Souhan: In 2036, will baseball still be our national pastime?

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2014 - 11:47 PM

(Writer’s note: Baseball has changed dramatically since Minneapolis last hosted an All-Star Game. What might the future hold? Here’s a guess.)

The year is 2036. The space by Minneapolis’ mass transportation system in the North Loop — the human particle transporter — again stands adjacent to a new Twins ballpark.

After strong lobbying by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig — who agreed, with much reluctance, to sign another 20-year contract last year after threatening to retire for the 18th time — Minneapolis Mayor Mike Opat strong-armed the razing of Target Field and the building of a new ballpark.

Acting owner Joe Pohlad had threatened to contract the team, or to play “studio baseball,’’ if the Twins weren’t allowed to compete with the revenues of large-market teams like Cleveland, which became the center of the sports universe after LeBron James and Johnny Manziel won six championships apiece with the Cavaliers and Browns.

Opat again showed the Minneapolis City Council his Jack Bauer face, and they agreed to tax city residents at 30 percent to build what would become known as Fulton Park, after the world’s richest brewery easily won naming rights.

As a reward for completing construction, Selig awarded Minneapolis its fourth All-Star Game. Here’s the game story, as written by a computer chip embedded in MLB’s official game drone:

Baseball has been modernized over the years, but the North American team’s 5-4 victory over the World team on Tuesday night at Fulton Park offered touches of nostalgia for Minnesota baseball fans.

On a North American team dominated by Canadians, it was an American who got the game-winning hit. St. Paul Saints first baseman Steel Mientkiewicz drove in Byron Buxton with a two-out single in the ninth inning to score the winning run.

Mientkiewicz is the son of longtime Twins manager Doug Mientkiewicz. The player who started the winning rally in the ninth was the son of former Twin A.J. Pierzynski, now baseball’s dean of player discipline. Pierzynski, famous for his competitiveness, named his son “Steelier’’ to one-up his old friend Mientkiewicz.

The winning pitcher also had Minnesota connections. Toriiii Hunter, the youngest son of former Twin Torii Hunter, earned the victory with an inning of scoreless relief.

Since a rash of elbow injuries led to the scrapping of “starting pitchers,’’ Hunter has become a leader in the all-important QI statistic. As pitchers are no longer required to work more than one inning a day or four innings a week, Hunter has this season recorded 42 Quality Innings, requiring at least three outs and no more than one base­runner allowed.

Hunter, interviewed during the game on the bench while wearing his NIERU (Non-Invasive Elbow Repair Unit), said, “I thought the home-plate robot called a fair strike zone.’’

There was one controversial moment in the game. In the first inning, with Mike Trout Jr. on third base and Mike Trout Sr.,on first for the North American team, Buxton hit a slow roller to World third baseman Miguel Sano, who threw home.

Trout Jr., was initially ruled out. The sensors in his uniform indicated that the tag by Next Molina hit him before he activated the home-plate indicator, but the IRP (Instananeous Review Process) conducted by the home-plate Google computer overruled the sensors, and Trout Jr. was ruled safe.

The World team’s four-run rally in the fifth inning was a testament to the global growth of the game, as players from Argentina, Ghana, Russia, the Dominican Republic and France reached base.

In the end, the game provided a fitting farewell for the two Minnesota Twins stars who have announced their retirements effective at the end of the season and thus were appearing in their last All-Star Game.

Sano hit one of his vintage tape-measure home runs in the fifth. This one was measured at 457.238 feet, and bounced off a beer-delivery drone in the fourth deck of the left field stands.

Buxton went 3-for-4 with two doubles. As the constantly updated statistical graphic displayed on his uniform front reminded viewers, it was the eighth All-Star Game in which Buxton had recorded multiple hits.

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