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Take me (back) out to the ball game

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A look back at my 2021 ballpark adventures

In a number of ways, the 2021 Minnesota Twins season was one of the most challenging ones for me in terms of Target Field attendance:

  • For the first month or so, the realities and frustrations (i.e. masks, limited seating, etc.) of the outside world intruded upon my hallowed ballpark experience.
  • With public transit limited, I drove into Minneapolis—not my preference—for every game.
  • I sent multiple emails to Twins Customer Service. It’s annoying when I know the ballpark rules better than the arbiters of them, so I get a little salty when a security guard forces me to dump out a sealed water bottle (that I know is within the posted size limits) or a vendor refuses my Sweet Spot discount on $1 hot dogs.
  • After settling into my seat for one game, I got rained out in the midst of a MN drought. Oh yeah—and it barely rained.

Yet, there’s one thing—a number—that I keep reflecting on: 575. Days, that is. From September 14, 2019 until April 10, 2021—the period of time in which I did not attend a single live baseball game. Barring injury, old age, or that final journey to the great ballpark in the sky, I never envisioned so long a stadium-less stretch in my life.

With that in mind, it is tough to complain too much about the annoyances in favor of thankfulness for the return.

Let’s start with some stats (this is the analytics era, after all):

  • 10 wins, 10 losses. That .500 winning percentage actually pegged me as lucky, considering the Twins’ overall .469% at Target Field
  • 36 Bombas witnessed (paced by Nelson Cruz, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, & Max Kepler with five each). That’s 1.8/game, again above the team average of 1.4 dongs per game.
  • Winner of the Kyle Lohse Memorial Award (so named for all the times I saw him pitch at the Metrodome when I wanted Johan Santana or Brad Radke): Michael Pineda (7 starts).

Now, on to the highlights:

-Seeing J.A. Happ inexplicably no-hit the Pirates into the 8th inning.

  • An Astros game in which an inflatable trash can was thrown on the OF warning track.
  • That utterly improbable Twins comeback against the Yankees (I was literally speechless in my seat, as it all happened so fast):
  • Witnessing the man, the myth, the legend—Shohei Ohtani—in the flesh.
  • Soaking in the 1991 Championship Reunion with my Dad.
  • Definitely, absolutely not tearing up during Justin Morneau’s Twins Hall of Fame acceptance speech and this moment.

But as Twinkie Town Constant Readers—to steal a Stephen King term—will know, baseball is very much a family affair for me. So my top two ‘21 ballpark memories?

  1. Introducing my 4-year old niece to live baseball. She likely won’t remember seeing Taylor Rogers give up a back-breaking ninth inning grand slam, or even Polanco’s dramatic walk-off an inning later (unless it is the image of “Uncle Zach” jumping up and down like a maniac). But after worrying about how she’d react to running the bases after the game, she took off like Byron Buxton. I bet she’ll remember that.
  2. While not technically at the ballpark—though that would have made for a better story—I welcomed a newborn nephew into the Twins Territory fold. It is a bit mind-boggling to contemplate what the sport might look like when he’s of age to appreciate it (I’m sure I’ll be the old geezer pining for the days of starting pitchers & closers, as well as still waiting for a darn foul ball!).

All told, my 2021 baseball outings taught me to never take for granted the “out” in baseball’s anthem: out to the ballgame—out with the crowd. After 575 days of staying in, I was finally able to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the ballpark again.