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Baseball & Family (Part 2): A First-Ballot Aunt

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A virtual pat on the back for the first person to name the three former Twins in the cover photo

I’ve been going to Minnesota Twins games for a solid thirty years. My most frequent companion at the ballpark? Without a doubt, it is Aunt Sandy.

Throughout the entire decade of the 2000s, my two brothers and I attended many a Dome contest with our aunt. She was seemingly always able to acquire 2-for-1 upper deck tickets via something called a “Happenings Coupon Book”, so most games were viewed from that vantage point, elevated behind home plate. Quite literally hundreds of Dome Dogs and Souvenir Sodas were consumed in those blue plastic seats, as well as a fair amount of cotton candy and root beer floats.

In recent years, my aunt has always been up for a few go-rounds at Target Field each season too...

Perhaps the paramount baseball-related experience with Aunt Sandy, however, occurred in 2001 (I was 15), when we shared a memorable trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

As a public school teacher, she always had a long weekend in October for the Minnesota Educator Academy conference. The next time I see her, I’ll ask her if she ever attended those events—as long as I knew her, that was “travel time” (she’s retired now so she won’t mind that disclosure!).

Earlier in ‘01, our beloved Kirby Puckett and hometown boy Dave Winfield had both been inducted, so it seemed like a great time for the pilgrimage. The only problem? We’d be flying into the Empire State a month after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history took place there. We hemmed and hawed a bit, but decided to proceed.

Most of our activities on Manhattan Island were affected by the heightened threat state. An anthrax mail scare shut down our planned tour of NBC Studios in Rockefeller Plaza, and no one was being allowed into Lady Liberty. We were able to ascend the Empire State Building, and I distinctly remember seeing smoke/debris still rising from the World Trade Center site.

The actual visit to Cooperstown (a solid 4-hour drive from New York City) was very memorable, however.

We hit the leaves changing just perfectly, so the car ride flew by as we enjoyed the almost pastoral scenery (the absolute antithesis of NYC). The morning of our day devoted to HOF activities, we got locked inside our hotel room when a deadbolt failed to retract. After hotel staff quite literally beat the door down with a battering ram (hand to God, this actually happened), we were on our way.

As a baseball history buff (even at that adolescent stage), I was basically in nirvana at the Hall. I specifically remember the entire room devoted to Babe Ruth regalia (including a Home Run King crown), as well as an exhibit about how fielding gloves improved over time. Really, though, the entire experience was tremendous. Even Aunt Sandy, less of a baseball historian, enjoyed it immensely.

I wish more pictures survived of that fantastic trip, but considering they were taken by a Fuji-Film disposable camera (how did we live like that?!), I probably should be lucky that I’ve retained anything at all...

Aunt Sandy recently moved to Tennessee for her “golden”, post-retirement years. Perhaps I’ll visit once baseball is full-fledged again and we can take in a Braves game (the closest MLB squad to her). But make no mistake: she’ll always remain a Twins fan at heart. I’ll see to that.