Outside, streetlight banners flapped in the blustery wind, displaying images of players who have been sidelined and derailed a season because of their injuries: Mauer, Morneau, Nishioka.
Some banners still feature departed slugger Jim Thome.
Inside, hot cocoa was easily outselling cold beer. Team memorabilia was selling at a 20 percent discount. Fans were cherry-picking empty seats that amounted to a free upgrade from their cheap ones.
Out on the sidewalks Thursday before the Twins' last day game of the year at Target Field, scalpers were trying to ply their trade, with little to show for it. Tickets with a face value of $45 could be had for $20; $60 tickets for $10; on one bench outside the gates, a handful of $34 tickets had simply been tossed aside.
"It's sad. Yesterday, I had 20 tickets and could only sell six of them," said Frank Cartright, a scalper from Brooklyn Park. "I come with 60, go home with anywhere between 30 and 60."
Dennis Painter of Bloomington was trying to unload several season tickets his employer had bought. "They're just trying to dump them," he said. "But I'm not getting any takers, so I'm probably going to take it in the shorts today."
The Twins' benighted 2011 season is down to three night home games next week.
For fans, employees and scalpers alike, "depressing" and "frustrating" were the words most uttered about a team careening and stumbling toward its likely 100th loss. Yet a lot of fans have nonetheless kept the faith.
'They better win today'
Having dropped 11 games in a row and slogging through an essentially meaningless game against the Seattle Mariners, the Twins nonetheless put on a good show Thursday, breaking the streak by eking out a 3-2 win.
It was worth it for Painter, who planned to catch some of game if he couldn't get rid of the tickets. "It's an awesome place to watch a game. There's always next season."
Although they haven't played much like the boys of summer, on the last day of summer, a dank, chilly day, the Twins still managed to fill roughly half the seats with resilient fans at Target Field.
High above center field, three rows from the top of Section 332, a half-dozen preteens were soaking in the game unfolding below them, hoping their signs -- "I [heart] the Twins" and "I [heart] Bert" -- would attract some TV exposure.
"They all love the Twins," said Tara Montanye, who had brought her three kids and three friends to the game from their home in Braham. "We were supposed to come last spring and couldn't, so this is special for them."
Emily Lindquist, 11, was clutching the sign declaring her crew's love for the Twins as the team slowly chipped away at Seattle's initial 2-0 lead.
"I love 'em, even though I don't know who they all are," she said, "They better win today, even though they haven't done that good so far."
On her way to a job Thursday morning as a guest services worker at Target Field, Linda Hoffman was pensive about the way things have gone this year.
"It's depressing," she said. "I'm still a loyal baseball fan -- and there's always next year. And people are still happy to be there and still get pumped up."
Once she got to work, inside the stadium, the applause was often tepid and the crowd's adrenaline level low, but "the crowd's a lot better than you would have thought, considering where they are," said Russ Foss, a retired dairy farmer from Fosston who was making his first visit to the glittering ballpark.
"It's an awfully nice place -- I still remember going to Met Stadium when I was in the eighth grade, how green the grass was," Foss said. "This place is just awesome."
Toting a "circle me, Bert" sign, his daughter, Deb Quam said that even though "the season hasn't gone all that well, it's kind of neat to be able to be here. And I got to meet Kent Hrbek, so it's got to count as a good day."
The Twins' former first baseman was working the crowd in the concourse outside the ball field's gates, staffing a benefit for Lou Gehrig's Disease, which killed his father.
'People are still showing up'
Signing autographs and mugging for cellphone cameras, Hrbek explained the season this way: "Everybody's hurt and you can't do anything when everybody's hurt. But look -- the people are still showing up because they love baseball. And they still love the Twins."
That would include the family of Warren Brown, who brought his family seven hours from their home in Northwood, N.D.
"We try to get to one game every year and as bad as it's been, I decided we still had to come," Brown said. "My dad made me a fan and that was great. I want to do the same thing for my kids."
Five-year-old Landon, rocketing around, waiting for the gates to open, added his two cents: "Hey, they won last year, remember?"
Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184