Although it was 50 years ago, I can still remember my first look at a major league ballpark. We were driving down I-75 from Dayton headed for Cincinnati’s Crosley Field when I cried out in my excited seven-year old voice, “Look, there are the lights! We’re almost there!”
Once inside, the five hours seem to fly by as the Reds swept a doubleheader from the Milwaukee Braves.
I found myself thinking about that Tuesday night when I drove to Target Field for my first game there. I was headed west on Hennepin and had just turned a corner when I could see the left field lights (and the stadium sign) in a distance. It is one of the most visible signs that major league baseball has changed forever in our part of the world.
Much has been written about how nice Target Field is on the inside. I found it all to be true. Sitting in the upper deck behind home plate, I was reminded of Crosley Field (now, sadly, gone) and Fenway Park, which is very much alive. Both stadiums had a tremendous feeling to it – helped in part by the tight seating arrangements around the playing field. (Side note: the center field seating at Target reminds me of Crosley’s right field area.
It had a sign that read “Sun Deck” in the daytime and “Moon Deck” at night.)
The best baseball venues are the one that exude atmosphere. The anticipation of being at the game starts with the hustle and bustle of the people staring at the outer façade of the new ballpark while anxiously waiting to get inside.
This pent-up energy simply wasn’t there when the Twins played at the Metrodome. Now, fans are no longer going to a building that could be converted into a place for tractor pulls as easily as it was for baseball. Some of the enthusiasm generated at the Metrodome at Twins’ games was faked … and everybody knew it.
Roughly 15 minutes before the game, the organist played “Blue Skies,” a perfect backdrop for a perfect night. I saw several people nod their heads in agreement as they looked upwards. This would have been a silly thing to do at the Metrodome.
Over the course of the summer, old time fans are going to rediscover (and new ones are going to learn for the first time) there can be a lot more to a Twins’ game than just balls and strikes, hits and outs. Hopefully, they will also discover these feelings start when you get that first look from a distance at a real ballpark.