So I landed in Minneapolis, Minnysoota yesterday pretty excited to take on Major League Baseball's newest stadium, Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. The Twinkies also have a childhood baseball movie made about them, Little Big League, which unfortunately has much fewer quotable lines than Rookie of the Year or Major League. Still, I took away an important moral from that movie, even as a kid: unlike Henry Rowengartner's freak accident in Rookie of the Year, Billy Heywood was able to use his knowledge of baseball to become further ingrained in the game. I figured once my baseball talent ran out, I could try some of the same.
BIG thank you to Todd Krulewich of the Twins, a friend from Texas, and Andrew Solomon for getting me in touch with Todd. Let me tell you, I took people on fantastic tours of Yankee Stadium, but Todd's tour-giving abilities blow mine out of the water. I went all over the new field and saw the intricacies of the new floors, hallways, pictures, etc., and even made it down to left center field for a bit before the national anthem. He gave me a laundry list of food to try, but unfortunately I was being a pretty big patsy and could only tackle the Murray's Steak Sandwich and some onion rings that reminded me of Sullivan's steakhouse. I'm sure both he and Andrew can appreciate the intricacies of the water balloon (thanks, Keshav, for reminding me of that one).
Anyway, before I completely describe the food before the food section, let me begin my description of Target Field. But I must do a math problem first.
"If Joe can paint a house in three hours and Sam can paint the same house in five hours, how long will it take to paint it together?"
"Wait a minute. You never said this was a word problem!"
Location: The Twinkies' new stadium is located in downtown Minneapolis, which Todd told me is kind of hard to get to if you're driving. Lucky for Minnesotans, they have a pretty stellar light rail system that drops people off right at Target Field. The one downside on game days is that the supply is a lot larger than the demand. In my case, my hotel was only a 15-20 minute walk away, so I just strolled down the streets of downtown Minneapolis in my Astros hat on the way to the stadium. It's an urban area with lots of corporate and commercial development in the area, which reminds me a little bit of Houston's own Minute Maid Park.
Also, I used Priceline.com for the first time this week to reserve my hotel here. GREAT experience. After getting hosed for $100 for a hotel on the outskirts of downtown San Diego, I decided to try to "name my price" on Priceline. I figured if I could get a 4-star hotel for half of what I paid in San Diego, especially since I would be staying in Minneapolis for two nights, I would be happy. So I made a bid in the "downtown Minneapolis" area for $50 a night, and they took it! If you're unfamiliar with Priceline, you can just look at prices and reserve a hotel, or you can make a bid and if Priceline accepts it, they immediately charge your credit card and you're not bidding on a specific hotel. I might try bidding $1 for a four or five star in Cleveland.
Even though Priceline.com's commercials with William Shatner are pretty pathetic, my first experience was a great one.
Ballpark: The park looks incredibly modern from the outside. When you walk up to the gates they have this crazy sheet made of various metal pieces that block the wind into the garage but is also some kind of art. I didn't take a picture last night, but maybe I'll go back today and grab one.
The stone on the outside reminds me a bit of PETCO Park, but Target pulls it off much better. It also has some sleek glass and regular silver-looking metal railings. From the outside it looks like it could be a brand new museum rather than a stadium, and I mean that in a good way. They should consider renaming it "Tarjet Field."
The field itself was very beautiful, and I think the total seating capacity is 39,504. It's pretty expansive in the way US Cellular is, but still has a little bit of the small park feel. Anyway, I really like the way Target Field turned out. If Houston weren't so miserable in the summer, I would say we should build a field exactly like this in 2040, but I'm afraid we need the roof. Maybe by then we can fly the roof over from some off-site location.
One cool thing that I haven't seen anywhere else is the outdoor concessions before the game. The Twins open their gates kind of late, I think an hour and a half before the first pitch, but they have restrooms and concessions stands built into the stadium used for outside access before the game. I thought that was pretty cool, so I had to buy a beer.
They also have a great Jumbotron, but I still prefer the ones in Yankee Stadium and DKR in Austin.
From a skydeck bar that is open to anyone
Before the national anthem
Pretty cool old logo representing the Twin Cities. They shake hands after a home run.
Photo from Section 128, WC 3
Behind the plate. Field Box level.
Behind the plate. Delta Level. Monochrome.
Behind the plate. Delta Level. Full color.
View from bar for any season ticket holder
Food: Todd directed me to a lot of food options: the steak sandwich, Cuban, meatball sub, hamburger with a funny name in Hrbek's, onion rings, and the local fried fish called Walleye fingers. Again, I was a patsy, so I only indulged myself in the steak sandwich, which was much better than the one I had at US Cellular. It slipped my mind to take a picture to compare it to the one I had in Chicago, but it wouldn't have mattered anyways. It was gone in 5 minutes. The onion rings were great, and the walleye fish finger I had was good, but I'm not the biggest fan of fried fish, unless it's from Luby's.
The draft was $7 and the jumbo dog was $5, so the SCPI was $12 at Target Field. Not too shabby.
One of the bars on one of the many club levels. You might recognize the floors from the old Minneapolis Lakers' court.
Another bar. They definitely did these well.
Game: The game was a matchup of two of my starting pitchers from my fantasy team, Dontrelle Willis and Nick Blackburn. Before you say: "Damn, Joe. You certainly have a lot of fantasy players on your team. How do you have one everywhere you go?", you should know that I have three fantasy teams and one is in a twenty-team league with 29 roster spots. That's pretty much the entire MLB. Chances are I have every good player on at least one of my teams.
Anyway, the game was rainy, but luckily the only ticket I could get was a bleachers seat in the wheelchair section so I was covered from the rain. It was kind of a boring game, but got real interesting in the later innings. J.J. Hardy, a regular Lou Collins, made a Web Gem stop at shortstop and picked off a Detroit Tiger rounding third after Blackburn had given up his 3-2 lead, and then came up in the bottom of the 9th and hit a triple. He soon scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Always humiliating for that to happen to the losing team and an ugly win for the Twins, but as the dessert stand at US Cellular says, "Winning Ugly is Sweet." Now that I think about it, it's kind of ironic that my first game after seeing that dessert stand was a sweet, ugly win.
Since it's a new stadium, it was packed. I am in my hotel room now and tried but was unable to get a ticket for today's afternoon game. As long as the Twins keep playing good ball, the park should be at capacity for the next few years. Last night was windy and rainy and got pretty cold after a warm afternoon, but the Twinkies' fans are gonna have to get used to the elements now that they've made an outdoor stadium. I'm all for it, though. Baseball was meant to be played outdoors, as Todd said, and it shouldn't be THAT bad in early November. Here's to a Yankees-Twins ALCS in late October.
Nick Blackburn, complete game winner
D-Train vs. Morneau. Right before Morneau gives the Twins the lead with a double.
Summary: Beautiful new stadium. I think Todd said the total cost was roughly $450mm. To put that in perspective, the new Yankee Stadium was built using $1.3B of muni bonds. I don't know if the real estate held by the city was that much more expensive in the Bronx, but I feel like the Twins were able to do more with their cash than the Yankees. No disrespect to my former employer at all, because Yankee Stadium is definitely other-worldly, but Target Field was simply awesome. The game was great and the weather tolerable...all in all a great experience. It's probably tied with Safeco as my favorite modern stadium. Wrigley Field is just another animal and it's kind of difficult to compare the experience. Wouldn't have been the same, though, had I not had the behind-the-scenes tour. Thanks a million, Todd.
Off to the Mall of the Americas! Anyone need anything?
Giveaways: Still the same.
Little Big League references: 3