I absolutely cannot wait to watch some ball at Target Field.
The UpTake‘s Allen Miller talks with Twins Executive Director of Public Affairs Kevin Smith about Target Field, the Twins new home starting in 2010.
With Torii Hunter playing for tonight’s opponent and Johan Santana pitching for another team in a city on the other side of the nation, it sure don’t feel like Opening Day. Well, yeah, that and the blizzard.
Still, Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year because, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. On Opening Day, even with visibility limited, you can see a way for your team to succeed in the coming year.
If Mauer and Morneau and Cuddyer just play the way they did last year and you throw in the speedster Gomez and a Delmon Young and a Craig Monroe and maybe you’ve got enough pop in the lineup to compete. Maybe you’ve got enough pop and power to make up for the insanely youthful pitching staff.
If Hernandez really can eat up some innings, Bonser continues his progress, and Liriano regains his Santana II form, if Neshek continues his fantastic play, Crain comes back strong, and Nathan performs up to par; then, maybe, maybe the Twins have got a shot…?
Hope, as I said, springs eternal. But even if the Twins perform as expected and end in fourth place, they look like they’ve got plenty of talent to be entertaining regardless.
So here’s to the Twins and here’s to Opening Day and here are a few baseball songs to tide you over till first pitch tonight:
I couldn’t find many of them, but here are a few video highlights of the Minnesota Twins new slugger, Delmon Young. Young is the second of three players highlighted. WORK WARNING: The following video uses a soundtrack replete with profanity:
This clip shows the infamous incident where Young threw a bat at an umpire, and he definitely threw it:
But my favorite player was, of course, Rod Carew. In 1977 I watched him flirt with a .400 batting average.
To this day, he was the best hitter I’ve ever seen. I go crazy watching the current Twins–or most current Major Leaguers, for that matter–bunt because Carew was such a master at it. He was also a master at stealing home.
Not Winning Enough
While I got to watch many talented baseball players, I never got to see the Twins in post-season play. In ’69 and ’70, they made it to the American League Championship Series, but I was five. The only World Series appearance the team had made was in 1965, when the team was four years old.
The Vikings, however, were perennial winners during my childhood. The young Vikings team had advanced to Super Bowl IV, but that was before I started following sports.
I started watching them when I was nine years old, 1973, the year they drafted outstanding running back Chuck Foreman.
The year before, the Vikes traded several players and two draft picks to reacquire quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Those two additions helped the Vikings win their first nine games of 1973, finish the season 12-2, and advance to Super Bowl VIII, where they lost to the Miami Dolphins.
The Vikings returned to the Super Bowl twice more after the 1974 and 1976 seasons, but lost both of those as well. They would have played in the Super Bowl after the 1975 season, were it not for the cheating Dallas Cowboys.
So during my childhood, my professional sports memories are filled with losing and not quite winning enough.
From 1980 to 1986, the Twins never finished better than third place; in 1986, they finished sixth in a seven team division. It was tough, therefore, to be a Twins fan during my college year; particularly because my annoying Chicago classmates were merciless in their teasing me over the Twinkies.
Then came 1987.
At that time, while at college, I also managed a restaurant and did some freelance copywriting. During the World Series, I visited with a copywriter for one of the top advertising agencies in Cedar Rapids, trying to make a name for myself and pry my way into the advertising business.
“How ’bout them boys from St. Louie?!?” he said to one of his coworkers, as I followed him to his office. I bit my lip.
It was interesting being in Cedar Rapids at that time because half of the town was rooting for the Cardinals and half was rooting for the Twins.
I tried, but couldn’t take off work from the restaurant for many of the games of the series, so I was reduced to asking customers the score, then dashing home to watch the highlights on CNN and devouring a copy of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in the morning.
I did managed to find someone to work my shift for Game Seven.
My girlfriend, who was also from Minnesota, and I watched the game at our apartment. We watched a nail-biting game featuring a remarkable eight inning pitching performance by Frankie “Sweet Music” Viola and a ninth save by closer Jeff Reardon for the win and the championship.
The elation over my Twins world championship was due as much to the relief that we’d finally won as it was to the joy of winning itself.
