It's only fitting that, on the day the Twins were supposed to wave goodbye to the Metrodome, they ended up sticking around longer than they expected. We local Twins fans have to admit - though we bellyached long and loudly about the Teflon confines, the Dome has been good to us.
I grew up in outstate Minnesota, over 150 miles from the stadium. My Dad started taking me to games in 1987, when I was five, and for the rest of my childhood, we attended at least one game every summer. That's a bit of a drive to make. Never once did we have to worry about a rainout. As someone who lives in "The Cities" now, it's easy to forget that nearly all of Twins Territory resides where I once did - far enough away that a rainout almost qualified as a personal hardship. For my entire life, the Dome guaranteed I had no worries.
I think it's easy to underestimate the effect this had on the team, as well. The great Steve Lombardozzi admitted as much in a post-ceremony interview yesterday, telling Dick Bremer, "It was really nice to know exactly what the weather would be like every day," or words to that effect. The Twins haven't had to deal with bone-chilling, bees-in-the-bat-handle nights in April or October, at least not at home. They haven't had to play three months' worth of home games with the sun beating down, or with the humidity at 135% and the mosquitoes swarming. They haven't had an unscheduled, bullpen-exhausting home doubleheader in years. I'm not saying the team wasn't tough enough to play outside, but there are plenty of days in Minnesota when it's preferable to stay in the air-conditioned (or heated) living room, rather than hang out outside.
This doesn't even take into account the home-field advantage the stadium always seemed to confer. During big games, it was loud enough that players couldn't hear their own shouted conversations. The famous fly-ball-camouflaging roof has helped. The strange plastic mystique of the "Humph" has helped. As Kent Hrbek said at the celebration, "Where do we go when we need a win? We go to the Dome."
Plus, Whitey Herzog hated the stadium with a passion. That's gotta be a major mark in the positive column.
It'll always be the place where Hrbie rollicked and Kirby rolled. Where Brian Harper always fell behind 0-2 in the count, then got a hit. Where Butch Huskey tried to run directly through the left-field fence. Where we knew Greg Gagne deserved a Gold Glove, though he never won one. Where Tom Brunansky was the only one who could field a ball in right field. (And oh yeah, those world championship thingies, and the greatest baseball game ever, Game 7 in 1991.)
The Metrodome has been "Minnesota's Living Room," as they used to say. More than anything, though, for me, and for thousands of other Twins fans, the Dome is the first place we ever went to see the home team. It's where I caught my first batting-practice, real-live major-league baseball. It's where I got the Kent Hrbek-signed mini bat that is boxed up at home, waiting to be displayed in a prominent place in my first house. It's where I learned that food fights at big-league games are possible, where I learned that mustard is drawn inexorably to clean clothes, and where I learned that ice cream always tastes better out of an inverted batting helmet.
I'm not ready to give up on those memories quite yet. Good thing there's time for one more.