www.herald-journal.com
Thoughts from Target Field
April 19, 2010
by Ryan Gueningsman

You may be wondering why you are seeing me in the sports pages.

Even more so, you may be wondering why I am writing a column – those who know me know I really need to be inspired by something to write a column.

Well, to help out Matt Kane, our sports editor, who is at the hospital with his wife, who is set to deliver baby Kane any minute as I type (Nolan Kane was born Wednesday night), I decided I’d take a shot at it.

I think everyone in the state is at least aware the Minnesota Twins have a new stadium this year – Target Field. I’m not going to get into the history and details of the long road to get the new stadium – the important thing is it’s here, and last Monday was opening day.

I was lucky enough to get into the lottery offered by the Twins to purchase tickets to the first regular-season game at Target Field when the Twins hosted the Boston Red Sox. My buddy picked me up at 10 a.m. (yes, the game started at 3:10 p.m.), and away we went.

Our first stop, aside from a quick pass through the drive-through window at the local McDonald’s, was the Minnesota Twins Pro Shop at Ridgedale.

It seemed the only piece of Minnesota Twins clothing I owned, and that wasn’t from my childhood, had the words “Dome Sweet Dome” plastered all over it from last season.

Wasn’t sure how well that would have been accepted at Target Field, so I opted to purchase an inaugural season t-shirt from the Pro Shop, and on our way we were once again.

There was next-to-no traffic heading to Target Field. I’ve been through worse traffic on 394 going to much less important things than the first game at Target Field.

We made it to a nice little parking lot on Washington Avenue, stuck our $8 in the envelope and placed it into the slot.

The sign at the lot said “parking: $8 to $20,” so naturally, we stuck our $8 in the envelope and prayed throughout the day my vehicle would be there when we got out of the stadium after the game.

After parking, we made the four-block trek toward Target Field. In the blocks closest to the stadium, we were inundated with free stuff being given out, mostly by Target staffers or volunteers. Anything from commemorative ball caps, sunglasses, sunflower seeds, and hankies were being given away.

By the time we made our way up to the stadium, I had time to catch the unveiling of the Kirby Puckett statue, and then make a trip back to the car with all of our free stuff so we wouldn’t have to hold onto that during the game.

While I made my way back to Washington Avenue, my buddy made his way to the new Huberts location, which is in the former home of NBA City, literally steps from Target Field.

For those who have been going to the Metrodome for Twins and Viking games over the years, Huberts is a familiar stomping ground.

Seems appropriate they would take up a new residence near Target Field, and of course, Target Center. Can’t forget about the Timberwolves in my one and likely only sports column of the year. Bet next year will be a “rebuilding” year for them, much like this year, and last year, was.

Anyway, let’s shift the focus back again to the good in Minnesota sports at the moment. It was about three hours until game time, we had made it down to Target Field with no problems, saw the statue unveiled, and now it was time to check out the new Huberts.

By the time I got back from the car after dropping off all our free stuff, my buddy had already made his way through a plate of wings. The location was crowded, but one was still able to get from one point to the other without much congestion.

By this time, another buddy who was going to the game with us had shown up – he had taken a half-day of work in downtown Minneapolis and walked over to join us at Huberts.

I decided to wander around Hubert’s a bit (this shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me) and check out the artifacts hanging on the walls. Things like autographed memorabilia, jerseys, and photos adorn the walls at every turn. Makes any sports fan feel right at home.

One such turn brought me face-to-face with good friend Alex Roeser of Delano and his group of about 40 people who were also gearing up to attend the first game at Target Field. Fellow Delanoite Tim Diem was also spotted later in the afternoon with Roeser checking out the stadium.

Roeser has a tradition that goes back more years than I have known him, where he and a large group of friends and family attend the home opener and make a day of it. I was lucky enough last year that Roeser had an extra ticket at the last minute, so I was able to go down to the Dome for the last home opener at the Metrodome, too, last spring.

After some more time at Hubert’s, we decided to cross the road and head over to Roy Smalley’s 87 Club.

Formerly a Champp’s Americana, the new establishment has a nice outdoor gathering area, including a stage for live music and outdoor bar.

From there, we decided to make our way to Target Field at about 2 p.m., just a little over an hour until the first pitch. Getting through the gate was easy and there was no line at the concession stand for my first hot dog of the afternoon.

We headed up to our seats and settled in just in time for the pregame festivities to start. Well, I wouldn’t really say festivities – more like activities.

If anything about the day disappointed me, it was the pre-game program. Sure, the large flag held by the construction workers for the national anthem was impressive, but the sound wasn’t great, we couldn’t see the very short fireworks display – so I have no idea if that was any good or not – and the rest of the program was simply boring. I have been much more impressed by other programs I’ve witnessed at the Metrodome in years past.

Sure, the Twins greats were there – Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, and Kirby Puckett Jr. representing his late father, but they were introduced from left field and made an anticlimactic walk across the entire field to the pitcher’s mound to deliver the ball to be used in the ceremonial first pitch.

That first pitch was delivered by Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat.

Obviously, this is a big deal for not only Hennepin County, but the entire state of Minnesota, and Opat played a big part in the stadium efforts. But, aside from those who were directly involved with the new stadium effort, or unless one happens to live in the district Opat represents, odds are you have never heard of the guy.

Nothing against him – a quick Google search shows some good things he’s done while on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, but I would have preferred to have seen someone more recognizable or more meaningful to the Twins organization, itself, bestowed an honor like that.

However, thinking about it more, maybe that is why the Twins chose Opat – because what one person within the Twins organization should receive the honor ahead of someone else?

Twins President Jerry Bell and Mortenson Construction Superintendent Dave Mansell also threw out ceremonial first pitches, and then it was game time.

On the mound for the Twins was Carl Pavano, who delivered the first official pitch of the game just before 3:15 p.m. on the sunny afternoon. Guess the weathermen were a little off when they said chances of showers, because there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

After several innings, I got the itch to wander around some more and check out the Twins’ new home.

While I was out and about, my buddy went into the Townball Tavern for a beverage and reported there are photos of baseball fields in Howard Lake, Dassel, and Hamburg, among many others, hanging on the walls.

Wally the Beerman was also easy to spot, or should I say hear, selling beverages in the area behind home plate.

The giant scoreboard is very nice and easy to read just about anywhere in the stadium, other than where our seats were.

Maybe someday, another smaller scoreboard will be built somewhere on the other side of the field like the Dome had.

Another nice thing about Target Field is that when one is wandering around, one can see the game pretty much anywhere, while at the Dome the view was shielded by bricks of concourse.

Didn’t have the chance to try any of the new food delicacies that are at Target Field, but hopefully I’ll be able to make it to another game or two yet this year.

After my walk, I headed back to my seat for the rest of the game and then, out the stadium we went with no problems at all.

Oh yeah. My car was still there in the parking lot waiting for us, right where we left it. Traffic was no issue at all as we got right on 394 and breezed home.

Target Field, itself, is quite impressive. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet for me that this is “our stadium.” The only other field where I’ve been able to watch outdoor Major League Baseball is Kansas City, and this field ranks right up there with that experience.