If you build it, they will come. Especially if you build it outdoors, using the same architectural firm that designed Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Pittsburgh's PNC Park, and San Francisco's AT&T Park. And, most importantly, especially if you build it on mostly their - the taxpayers - dime.
I'd like to take this opportunity and thank the taxpayers of Hennepin County, Minnesota. If the Minnesota Legislature, and the taxpayers, hadn't agreed to pick up the tab for $350-million of the estimated $545-million it cost to build Minneapolis's new Target Field, there's no way local hero Joe Mauer remains a Minnesota Twin; there's no way he signs a mammoth $184-million extension. And you know what that would have meant, right? With Jason Varitek reduced to nothing but a laughing stock in Boston (there's no way he keeps up those 2010 numbers; no way!), and New York's Jorge Posada nearing the end of what is surely a Cooperstown-worthy career, Joe Mauer would have joined one of the Evil Empires. There's simply no doubt about it in my mind. One of the Yankees or Red Sox would have made it rain, like it has never rained before on a catcher, over Mauer.
Thank you, Hennepin County taxpayers. As much as I would have enjoyed watching Joe Mauer on an unbalanced schedule basis, thank you kindly for keeping him out of the American League East. He's all yours. You're paying his salary. Enjoy him.
Tucked in the Warehouse District in west downtown Minneapolis, Target Field is ... pure. Perhaps because she's new, and I because I visited in her inaugural season. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) But also perhaps because, no matter the weather, she's outdoors. And, by all accounts, the residents of the Twin Cities love her. Here's Minnesota Twins fan Alex, on his team's new home:
"Twins fans have a love-hate relationship with the Metrodome. It was our ticket to two World Series but was really a football stadium. Nothing about it had any connection to baseball; anything Twins related had to be removable since it was mixed use. Target Field oozes Twins and the team's history. My favourite part of Target Field is that it doesn't do anything ridiculous; no mascot slide, no hot tub in centre field. It's very focused on the game. It's not generic, either. The limestone is all quarried from Minnesota and makes the park unmistakable."
It rained steadily during my stay at Target Field; all game, just about. But it didn't matter. Another Twins fan who was also making his first trip to the new ballpark said it best:
"Sure, it's raining. But who cares? We're outside. We love baseball in Minnesota. And we love the Twins. But I think we forgot that the game was meant to be played outdoors. It's great. Everything about this place is just great."
The sightlines are, as I'm sure you figured, fantastic. Thirty-two dollars gets you a seat in left field on the third base side, just a few rows from the grass. Real grass. There are bleachers in left and right field, Minnie and Paul's Celebration Sign in centre field, and even heating lamps, which I must say are fantastic, at the entrance to each section. There's even a charging station in the spacious main concourse for when you've Tweeted away the battery life on your mobile phone. Yep, it's official: they've thought of everything.
You know my 15 minutes of #TBRTOAL fame? They'll be over soon. So I'm going to cherish the moments, like when local Minneapolis television news station Kare11 interviewed me about my journey during the game at Target Field.
The Little Things
I'm a simple man. It doesn't take much to please me, and I'm easily satisfied. And it's the little things at Target Field that left me thinking that "Minnesota" and "contraction" will never be spoken in the same sentence again.
The gates at Target Field are numbered. Like any other stadium, you'd think. But it's a bit different. Gates #3, #6, #14, #29, and #34. In honour of Twins legends Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Rod Carew, and the one and only Kirby Puckett. There's also a Gate #42, for the great Jackie Robinson. Perhaps I missed something like this in stadiums I've already visited, but what a fantastic idea. The next time you're meeting a friend at SkyDome, how would you like to say: "Meet me at Gate Stieb"? Or "Gate Key, 6 p.m."? Or "Gate Henke," or "Gate Alomar," or "Gate Fernandez"? You get the idea. The possibilities are endless. And, no, we wouldn't be copying the Twins. We'd be imitating the Twins. And imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.