Hello again, Twins fans.
It's been a little bit over a week since my visit to Minneapolis, and I'm finally caught up all the daily nuances in life to where I can actually deliver with a write up of my experience. To cut to the chase, I had a very great time up in Minnesota, and I thank everyone who chimed in during my initial inquiries of things to do, places to eat at (and drink), and some other activities to keep in mind. The duration of my stay was only a single night, and part of an afternoon, so obviously I couldn't pack everything into it, but I am grateful to everyone who gave me suggestions.
29 more photos after the jump, hoping your connection is decent.
The funny thing is that my friend and I had planned this trip back in early August, when the Twins were 5 or some games out of first, and the thought of this particular squad going to the playoffs was an afterthought. And then suddenly, going into the last week of the season, both the Twins and my Atlanta Braves made nice little streaks of wins that put both into the serious playoff picture. Unfortunately for me, the Braves couldn't keep their end of the bargain, and I had to bear witness as a game-ending pick-off at third base effectively ended the season for them. However, the Twins got the memo to keep on winning, and suddenly the tickets that I had for Saturday's game was quite possibly the most meaningful game in all of MLB that day. To say I was excited for it was an understatement.
I landed in Minneapolis early on Saturday, and I'm glad that I planned on arriving early; part of it has to do with my flight privileges, and flying early is always the best idea, but mostly because the Twins vs. Royals game I was there to see was bumped to the afternoon slot by FOX. I picked up my rental, a Ford Focus (which pulling the hand-brake while moving results in a sound effect akin to picking up a coin in Super Mario Bros.), and it was off to find some breakfast. I didn't really ask anyone here where some good breakfast was, but the desire for some breakfast really
hit hard after landing, so I asked the girl at the Budget desk what she suggested, and she pointed me in the direction of Key's Cafe and Bakery. Awesome place. Had an incredible chorizo omelette to start my day sufficiently.
One thing I like to do when I go to cities I've never explored before, is to just set out on foot and walk around. After eating at Key's, my friend and I didn't realize the proximity of the area, and that we were suddenly right in Minneapolis. Nicollet Mall was literally two blocks away, and the Metrodome was about a six block walk, according to a couple in Twins regalia. So instead of hopping back in the rental and trekking back to Bloomington to check into my hotel, we decided to hoof it and explore the area.
A sign as big as the Grain Belt sign made it clear that I was to try this Grain Belt beer. Also, one of you mentioned the mills around town, and it crossed my mind upon seeing both the Gold Medal and Pilsbury factories on oppsing sides of the river. And, for some reason, I guess it's the art studies in me, that really likes photographing run-down dilapidated buildings.
So my friend and I eventually make it to the Metrodome, and the interesting thing is we assumed that it would be visible right away. And then it turned into one of those situations where you turn your head to the left, and oh, there it is. I guess the fancy photographs of the exterior from across the river is what I expected to see, but coming from inside of Minneapolis, on foot, leads to very different circumstances.
Pictured, is a supposed corporate-ly sponsored tailgate set up right outside of HHH, except for the fact that there was hardly anyone there. Too much promotion, not enough booze and food, it looked like.
Crossing the tracks, and then this was the pre-game buzz I was looking for. Twins jerseys, t-shirts, and caps everywhere, which was something I could truly appreciate. The best part is that the Twins' identity has remained much the same throughout the last few decades. My biggest gripe with the Atlanta Braves is how many times the identity had changed throughout the decades of Milwaukee, the Aaron-era, and then the Ted Turner-present era, that gives fans reasons to have no truly uniform standard of colors, so home games in Atlanta turn into these mixing bowls of reds, blues, and college football crap of rednecks just looking to get trashed.
Pictured is my state of confusion - Mall of America Field, obviously for the Vikings, the promotional banner for next year's home of the Twins, and ol' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome down on the bottom like some afterthought.
Okay, this is kind of ridiculous. I know football is king to some, and I certainly like football as well, but baseball is my
first love, and more importantly, is in a critical stage at this time of year. The exterior of HHH gave pretty much zero indication that the hottest team in baseball actually played sports here. And no, I will refrain from making a rehashed, and likely unwelcome Brett Favre joke, because I just haven't been paying enough attention.
This picture stings. Jack Morris's 10IP ridiculously awesome performance in 1991 against my boys. But regardless, I'm under the mindset that it's better to lose to the best, and I was really actually hoping to get a glimpse of 'ol BlackJack, but among the throngs of fans crowding, I didn't get to find Mr. Morris anywhere.
