So we have at last arrived at the point the dome will be deflated and filled with water to become the world's largest swimming pool and ice rink (during winter), but I am not a dome-basher and never have been, so it is with some sadness that I think about the dome disappearing from the baseball world.
Immediately, I hear incredulous cries of, "What? Have you lost your last ounce of sense?" Baseball was meant to be played on grass and in places where the natural elements can be felt enveloping the lucky fan who attends. To this I say, "BAH!" One man's trash is another's treasure.
I went to few Twins games as a lad. My father worked long hours and baseball games were a bit extravagant in his mind, but I did manage to get to a couple of games at the Old Met. I went with some lads from our church once and saw Tony-O tie the game up in the 9th with a home run down the right field line (only to realize that the organizers had only planned on staying 9 innings and we had to leave--that was crushing). I also saw a mammoth home run to deep left field (where I seemed to be seating the few times I managed to get to a game) by the Killebrew. It was going to land right in the aisle about 5 rows below me and I thought, “I am going to play the bounce and glove that sucker,” but alas, a hotdog vendor with an empty plastic container caught the ball in his container. I was a bit miffed to see that happen, but hotdog vendors are part of baseball. Those were the fond memories, but there were also some memories I don’t look back at with fondenss.
When I was older, I went to a Vikings game and sat in right field in the bleachers; it was so cold, I really couldn't feel my fingers or my bum. The Vikings won, but it was miserable to be there really. Of course the drunk behind us helped us freeze our keesters by dumping a large quantity of Hamm's beer on us and our wooden slats. It's all part of the game and fun--aaaahhh, NO, sorry! (I also got slivers where the sun doesn't shine, but I suppose that the new ballpark will have plasti-seats, so that part will be OK.) And, lest you think, "Ahhh we're talking baseball here sonny," I also attended a Twins' night game at the Old Met in mid-September. It was so cold that we had to sit on our hands and we could see our breath. And, speaking of outdoor parks in general, I took a trip to Oakland to watch the A's play the Twins at the Coliseum. The expected heavy thunderstorms that were supposed to ruin the game, never materialized until the middle of the night. They cancelled the game hours before the game even started, so my trip to Oakland was washed out without any rain falling!
Enter the Dome. I went there often with a pal of mine to watch the Twins play. Man we saw some great games; we never cared if it was raining, sunny or snowing. Sure the PA system is campy and echoes all over the park; sure the baggie in right field looks, ahhh, baggie or a giant blue bicycle uniform. Sure Kong hit the ceiling with the mystery ball. It was all part of the charm to me.
I also loved to feel that whoosh of air as one passed through the entry way. It was like entering a different kingdom. The field was always green and had that bounce, which I thought was great. Fenway has the Monster and outfielders have difficulty playing the carom off that wall. Wrigley has the wind and high-sun, both of which give fielders fits at times, and the Dome has that puffy grey ceiling. “Don’t take your eye off the ball Willie Wilson because you might just lose it and have it bounce over your head.” And, the dome has the baggie and its line-drive-deadening effect and crazy bounces too, but they could be mastered with a bit of practice.
Of course the number one reason I love the Dome is that the Twins won their only two World Series within the confines of that Dome. Minnesota professional sports teams have only those two championships. The name Gene Larkin is known simply because of a fly ball hit to left field inside that dome! And Frankie V. played his sweetest music so he could go to Disneyland (and shortly thereafter to the arch enemy’s camp), inside that Dome. I have to associate the historical names of the great teams with the Dome as that is where I saw those players excel: Brunansky, Hrbek, Gagne, Aguilera, Blyleven (yes, even he), Gaetti, Gladden and of course, Kirby. Kirby was a Domer. He played half of all of his games under the Teflon. He didn’t complain about it, he took advantage of it.
So it is with a bit of sadness for me that games will no longer be played in the Dome. I have tons of great memories that came about inside that giant popover that I will never forget them. Additionally, I will never have a chance to take my Japanese wife to a dome game. She’s always wanted to go but that chance is lost. For the few of us who loved the Dome, we will miss her. And to her I say, "Thanks for the memories." And mark my words, someone, somewhere next year when everyone is full of love and joy for the new stadium is going to slip up and say, “You know I think that one might have gotten through at the Dome.”