She returned to Target Field on Thursday for the opener of the White Sox series. Her right arm was in a black sling except when she needed both hands on the keyboard.
"I was checked by a couple orthopedic people, and they said playing would be good therapy," Nelson said. Until the elbow injury, she had performed at every Twins home game since June 30, 2002, having missed the previous day because one of her daughters got married.
"[The elbow] is not going to be hurting when I play 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' and 40,000 people are singing along," said Nelson, explaining her quick comeback.
At the Metrodome, she played in a small booth above the football press box. Few looked in. At Target Field, she and her late 1970s Yamaha organ are at the center of a low 9-by-7-foot platform in the Twins' Pub behind Section 213. Two aluminum rails separate her from fans.
They come in waves to talk and take photos, usually standing alongside her. Nelson is a Twins family member they can approach.
Nelson, who has five grandchildren, is always smiling and laughing. On Thursday night she offered Mary, an older woman squeamish about sitting high in the stands, a seat on her platform with its terrific view of the field behind Row 6. Mary sat there the whole game. Nearly everyone asked Nelson about her arm. She never tired of repeating that story or telling people how she got started, in hockey with the old North Stars at Met Center in 1981.
"It's not a musical job, it's a cheerleading job," Nelson said. Most of her well-spaced bits are snappy, short. She has a script and guidelines when to play: with a Twins runner in scoring position, on an opponent's out, etc.
"The whole thing is getting people to clap, cheer," Nelson said.
Even when playing hurt.