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Friday, February 25, 2011

Following the Twins from Afar

Though I am a Minnesota native, I have been living in New England for over seven years. I try to make it back for at least one Twins game a year in Minnesota, but I have had good success traveling to stadiums within driving distance of my home in the suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut. Because this blog is titled "Twins Fan From Afar," I thought I would provide a quick recap of recent Twins-related travels:

In April, 2009, my wife and I took an ill-fated trip to Fenway Park at the beginning of the season, for the Twins only series there. It's close to a three hour drive to get to Boston from where I live, and that doesn't account for rush hour traffic, so we had to take time off of work to get there for the night game. As soon as we found our seats (which were good, but quite expensive), it began to pour. And then it rained some more. Everyone congregated in the closed-off concourse. Fenway is a fantastic stadium, but it was not built to accommodate 32,000 fans in the concourse area. One adjective to describe the atmosphere would be sweaty. The game was eventually cancelled and rescheduled for the next day, so we made it back to Connecticut at about 11 pm. We got up early and had to call our bosses to request another day off. After the three hour trek back to Fenway, the weather appeared to be cooperating. But the game itself was a major letdown. Scott Baker gave up 2-run homeruns in each of the first 3 innings; Mauer had not yet come off the disabled list to commence what would become one of the best seasons for a catcher in baseball history; and the game ended up being called for weather in the 7th inning. It was an expensive trip, including 12 total hours of driving, taking the "T" to get to Fenway, and eating and drinking, all for 7 innings of awful Twins baseball. But a trip to Fenway doesn't happen that often for me, so it was good to go. And, though it is small and cramped, it is a fantastic place to watch a game.

2010 was better. I made a Sunday trip with some work friends, one of whom is a Minnesota native, to Citi Field, home of the Mets, for some interleague action. The Twins again disappointed, and Scott Baker failed to make it through five innings, and gave up a mammoth homerun to Ike Davis that still may be traveling through parts of Flushing Meadows (I'm not just saying this because I don't like Scott Baker. This was seriously a mammoth homerun. Parker Hageman at TwinsCentric has video of Davis' swing on this pitch as "indicative of Baker's overall struggles with his fastball." Check it out - you have to scroll down a little: This was during a stretch in which the Twins were playing pretty bad baseball. But the stadium and food were great, and the fans and staff were very friendly, considering I was wearing Twins gear. Nothing like you would expect at Yankee Stadium.

In July, for my birthday, my wife surprised me with tickets to see the Twins and Orioles at Camden Yards. I grew up a huge Cal Ripken, Jr. fan, but had never seen a game in Baltimore. It ended up being a fantastic weekend. The park is located within walking distance of many great hotels and restaurants, so we simply left the car in the hotel lot for the weekend and walked everywhere. Because the Orioles were horrible, tickets were not hard to come by, and we ended up just a few rows above the Twins' dugout (aside: my wife used her persuasive feminine skills to get Joe Mauer to autograph my throwback baby blue #7 jersey, which I since have retired; I, on the other hand, was lucky to get Jose Mijares). This was during a stretch when Delmon Young was leading the team offensively, and Mauer was starting to make solid contact. The players were pretty good about signing for fans (Pavano especially, and Nick Punto, for what it's worth). We went to 2 games, and the clubs split. Even though Camden Yards is almost 20 years old, it looked brand new, and it's easy to see why it became the inspiration for most ballparks built since. The pictures are from our seats, which were purchased just a month before the game.

I made my first trip to Target Field for a game against the Rangers that the Twins won. I actually made it in there in February of 2010, and took some pictures, but this was my first game. I was worried that it would not live up to the hype, but I was so wrong. Twins fans are lucky to be able to watch games here for the next several decades.

So there is a summary of my recent Twins-related travels. One lesson I have learned is that, if it's in the first half of the season, try to avoid a Scott Baker game. I don't currently have tickets for any 2011 games, but will almost certainly make it for at least one game this season, whether at Target Field or somewhere closer to me.

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