On September 14, 2019, my Mom and I attended a Twins/Cleveland contest on the shore of Lake Erie. We saw the visiting Bomba Squad literally knock the home denizens out of the game and figuratively remove them from the pennant race.
I didn’t get back to Target Field the rest of that month. As I’ve said numerous times in the past year-and-change, I had no idea how long it would take for me to walk through those gates again. Fortunately, this past weekend I was able to put that streak to bed. On April 10 & 11, I finally made my return to a stadium seat.
The verdict? Not yet the same pre-pandemic experience—but progress towards that ultimate goal.
I believe that in everyone’s life, there’s sort of a “sacred place” that gives us an escape from life’s more banal (or worse) realities. For all but the extremely lucky souls that work in dream-job scenarios instead of for “the man”, day-to-day existence is riddled with little indignities. Add in a viral health pandemic amongst the most polarized electorate this country has ever seen, and those “little indignities” seem to multiply exponentially.
For some, the pressure-release valve may be found, say, in a theater seat, on a golf course, within a pew, engrossed in a book, enveloped by a symphony, or puttering around the great outdoors. Those activities—and literally millions of others—constitute stress-relief from the 40-hour (or more) work week.
My sacred place (if you haven’t already guessed)? Target Field. One of the few locales in which I can completely “be myself” and feel 100% comfortable in my own skin. Without overlooking my own fortune amidst the pandemic—I have managed to maintain continuous employment/income—one can imagine how the shock of no summer days/nights at the ballpark affected me. No more “happy place”.
So, as I strolled through the gates at 1 Twins Way on 4/10/21, I was expecting a euphoric moment. Trumpets blaring, clouds parting, maybe even some Handel playing in the background. That sort of thing. Reality proved a bit more prosaic:
-The bubbling energy of an incoming crowd? Replaced by COVID-19 self-screening signs.
-The notion—at least to me—of wearing a mask out-of-doors in any capacity (somewhat where I’ve usually drawn the line in my adherence to face coverings).
-The oft-frustrating combination of cold air, warm breath, and prescription lenses.
-The mostly-empty concourses, vendor-less seating sections, and gentle murmur—instead of guttural roar—upon a piece of Twins heroics.
In other words, whereas the pre-pandemic stadium experience was largely an escape from reality, the current one displayed multiple startling reminders of it.
All of that being said, I won’t belabor the point any longer. With all the negativity and tension coursing through society these days, dwelling on such topics gets us nowhere. But I do like to be honest in my experiences.
Upon some reflection, I’ve settled on this line of thinking about baseball outings in the immediate present: while not quite the same as the halcyon days of 2019, paying customers inhabiting Target Field seats represents progress—and right now, progress may be more important than perfection.
As vaccinations continue to proliferate and humanity creeps towards herd immunity—one way or the other—it is becoming clear to me that the path out of a pandemic is more “dimmer switch” than “OFF/ON”. Regardless of the few more Target Field indignities than I’m used to, my posterior in the green plastic represented a significant step forward.
Despite seeing the home team cough up two games that seemed like wins (an altogether too common experience thus far in 2021), I still had a good time. I attended each game with a sister, had great seats for both, got to see Nelson Cruz receive his Silver Slugger Award, and remembered what 3+ hours spent immobile in 45-degree temperatures feels like :)
A week from now, I’ll be back in the Twin Cities Metro for two more contests. With my expectations for the ballpark experience more properly configured, I suspect I’ll be able to enjoy it even further.