But it was Fan Appreciation Weekend, and lots of Twins greats, and alums were present in the halls. I think this was Gary Gaetti's, but I'm not 100% sure. Forgive me for not being savvy in all the former Twins. There were also a ton of more interested fans there than I was, obviously just as equally there for the legends as they were for the game.
Obligatory field shot, while Royals take BP. As it is with every park I go to for the first time, no matter how many times I've seen a place on tv, whether it be Interleague, ESPN, or whatever, it's always a different experience walking the place and taking in the sights yourself. You can notice little things, like the faint hint of the hashmarks and Vikings logos in the turf, and see how the aisles and stairs work.
Since RFK, the former home of the Washington Redskins was also used for Nationals, I guess I kind of expected the walkway system of that place. But since it was also a dome, which Atlanta has in the Georgia Dome, it more resembled that. Maybe a little narrow for my tastes in the hallways, but the vending was plentiful, and there were no lines at the restrooms, so I guess those weren't too bad.
COUNTDOWN TO OUTDOOR BASEBALL. I like campy things like this, I'll admit. I felt privileged to be there in the time of (so we all thought) final games at the Metrodome. I missed out on opportunities to see Shea and Old Yankee, and I didn't want to miss another ballpark before it was too late.
Mascot TC lofting slow-pitched softballs into the upper deck. I remember during an Interleague game versus the Braves a few years ago, they showed a clip of some big, bearded ringer smashing homers pre-game, but I didn't realize that TC would do it too.
SANTA CLAUS. I get a kick out of old guys who rock the Santa Beard. With only general admission tickets, I tried to convince my friend that we should sit in Santa's section, but he wanted to stay put with our view from straight-away center.
Zack Grienke warming up. He might be a likely candidate for the AL Cy Young, but I wasn't too worried for the Twins. Afterall, you guys had Orlando Cabrera, who was the reason I didn't mention in the previous post I made, why the Twins WOULD make the post-season. I made a joke with my friend, calling him the equivalent to the NBA's Robert Horry in baseball, based on how he always seems to be on a team going to the postseason. Naturally, my friend being from Washington and a Nationals fan, made point to debunk the theory that even Orlando Cabrera couldn't take the Natinals to the playoffs. But whatever, I knew O-Cab's presence was all that was necessary for the Twins to make playoffs happen.
I saw a few people eating these monstrosities throughout HHH, and it was only a matter of time before I realized that I had to be one of these as well. Unfortunately for me, there's only one vendor on the second deck that sold them, and they were quite a hike. The best part was that since my friend decided to be the designated seat-holder, I was the lucky one who got to walk through the halls carrying TWO of these Chicago Dogs, much to the dismay of the few attractive girls I walked by. A funny thing is that while my friend and I were chowing down, four gentlemen behind us decided that they needed the Chicago Dogs as well, and a while later, we turned to see four guys pounding these dogs as well.
An interesting thing about sitting in the general admission seats where I was sitting is the fact that anything hit into right field was an adventure that was more or less unwatchable. Anything hit into the outfield, after the first two seconds, I wasn't sure what was happening. I deduced from fan reaction of the results, since a Kubel catch meant an out, and like when Mike Jacobs went deep, the instantaneous silence meant homer.
Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. I love this song. Not just for how well it relates to sports, I'm a child of the 80s, and I love Bon Jovi. They played this in Atlanta too, but then they lost.
A funny thing happened next - so as I said, my friend is a Nationals fan. When Jon Rauch came out, he mentioned something about how funny it would be if Rauch blew the lead, but then was still pitcher of record when the lead was re-taken, and getting the BS,W - for old time's sake. Well.
And Michael Cuddyer delivers the go-ahead homer in the bottom of the 8th while Jon Rauch is still on record after allowing the game tying run to score previously. The reaction from the Metrodome was ear-ringing. Truly a wonderful sensation, being around baseball fans that cared that much.
Joe Nathan closing out the game. Again, I must mention just how into the game the fans were, and how amazing that felt being there. Braves fans are generally really apathetic, and don't ever come close to selling out Turner Field on any capacity. Being at HHH for such pivotal games was awesome on many levels, but mostly I was just in awe of fans that cared.
Something fascinating, not necessarily surprising. Funny what allegiances awaken during the midst of a division race. Twins fans cheering for the White Sox; and they were given much reason to cheer later on in the evening when the White Sox beat the Tigers, and the Twins catching them in the standings, setting up a pivotal Sunday.