You have to understand the context.
No modern Minnesota sports team had ever won a championship. We were always getting a sniff of the ultimate victory, but never the taste.
In baseball, the Twins lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. Four times the Vikings played in a Super Bowl game and four times they lost. In 1961, the Minnesota Gophers football team lost to Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Long before the Timberwolves, the Minneapolis Lakers won three NBA championships before the team moved to Los Angeles, but I wasn’t born yet, so it doesn’t count.
Losing the big one was not merely confined to sports, though.
My state was a two-time loser in presidential politics as well. In 1968, former Minnesota Senator and then-Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey lost the presidential race to Richard Nixon. Again in 1984, former Minnesota Senator and former Vice President Walter Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan.
Add to that the economic uncertainty of the time (Black Monday occurred on the first off-day of the series), and you have not just the winning of a championship but the relief and redemption of an entire state.
I didn’t get to enjoy the subsequent parade but I did watch it from afar. This is someone’s home movie of the parade. There there is no sound.
Locally, the memorial will be carried live on television on Fox WFTC 29 and KSTC 45. On radio, KFAN (1130 AM) and KTLK (100.3 FM) will broadcast the memorial. The Twins flagship station, WCCO AM, will not carry the even on air because of a previous commitment, but will have a live feed on their web site.
An even better idea would be to finally, and at long last, solve our stadium problems. This session.
I know it’s an election year but I swear, every time I read another stadium story, lines from Devo‘s "Working In The Coal Mine" play in my head:
Lord, I am sooooo tired How long can this go on?
We’ve been debating this issue for what, nearly a decade now? It’s long past time to deal with it and, in fact, time is quickly running out.
If the sad and tragically untimely death of Kirby Puckett and the subsequent outpouring of love for the man from Minnesotans far and wide demonstrate anything, it highlights the immense amount of joy that professional sports can provide a community. And for my money that, in itself, is a damn good investment.
Let’s face it, the Metrodome, in trying to be all things to all people, fails in all respects. It’s a horrible place to watch sports–the sightlines are equally bad for baseball and football. Even in the 14th row on the 50 yard line, the fans are too far removed from the action. Plus, the suites are truly horrible.
As a revenue-generating stadium–well, it’s not. That’s the reason we’re having this discussion. While most professional teams have modern, revenue-generating stadiums, the Vikings and the Twins struggle to compete as small-market teams.
The Twins and Hennepin County have an eminently reasonable plan on the table and the Twins are on a year-to-year lease with the Metrodome. Not getting a deal done now is practically begging Major League Baseball to revisit contraction.
The Vikings and Anoka County have an equally reasonable plan on the table as well. This is no Texas snake-oil. It’s a vast, jobs-creating sports/entertainment/retail real estate development project proposed by a man who has made a mint in real estate development. The economic benefits to the northern suburbs could be enormous, turning Blaine into a suburban entertainment/retail anchor similar to the Mall of America.
The primary issue holding up the talks between the NFL owners and the players is that the large-market and small-market owners cannot agree on revenue-sharing. Revenue-sharing is the brilliant vehicle by which every NFL team has a reasonable chance for on-field success every year. The NFL has avoided Major League Baseball‘s problem where large-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox can essentially buy themselves championships.
If the owners can’t agree on revenue sharing and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association isn’t extended, the Vikings could win big in free agency. They could field a Super Bowl caliber team but you’d better hope they win the big one because in 2007, without the benefit of a modern, revenue-generating stadium, they will not be able to afford the exorbitant salaries that a salary cap-less environment promises.
The Vikings need a new stadium.
But while we’re dealing with stadiums, let’s deal with all the stadiums, so let’s get the Gophers‘ problems solved as well. I really don’t understand why they can’t use the Metrodome, why they must have an on-campus stadium. Are students somehow incapable of using shuttles? The Dome is, after all, practically right next door to campus. Regardless, let’s solve their problem, too.
The bottom line is this: The Twins and the Vikings will get their stadiums. The only question is whether or not they get them in Minnesota. And if they leave, we will be a "cold Omaha." We will build new stadiums to attract new teams and it will cost us far more then than if we solve this problem now.