What Twins fans lacked in numbers Thursday outside Target Field, they made up for in dedication and spirit — clad in Bomba Squad jerseys, jumping for photos with mascot T.C. Bear and, in the case of one fan, bringing her own plush rally squirrel to watch the new Central Division champs beat the Detroit Tigers on the big screen.
The Twins on Wednesday clinched the division for the first time since 2010 in the second of three games in Detroit, and back in the Twin Cities the club scheduled watch parties as a warm-up for the playoffs next Friday that likely will pit the Bomba Squad against the Bronx Bombers in New York.
The Twins won’t play their first home playoff game until Oct. 7, only the third postseason game at Target Field since the ballpark opened in 2010.
In the meantime, the lunch-hour gathering of about 50 on Thursday at Target Field munched on $7 hot dogs from a nearby food cart while watching the game. But they were ready for the return of October baseball to Minnesota.
Retiree Shirley Wiebold of Minneapolis wore an “Oktober Bomba Fest” T-shirt under her team sweatshirt. Twins earrings dangled from her earlobes. “I haven’t taken them off because they’ve been winning,” she said as she bought a hot dog and waited for a friend to join her. “It’s just fun to be with the crowd.”
The Twins’ next two viewing parties will begin at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Mall of America rotunda, and the finale is set for noon Sunday at Target Field Station.
Then the Twins most likely will be in the Bronx to play New York — or as Downtown Council president and dedicated fan Steve Cramer termed it, “the specter of the Yankees.”
The Twins are 2-13 against the Yankees in playoff games, and previous Twins teams never advanced past them. With new faces and a seeming esprit de corps among the players and manager, the Twins have flipped that script, said Matt Sisterman in between bites of his hot dog. He’s planning to take his dad to a playoff game, but he’s keeping his hopes in check.
“I’m happy they got the division. Anything beyond that is just gravy. I hope they beat the Yankees. That would make my year, but I’m a realist,” he said.
Other fans held out higher hopes. “I think they have a good shot. Anything can happen,” said Stephanie Murray of Maplewood, who took the day off from work to go to Target Field and buy playoff attire. She and her sister Shannon of Blaine each carried a bag full of new Twins apparel, including infant-sized outfits for their ventriloquist dolls. Both are fans of Miguel Sano.
“He’s a big, strong guy and can hit a lot of homers,” Stephanie said. “He’s clutch,” Shannon added.
Nearby, Lynn and Joe Nemeth watched with their little dog Dorie, whose leash was taken by T.C. Bear for a man-bear-dog portrait. “We’ve been fans in the losing seasons. We like the players. We like the games,” Lynn Nemeth said. “They put on a good show.”
A couple benches down, Camille Miller was decked out in Twins gear from her new stocking cap down to her personal rally squirrel. Miller didn’t have playoff tickets yet, but held out hope that her husband may secretly have acquired them as her 50th birthday present. Bring on the Yankees, she said: “It’s our time.”
And who knows? It’s already been a surprising season.
“Nobody expected to be here,” Cramer said.