Last Christmas, my incredible parents' gift to me was a deposit for two cheap seats on a 20-game plan at Target Field. With all due respect to the indestructible coffee Thermos my wife Maria gave me a few years ago and the Ewok Village playset that I received from my grandparents in 1983, it's probably the best Christmas gift I've ever received.
I have always had obsessive tendencies toward my interests, and none of those have endured over my lifetime like baseball. Ever since I first started understanding the game, around the age of four, I have lived and breathed baseball. Specifically the Twins. Despite this, my only live Major League Baseball experiences over the first 28 years of my life took place at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. I had never been to an outdoor big league game until June 2006, when Maria and I visited Wrigley Field on our first trip to Chicago. We have managed to put a pretty big dent in the MLB stadium checklist since then, each new ballpark increasing the anticipation for this magical day.
So, without further adieu, I give you April 2, 2010. The very first game at Target Field was an exhibition game between the Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals (Maria's hometown team).
We had a brief scare in the afternoon when a crisis at work cast some uncertainty over whether or not Maria would be able to make it to the game on time, if at all. She was running behind and offered to meet me at the stadium, but I decided it was more important to me to walk in for the first time with her. I couldn't wait to get inside the gate, but I didn't want to walk in alone. I wanted her by my side. Especially since it was an exhibition game, it was a pretty easy decision. We missed the start of the game, but the game wasn't the point. Today was all about the ballpark.
Tickets in hand, we approached the bronze Rod Carew statue on the corner of 7th Street. We were immediately in total awe. Before we even made it to the gates, I was stopping in my tracks to view the Twins Hall of Fame plaques and the Minnesota Ballpark History Monument. Once inside Gate 34, Maria's shiny-sensor was on overload as we noticed the Wind Veil - a giant sheet of thousands of metallic panels draped over the entire parking ramp. With the help of a variety of LED lights, the veil sways in the wind, giving a smoke-on-the-water appearance. It's pretty mind-blowing.
We entered on the plaza, walking straight up to a view of the entire field from the patio hanging over right field. I stopped, took it all in, squeezed Maria's hand a little bit, and may have felt a tear or two form. "It's here. And it's ours."
It was already the third inning when we made our way up to our seats in section 303 (on the top deck, down the first base/right field line). We had just stepped off the escalator and made the turn toward our section when the crowd roared. Denard Span - our (or at least my) favorite player on the team - hit the first home run at Target Field and we missed seeing it by about 30 seconds.
Our seats were in the second-to-last row of the section (these are not our normal seats, which are in section 304, row 6 - slightly closer). We were about as far back as we could be in the ballpark, but still had a bird's eye view of the action. It was glorious.
We only spent one full inning in our seats before decided to explore the stadium. This was a nice advantage, being able to check out the place during a meaningless game. I didn't feel compelled to watch every pitch. Hell, I wasn't particularly compelled to watch any pitch. I could hear and feel a game happening, and that was enough for me.
After spending 15 minutes in line for a Vincent Burger ($12), we were informed that they were out of them. We settled for Walleye Fingers w/ Fries, which were solid. I stopped inside the Twins Pub to grab a pint of Summit EPA. We then found a nice opening to snap a picture to add to our ongoing photo series "Dan Drinks a Beer in a Baseball Stadium."
From there it was back to the concession stand for the much-hyped Murray's Steak Sandwich ($10.50). Although quite messy, and especially hard to eat while walking, I'm a believer. It was, to that point, the best thing I had put in my mouth at a ballpark.
All the while, we were on search for Killebrew's Root Bear Floats. They were advertised constantly between innings on the TV monitors while we were in line for concessions, but we couldn't find them anywhere. (I ended up stopping at Lunds on the way home to pick up some ice cream and root beer so we could make our own floats at home.) We did find a stand for Tony O's Cuban Sandwiches, so we decided to make that our final purchase of the game. Sorry, Murray, your reign was short-lived. The Cuban ($9.50) was incredible. Put it on your must-try list.
We continued our walk throughout the concourses, stopping to snap pictures and watch random at-bats. It was truly heartwarming when we circled back to right field as Jacque Jones was receiving a standing ovation in his first plate appearance of the game.
We spent most of the ninth inning browsing in the giant Clubhouse Store (and finding ourselves especially drawn to the baby clothes), before exiting the stadium with the masses. We stopped to sit along the Twins Hall of Fame wall again, in front of Bert Blyleven's plaque, with the Wind Veil in the background. We ran into my friend Dave Meier (not the 1980s Twins outfielder, but the former bass player for Mike Gunther & His Restless Souls) there and shared some thoughts about our new home.
It's one last souvenir from a night we'll remember forever. Expectations were about as high as they could be, and they were exceeded. I am so happy.
Click here to see our full photo set from Opening Night at Target Field