LOLRauch (BS, W). I also enjoyed at how fast the game breezed - with Grienke going strong for six and two-thirds, and Nick Blackburn tossing a gem with his own seven strong innings.
A ballsy move by this one gentleman, doffing the Detroit Tigers jersey in Minnesota; he was getting quite a tongue-lashing from some homers on the way out of the park, which proved to be entertaining for about five seconds.
Massive crowds of Twins fans departing from the VikingDome.
Overall, the experience of attending a Twins game at the Metrodome was nothing short of memorable and totally awesome. It goes without saying that the circumstances in which the game was played had a lot to do with it, but it felt great being around passionate fans, and ones that cheered and jeered based on what was going on, on the field, and not what the out-of-town scoreboard was showing.As for the Metrodome itself as a baseball venue, I'm not thrilled, but I'm not disappointed. It's a moot point considering next season it's not an issue, but I'm just being honest. I'm glad I got the chance to see it before it's no longer a baseball venue, but I'm certainly not really going to miss it. In terms of domes, I'd rank Toronto's Rogers Centre above HHH, but HHH is still leaps, bounds, and high jumps better than Tropicana Field.
The rest of my trip in a few pictures:
I went to Gruek's Bar after the game, where I tried the house brew in Amber Red (considered it "eh"), tried the Grain Belt (which was "okay"), before returning to my comfort in Sam Adams. Also hit on the cute redheaded waitress rocking the baseball cap, which is a look I can dig.
As for the following day, as much as I wanted to scalp my way into the (not so) final game at HHH, the timing would interfere with my flight, so I opted to not go. Instead, I ended up in Dinkytown for two hours waiting outside, before getting to experience Al's Breakfast:
Which was worth the wait for a tourist like me, because I had interesting conversation with some locals in line, and the abomination known as "the Jose" (hash browns smothered in salsa, cheese, eggs benedict) was so unhealthily delicious.
Then I ended up at the Mall of America where my friend and I walked for hours, endured a Nickelodeon world ticketing snafu, rode all the rides, ogled some Vikings cheerleaders who were present, and I managed to finally find a souvenir Twins baseball that I couldn't find anywhere in HHH, or one of the Twins Pro Shops located in the surrounding area.
And then we hit up this German restaurant called "Glockenspiel" in St. Paul before heading to the airport on our respective flights out. Except that for some reason, flights back to Atlanta suddenly turned bad, and I ended up getting stranged in MSP. Due to the fact that I was reliant on needing an early morning flight back to catch up with work, I couldn't really make the best of my extra night in Minnesota, and instead needed some Tylenol PM to ensure some sleep at all, before I was successfully able to get back to Atlanta the following morning.
Random trip notes:
- 104.1 JackFM is like, the greatest radio station I've ever listened to in my entire life. Seriously. The previous renter of the Focus I had left it as a pre-set, and I realized that I didn't once need to change the dial throughtout my entire trip.
- Parking in Minneapolis - I hope you folks realize how good you have it. $5, for all day event parking? Crazy. I'm used to paying anywhere from 2x to 5x that. 20x if you're in Boston.
- My craving for Italian was sated at Buca di Beppo in St. Paul. I know they're kind of a chain, but they're not in Atlanta, so I don't consider them, as breaking of my rule to try new and local things when traveling.
- This pains me greatly, very greatly. But I figured I had to get SOME baseball talk here. But I can admit that when it comes to it, I'd have to consider Joe Mauer, to be the slightly superior catcher over my own boy, Brian McCann. The numbers are oft-close, but there are just some intangibles watching the way Mauer plays, and the fact that going into October, Mauer is still going strong, where as McCann has what I've observed as late-season slumping. I know many back home argue that his physical freshness has a lot has to do with the fact that Mauer can DH from time to time, but let's not be delusional. As lovable as McCann is to me, he's got a little baby fat, and not the athletic build that Mauer has. McCann is still cream of the crop IMO in the NL, but I'll admit that Mauer's the better guy outright. For now, hopefully.
Aside from the traveling woes on the way out, I have nothing bad to say about this trip at all. Minnesota was a wonderful trip, and I have fond memories of closing out the 2009 reguar season out there, instead of Atlanta where the Braves apparently got swept by the NATIONALS to close out their season. Again I must thank those who contributed ideas and suggestions to me, and it goes without saying that this trip probably wouldn't have been as great with them.
And looking at the schedule for next year on my 2009-2010 Target Field calendar, it looks like a repeat trip is in order in June, as my Braves get their first look at new Target Field against the Twins. Looking forward to it!