Rule #37 – Everything’s better with friends and family.
Day three of the Great Baseball Trek began early. We had breakfast in Chicago, then on the bus, with lunch somewhere in Wisconsin. I’m not exactly sure where we stopped, since I took some time to catch up on my beauty sleep on the bus. It was off to Minneapolis.
|Somewhere off an interstate in Wisconsin...|
|...is a rest stop with several restaurants and some interesting landmarks.|
Each one of us got a chance at the mike to introduce himself. On this trip, we had a lot of older couples who love baseball, and traveling. There were a lot of teachers, counselors, and athletic directors on this trip. One entire family – three generations – sat together in one section of the bus. There were very few people who were on the trip solo. However, those who were solo, were devout baseball fans who knew not only their teams, but all of the team rivals, too. This was the place to be for baseball talk.
Both of our tour leaders are teachers. Or, at least, they were. They may not be in the classroom any longer, but they are both coaches and athletic directors. This “teacherness” was evident each day when we got copied handouts for each town and stadium we visited.
|Construction site for the Vikings new field|
This day, our handout gave us the history of Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. Baseball and football both shared space at the Metrodome in Bloomington, MN, for years. Then, the Metrodome roof collapsed during a snow storm. The Twin City powers decided to close down the Metrodome and build new facilities in the city. Mall of America Field, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings is under construction just as you go into Minneapolis. About a mile or so down into the city, you come to Target Field. It lays conveniently next to Target Center, home of the NBA Timberwolves and WNBA Lynx.
|Weather is not looking promising.|
The weather was not fantastic for this part of the drive. We made great time on the interstate, thanks to our fantastic driver. But the weather gods began weeping as we pulled into Minneapolis. And it wasn’t going to stop everyone from having fun.
|Great meeting place anytime!|
I got a chance to catch up with my cousin and his wife while there. My cousin went to college in the Minneapolis area and stayed. We met at a small place called the Depot Tavern, which looked like it was a converted garage. They changed it into a really nice restaurant and bar. Dinner was at their favorite restaurant. Unfortunately, I was stuck on a bus all day. The lack of physical activity had me low on the hunger meter. But there’s always room for an appetizer and a beer.
|Nice to see a young pitcher get his big break|
My cousins got me back to the field in time for first pitch. We had to be at the seats in case the game was called. Well, the weather gods kept weeping and it led to a two hour rain delay. Around 9 pm, rookie pitcher Yohan Pino made his major league debut for the Twins. It was time to play ball.
|Budwiser party deck... need I say more?|
Target Field had plenty to do during the rain delay. The concourse resembled a large party about to be rudely interrupted by a baseball game. One of my favorite stops was Hrbeck’s. Ken Hrbeck, Twins star from the past, has a bar at the main entrance to the park. The motto on the wall is “Baseball Spoken Here”. There was plenty to eat and drink in the pub food line at Hrbeck’s. On the walls, there are lots of pictures and mementos from Ken Hrbeck’s career. But that ceiling… imagine if you will tin tiles. Now imagine highly polished tin, embossed with every logo Minnesota ever had for the Twins. Now imagine the reflective light from that ceiling. I couldn’t get enough pictures of the ceiling at Hrbeck’s.
|Welcome to Hrbeck's|
|Custom ceiling tiles - not what you would find at Lowe's|
Target Field is also where I stood in line for my official “My First Visit” certificate. I had no idea ball parks gave out certificates honoring your rookie day at the park. Most ball parks do have this fan memento, but you need to go searching at Guest Services for it. Many people ahead of me had small children in their arms. Then I step up – for myself. Well, why the heck not? It was my first visit.
|Stands begin to fill as the tarps come off the field|
I got a chance to compare mascots on this trip. T.C.Bear is the Twins mascot. You didn’t see much of him around the field. You did see the five runners. These costumed characters included Spot, the Target logo dog. Mascots can really get a crowd into the action, but I didn’t see too much mascot/fan interaction that particular evening. Guess the rain dampened more than just the game.
|White Sox "Southpaw" and Twins "T.C. Bear" ready to duke it out|
|Race mascots - including Target's logo mascot Spot, who won this race|
This was one park where I did not eat. But I could have pigged out if I didn’t eat before the game. Stands had the usual hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, beer, etc. The Twins concessions also offered vegetarian and gluten free options in several stands. Now that’s something I haven’t seen before.
|Great seats and a few foul balls|
Witching hour was 11 pm for us bus travelers. We had to leave the game and get to the hotel, so our driver could get off road for his full eight hours. We were also in for a quick night. It was an early bus call again the following morning.
|I was there!|
Time for lights out and solid sleep. Kansas City, here we come.
To be continued…
All photographs by Marge McGugan. No reuse or copying without permission.