Target Field; A utopia of baseball
After attending the third-ever Minnesota Twins game at Target Field Thursday, it made me think back to my first game at the Metrodome in its inaugural season.
The irony of the two games was way too apparent as I recalled that first Metrodome game, which was against the visiting Texas Rangers.
Thursday's Twins' tilt was against the Boston Red Sox, under sunny skies in 70-degree temperatures, with the players playing on the green glow of real grass turf.
My first taste of the Metrodome as an 8-year-old wide-eyed kid came under the gloomy, dank and artificial lightning of the Teflon during a steamy and humid July evening.
The temperature in the Dome that evening was a balmy 75-plus degrees, since there wasn't any air conditioning installed during the first season of Twins' play.
The 2010 Twins I saw playing the Bo-Sox at Target Field were coming off an A.L. Central Division Championship and returned the reigning American League M.V.P. and hometown hero Joe Mauer.
Thursday's lineup also included former A.L. MVP Justin Morneau, four-time Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, newly-signed future Hall of Famer Jim Thome and a host of .300 hitters and sluggers on a $92 million roster.
The inaugural Metrodome lineup included my favorite players of that year, centerfielder Gary Ward and Ron Washington. Hall of Fame futures they did not have.
Gary Gaetti was a lesser-known second-year third baseman, while Frank Viola was just starting out.
Tom Brunansky was an up-and-comer, but still not close to his Bruise Brothers tagging with fellow teammate Kent Hrbek.
These were all players know in Twins' lore, but in 1982, not a very good team yet.
The Twins of Thursday played in front of a jammed-packed, sun-burned crowd.
As an 8-year-old in 1982, fans were sparse, since the team was already basically out of the running in July.
That enabled my brother, cousin and I to snag seats above the Twins' dugout, drop our programs down in front of the players and hope for an autograph.
A player of unknown origin picked it up and signed it for us (the program is long gone, so no idea who it was).
The Rangers smoked the Twins 13-0 that night. Walking around the Dome and seeing "the big roof" was the highlight of the evening.
Getting back outside was actually refreshing.
Under the 70-degree sun Thursday in Target Field, highlights were galore -- on and off the field.
Michael Cuddyer lifted a towering blast off of Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield just on the right side of the left field foul pole.
Leftfielder Jason Kubel made a diving Web Gem catch to steal a hit away from a Red Sox hitter.
Francisco Liriano started off a bit sluggish, settled in, and started mowing down Boston hitters by the tune of eight strikeouts.
Morneau had a day, going 3-5, while the only downer of the day was Mauer going 0-4.
There was more than enough action to keep the fans' attention on the emerald green field, but with this being only the third game in Minnesota's newest landmark, craning heads were looking all over.
The final score: 8-0.
Much better than the almost reversed score I saw the Rangers peg on those 1982 Twins of 13-0. Two shutouts, in two completely different venues and each on the different side of the spectrum. It's more than suiting that the positive ending came at Target Field.
My attention was amiss from the game in the first few innings on just the openness and beauty of outdoor baseball.
This being probably near my 100th Twins' game, I've never experienced an outdoor professional game.
The atmosphere in the Metrodome for all those games was drab -- excluding the playoff games I attended.
Waiting in the bathrooms lines added to the less-than-stellar baseball atmosphere, along with the troughs, which allowed your bathroom neighbor to splash you with a little of their golden shower.
Leaving by the seventh inning always crossed my mind, especially if it was 75 and sunny outside.
In Target Field, I wasn't ready to leave even after the last out was recorded.
There also wasn't any waiting in lines with the 167 restrooms available, either.
Also, we were seated in the leftfield bleacher seats, which were near the two teams' bullpens. Heckling could be heard from Twins' fans directed towards the Red Sox relievers, since the bullpens are set up like a Como Park display, with fans gawking over the players like they were some kind of exotic beast behind glass.
But even leaving was inevitable and that even was a trip.
Walking through the concourse, baseball was still alive, with statues of the late-great Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew anchoring down the history aspect of Target Field.
But again, it was the sun which was the featured guest and Thursday, it was a very welcomed one -- the entire game.
There have been many positives and featured items written and talked about in the media about the Twins' new home -- like the food, the atmosphere, along with the convenience and fan friendliness of the entire structure.
But I will log in one complaint now.
Please give back my 28 years of enduring baseball in the Metrodome. I have found Baseball Utopia...finally.