Minnesotans rolled out the red carpet for Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic on Tuesday, as throngs of eager fans packed into downtown Minneapolis and sold-out Target Field to witness what has become a once-in-a-generation spectacle in the state.
No shade-hoarding or brow-wiping was necessary, with Mother Nature providing free air conditioning under blue-and-white skies. The rain that delayed Monday night’s Home Run Derby stayed away, and fans were treated to a 5-3 American League win that was wrapped up by hometown hero Glen Perkins, who pitched the final inning.
From the afternoon parade on scarlet-carpeted Nicollet Mall to pregame mingling on the field to the big event itself, the fan favorite was clear — the New York Yankees captain, whose name repeatedly rang out in chants and exclamations: “De-rek Je-ter! De-rek Je-ter!”
New Jersey resident Michael Volpe and his 13-year-old son, Anthony, were among the lucky few who scored autographs from the soon-to-be-retired baseball great when he came over to their group before the game. “Wait until my wife finds out,” Volpe said. “I wanted to tell him my wife’s in love with him.”
The other star of the day appeared to be the city itself.
Mike George and his family, in town from San Francisco for their third consecutive All-Star Game, praised Minneapolis’ layout, especially being able to be downtown and within walking distance of the ballpark. “Aside from the rain and the cold weather, it’s a beautiful city,” George said. Californians notwithstanding, the cool weather was a hit with fans, easing long downtown walks and helping keep energy levels high.
Waiting in line at the Butcher and the Boar stand at Target Field for beef tips, Peter Carlson, of Maplewood, looked at the skies and said, “Isn’t this great?”
He said he was thrilled with the lack of a heat index and had no time for naysayers. “They can [complain] all they want, but we love it here in Minnesota,” he said.
Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews, attending his first All-Star Game, was among those feeling no chill whatsoever. He said he was delighted to see the Twin Cities in the national spotlight.
“In L.A. and New York, there’s a coldness, but there is such a warmth here,” he said.
Thrills and treats
Through the day and night, a mix of out-of-towners and Minnesotans filled the streets, concourses and stadium seats with giddy, footloose festivity.
Fan energy, high all day, reached a fever pitch as the game began.
Fans warmly applauded 30 “All-Star Teachers” from across the country, selected via an MLB online competition, as Idina Menzel (the voice of Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen”) sang Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Neil Johnson, a calculus teacher from Shakopee High School, was one of those recognized.
Jeter’s star status only rose as the game began. He received a standing ovation as he went to bat in the first inning and again when he scored the game’s first run. When he was pulled from the game in the fourth inning, it required a curtain call.
Jay Dirks and Matt Meyer, of Minneapolis, season-ticket holders decked out in Twins baseball caps and jerseys, said they couldn’t have been more excited to be at the big game.
“We’ve been waiting for this since 1985,” Dirks said.
Both said they were most excited to see Jeter and former Twin and Wisconsin native Pat Neshek. “It’s good to see him come back home,” Dirks said.