrooms and concessions. And the cost of the ticket was less than what I would have paid to sit in the upper deck in left field at Yankee Stadium.
The Twins, winners of 6 of their last 7 entering this game, have clawed their way back into the Wild Card hunt and faced the AL West leading Houston Astros. Former Yankee Eduardo Nunez (playing for the injured Miguel Sano) got things started with a solo shot in the 3rd. The Twins added 2 more in the 4th on a bases loaded hit by pitch and an infield ground out. That would be all the scoring in the game. The Astros threatened several times - including have the bases loaded in the 9th with Altuve up – but failed to plate a single runner. The fireworks after the game was a nice touch.
Although the temps were pretty hot during the day, by first pitch they were very comfortable and by the bottom of the 5th I was freezing – so much so that I was forced to buy a Twins hoodie. Maybe I’ll sell it on eBay!
The PA announcer thanked the crowd and reminded us that tomorrow evening’s game was something called ‘Faith Night’. This is something I’m betting you won’t see often at ballgames outside the Midwest.
The walk back to the hotel was enjoyable with the bars packed with happy fans and patrons on a crisp Friday evening including the Depot Tavern and the adjoining First Avenue club where Prince routinely played in the '80s and has been a live venue for many of the more notable rock acts for the last 4 decades.
Off to Milwaukee in the morning.
Fans - B+ - Very friendly, cordial and enthusiastic, especially considering their team is out of contention. Park employees were all super nice as well.
Features - B – Lots of display to honor great past Twins.
Location - A - Great downtown location. Close to mass transit. Lots of post-game options for food/booze
Food - B - Some interesting and ‘healthy’ Minnesota State Fair choices. The most intense and caloric Bloody Mary’s in baseball. Lots of Leinenkugel.
Game - C - Close contest throughout. Astros had the tying runs on base in the 9th but the Twins shut them down. Home team wins are always more fun.
Overall Experience - B - Even in August, the nights in Minneapolis can get a bit chilly – hence another $75 pullover that I’ll never wear again was added to my collection. Night games here in April and late September must be tough. Other than the chilly weather, it was a fun time - Friendly fans, great ballpark. Got to meet Tony Oliva. Game and food were so-so