They built it, and so I went.
After a buildup of nearly a decade, it would seem hard for any ballpark to live up to the hype. But Target Field delivered.
For the first time, I saw the Minnesota Twins play professional baseball in Minneapolis outdoors, and The Manger was everything I hoped it would be.
My dad and I drove up to catch four games — two with the Royals and two with the Braves — and see just what all the fuss is about.
First the good: The park itself is beautiful, the sight lines sparkle and the location, just across from Target Center and on the Hiawatha light rail line, makes for easy access.
I’m not old enough to have gone to the old Metropolitan Stadium, so I cannot make the comparison, there. But outdoor baseball at the new yard surely beats even the best experience in the Metrodome.
I went to my first Twins game in 1986, and several more the next season when the Twins caught fire and won it all. At least one trip a summer followed from then until I started school in Minneapolis in 1997. Then I really started watching a lot of bad baseball, as some horrible Twins teams stumbled through some shoddy seasons.
Now that I am a commuter fan again, I can appreciate the one thing the Dome had going for it: If you were driving in from Pierre, you knew there would be a game.
It rained on two of the days we were in attendance. Remarkably, both games were still played, and we lived through the harrowing experience of watching baseball through a fine mist. Really. Pack a poncho, and go to the games.
We sat next to a retired couple from Redfield our first night at the new yard. They were flying out for a family reunion the next day, and took the train in from out by the airport to see the game.
They, too, seemed pretty awed by the new park — if less so by the amount of people. The man finally turned to me about the sixth inning and said, “You know, folks pay a lot of money for these seats, and then don’t watch the game.”
It feels nitpicky, but the one bad thing I can say about The Manger is it’s too popular. Going to the game is a social happening in the Cities, right now. And we happened to attend on the first week the Twins began experimenting with selling standing-room tickets. So we were part of a stadium-record crowd — sure to be broken, soon — and it felt like it. The rain made it worse, because even though some folks likely stayed home, everyone who did come out wanted onto the concourse at once. Agorophobes, you have been warned.
Still, and all, it was well worth the trip. The Twins went 2-2, and we saw Baby Jesus make the best catch I’ve ever seen, at any level, anywhere, when he tracked a foul pop, reached around the protective netting and sno-coned a ball that was in the second or third row behind the curtain.
We also saw Bobby Cox steal a win from the home team with a suicide squeeze late, and enough seven-dollar beers sold to make me seriously think about investing in Schell’s Brewery.
All told, I’ve seen somewhere around half of the ballparks in the majors in person, and I can say the new yard in Minneapolis is up there with PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Camden Yards in Baltimore as my favorite places to see a game.
And in the Cities, you get a Major League baseball team to go with the gorgeous view.