May 23, 2010: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes and one of the finest ballparks in Major League Baseball. Target Field made its debut in 2010 and ushered in a return to open-air baseball for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins’ previous home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, was a multipurpose indoor stadium with a sterile feel. Despite being low on the ballpark rankings, the Metrodome’s Teflon roof and rabid fan base provided the Twins a home field advantage throughout their 1987 and 1991 World Series runs, winning all eight home games. During my visit to the Metrodome in 2005, I was surprised by the amount of fans I spoke to who wanted the Twins to move to an open-air ballpark, one that did not include a retractable roof. That’s Minnesota tough. Target Field is built on an 8-acre plot of land nestled into the Minneapolis Warehouse District; the footprint is MLB’s smallest. Engineers utilized ramps and overpasses throughout the footprint to maximize space. Like most new ballparks, capacity decreased from 46,564 at the Metrodome to 38,885; however, Target Field adds modern amenities like a Party Deck and fire pit that attracts only the most ardent baseball fans. Target Field does a wonderful job honoring Twins history throughout the ballpark and the adjacent Target Plaza. The Tradition Wall includes poster-sized baseball cards of former Twins, while statues of Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Tom Kelly, and Harmon Killebrew honor the Twins’ most memorable players and manager.
Target Field features Minnesota limestone throughout the ballpark, which accentuates the modern ballpark feel. The Twins pay homage to their previous home parks, bringing over the flagpole from Metropolitan Stadium (1961-1981) and the home plate from the Metrodome (1982-2009). To offset the lack of a retractable roof, the Twins installed a heated field to minimize the effects of cold Midwestern nights and April snowfalls, which is great because Target Field features a rain water recycling system that captures, conserves, and reuses water throughout the ballpark.
I spent most of my three-day visit to Minneapolis in and around Target Field. I arrived on Saturday before game 2 of the Brewers/Twins series and watched it at The Loon while enjoying some Minnesota Wild Rice soup. The game went into extra innings, forcing the Brewers to go with a bullpen game for Sunday’s series finale. Fortunately, the company I was working for at the time had an office in Minneapolis, and I was able to procure free tickets. Marco Estrada on a short leash versus Carl Pavano is the type of interleague matchup that schedule makers dream of. The interleague matchup did bring a large contingent of Brewers fans, which made navigating the concourses difficult at times. Brewers fans were heard throughout the game as Prince Fielder’s and Corey Hart’s (4:30 mark) mammoth home runs left Target Field, giving the Brew Crew a 4-2 lead into the 9th. Newly installed Brewers closer and Academy Awards prognosticator John Axford made the bottom of the 9th interesting, allowing one run and loading the bases before striking out Trevor Plouffe to salvage the final game of the three-game series. Brewers 4, Twins 3 in front of 38,950 Midwestern baseball fans and two guys from Brooklyn.
Minneapolis is on my short list of the best cities I’ve visited throughout my travels. Downtown Minneapolis is walkable by street and skyway, but it also has an easy-to-navigate mass transit system. There are plenty of great bars and culture throughout the city, which is why on my day off following the Twins game I went on a Target Field ballpark tour. (I did remember to visit Runyon’s afterwards for their great wings.) During the tour, I learned about the vast baseball history throughout Minnesota dating back to the late 19th century. Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Roy Campanella all played in Minnesota prior to the Twins arriving in 1961. The minor league Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints had a friendly rivalry that spawned the Minnie and Paul logo featured throughout Target Field, two rivals putting their differences behind them to welcome the Twins to the Minnesota. It’s that Midwest friendliness that has me looking forward to another trip to Minneapolis.