HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

October 9, 2006

For playoff baseball, Metrodome isn’t that bad

By Jesse Menden

We all know it. The Metrodome is an awful place to watch baseball. Twins’ fans have dealt with sterilized baseball since 1982 when there was no ‘baggie’ in right field and Plexiglas stood on the wall in left.

The dome consistently ranks as the worst stadium in baseball, and for good reason.
The sightlines are horrible. Most fans know to schedule an appointment with their chiropractor the day after sitting on the third-base line.

Humans were not meant to turn their necks 90 degrees for three hours to see home plate. And if you are sitting in right field above the ‘baggie’ don’t expect to see any spectacular catches by Torii Hunter or Michael Cuddyer.

When the dome is packed full of people like it is during the playoffs, you have to wait in line for everything. Concessions, souvenirs, food, rest rooms – plan on missing at least a full inning if you are doing any of these. And if you are trying to walk somewhere in the narrow concourses, good luck! And don’t forget about parking. Downtown Minneapolis is one big parking lot after a Twins’ playoff game.

There is also the problem of getting in and out of a stadium when 55,000 people are trying to go through a limited number of revolving doors.

If you lucky enough to be there on a day when they open up the real doors, you have to worry about gale-force winds blowing your hat off and the person behind you running you over.

But all of this seems a lot more tolerable during the baseball playoffs when you are among 55,000 screaming, hanky-waving fans.

No baseball stadium can beat the Metrodome’s atmosphere during a playoff game.

Fans are hanging on every pitch, base hits are cheered like they are game-winning home runs, and nobody walks out without being half-deaf and sporting a scratchy voice. Going to the Metrodome for the playoffs becomes an event, rather than just a game.

Old footage of the 1987 and 1991 playoffs bring plenty of memories to Twins’ fans. Visions of Homer Hanky waving, sweatshirt-wearing fans having the time of their life makes the dome seem not that bad. Waving Homer Hankies and waiting in line at the Metrodome during the playoffs is a part of Minnesota culture.

When you think about it, all that is wrong with the Metrodome is okay during the playoffs, especially because it is a vital advantage for the team that plays there, or at least it used to be. The Twins have lost their last seven playoff games at home, but the Twins’ faithful can thank the dome, at least partially, for the championships in 1987 and 1991.

A lot of the playoff victories had to do with the Metrodome itself, it is intimidating.

First of all, no team wants to play a game in a stadium that has a white roof when it uses a white ball. Most players can get used to that after a couple of games, but during the playoffs, throw in the all of the fans with white hankies, then it becomes a problem. That is exactly what happened to Milton Bradley for the Athletics in game one of the division series when he lost the ball, which eventually led to a run for the Twins.

Next, the Twins just know how to hit the ball in the dome. They know how to beat the ball into the turf and get all sorts of advantageous bounces.

And, of course, there is the noise. It is virtually impossible for outfielders to hear each other while chasing down a fly ball.

Of course, home-field advantage did not work out for our beloved Twins this year during the playoffs, but it will again sometime soon.

There may be a time in the future, while fans and players sit in the new ballpark, when they yearn for the days of the warm, friendly Metrodome, when it was a certain home-field advantage, and an unique place for playoff baseball, whether the Twins would win or not.

The Metrodome is bad. But when it is packed full of intense fans it’s a fun place to watch a game. And when it helps the Twins have the best record in baseball during the regular season at home, and a very good playoff record overall, it is better than any ballpark. The new ballpark can wait, until 2010 at least.