Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tour 2009: Final Season of HHH Metrodome

All photos of Minneapolis and Metrodome available on Flickr.

This past weekend, Peter and I attended the Sunday Night Brewers-Twins game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Twins will be moving into a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis next season and are celebrating their last year in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. I'll start by detailing a brief history of my experience with the Metrodome. While I was attending college across the Mississippi River at the University of Minnesota and cutting my teeth in the political world, I found paying summer work with the Minnesota Twins. I began working for the Twins in the summer of 2005 as an usher at the Metrodome. Being an usher at the Dome has many particular challenges that other stadiums just don't have. First of all, all the seats face the 50-yard line when the Dome is set up for football. This leads to Twins fans having to sit or crane their necks 45 degress to see home plate when there is a ballgame going on instead. To aid these fans a little bit, Metrodome ushers hold back fans returning to their seats from the restroom, concession stand, etc. until there is a change of batter. As one can imagine, this leads to many backups at the entrances to the sections and plenty of upset fans who are missing the game. Another challenge of working at the Metrodome is the panic doors. For those who do not know, the roof of the Metrodome is supported by pressurizing the air inside, there is no structure. Fans must exit and enter the stadium through revolving doors in order to maintian the pressure. These doors would never do in an emergency however, so each gate also has 8 panic doors. When these doors are opened the pressurized air inside the Dome rushes out, creating a wind tunnel. Often, Dome engineers will allow for a few of these doors to be opend following a game to ease congestion exiting the stadium. The wind tunnel effect leads to a few falls. Additionally, on days when the doors are not open, there are always a few drunks who either want to fell the rush of air or who simply can't wait to get to the bar, who open these doors. Closing them again is quite a challenge. I worked for the Twins for three years, the last being the summer of the main tour in 2007. I saw the team win the AL Central pennant on the last day of the season, saw Justin Morneau win an MVP award, and saw Joe Mauer become the first American Legaue catcher to win a batting crown. I played softball on the outfield turf and made a lot of good friends. After the Twins play their last game at the Dome, I'll miss it. Many say that the stadium is a dump, but to me its special.

Ok, enough history. Here's what happened this past weekend. I arrived in Minnesota on Friday afternoon and meet up with a buddy of mine who I would be staying with through the weekend. Pete had an interview in Madison and wouldn't be getting in until later in the evening. After meeting my buddy and having a beer and terrible hot dog and a South Minneapolis bar, I headed for the Dome. I parked a few blocks away and bought a $5 ticket from a few Brewers fans outside the Metrodome Plaza. I headed into the stadium and began making my way around visiting many of my old friends. It was good to catch up with all of them and it made me wish I was back in Minnesota and working for the Twins. I settled into my seat and was heckled by a few Twins fans sitting near me. The Brewers took it on the chin in game one, losing 11-3. Michael Cuddyer hit for the cycle and Kevin Slowey dominated the Brew Crew.

On Saturday morning, I headed down to the Mall of America in Bloomington. I was not going to shop, however. The MOA stands on the site of the Twins first ballpark in Minnesota, Metropolitan Stadium. Hidden inside the amusement park at the center of the mall is a plaque that marks the location of home plate. Several hundred feet away, above the Log Flume ride, a red chair sits high above the floor. This chair marks the landing spot of the longest home run at Met Stadium, hit by Harmon Killebrew. After a quick bite to eat I headed for the Dome. The Twins are using special balls this year commerorating their last year in the Dome with a pretty sweet logo and I wanted to see if I could snag one during batting practice. After purchasing a $10 GA ticket and then making my way down to the lower level, I raced down the stairs near the left field foul pole. About half way down the section I spotted it, sitting under the last seat in the row. I had my Metrodome souvenir. I decided to go down to the rail anyways and shortly after a soft grounder was hit toward the corner. One of the Twins ran over and when I held up my glove, he flipped the ball to me. I was pretty excited, especially when I looked at the ball and discovered that it was a commemorative, but not from the Metrodome. The Twins had just suffered three heart-breaking walk-off loses to the Yankees in New York and had apparently took some of their commemorative balls on the way out of town. The ball that was flipped to me has a scuffed logo so I'll just have to try for a clean one when we're in New York in July. After snagging these two balls I headed toward my seat and some beers. The Brewers would lose on Saturday night as well. Anthony Swarzak made his Major League debut for the Twins and went 7 great innings, allowing no runs on only 5 hits and two walks, while striking out 3. Twins catcher Joe Maur supplied much of the offense in the 6-2 win, going 3-3 with a walk and a solo home run and scoring 3 runs.

I finally met up with Pete on Sunday afternoon. Pete had attended his roomates wedding the previous day in Alexandria. We met at the Dome and proceded to Matt's Bar in South Minneapolis. Matt's is the home of the Jucy Lucy burger. Another bar stakes claim to the invention of this awesome burger, but everyone knows Matt's was the first. The Jucy Lucy is a cheeseburger that, rather than having the cheese melted on top, has it stuffed in the middle. Each burger comes with a warning form your waitress to wait a few minutes since many first timers have been burned with molten cheese squirting out of the burger with their first bite. The Jucy is toped with pickles and raw or fried onions and should be washed down with a cold glass of Grain Belt Premium. It is delicious and not to be missed. Following lunch at Matt's we headed to downtown Minneapolis to check out the future home of the Twins - Target Field. I will miss the Dome but man am I excited to watch a game at this place. The structure of the ballpark is complete and a lot of the glass and limestone curtain walls are already in place. The ballpark looks simply gorgeous. One thing I find peculiar about Target Field are the demensions of the playing field itself. For all the abuse that the Metrodome takes, the Twins are mimicing its dimensions at the new stadium. Yes, there will be a 21 foot high fence stretching from the right field foul pole to right-center field. Fortunately, it will be a padded wall rather than a baggie at the new stadium. The new stadium will feature man of the modern ballpark luxuries that the Metrodome just can't offer. There will be luxury suites, resturants, a huge team store, and an HD scoreboard only slightly smaller than the one the Yankees have in thier new stadium. Like I said, I can't wait to get there in 2010.

As for the game, it was another disappointment for the Crew. Scott Baker dominated for 8 1/3, allowing just 3 runs (2 in the 9th) on 7 hits. The one bright spot for Milwaukee was Mike Cameron who hit his 250th career home run in the 4th. Prince Fielder added a 2-run bomb to the upper deck in right which chased Baker. Joe Mauer continued his torried month, hitting a home run in the first inning and going 2-3 with 2 runs scored. Justin Morneau also cracked a homer over the baggie, deep into the upper deck for his 13th of the year.

I concluded my farewell to the Metrodome by taking in the Memorial Day matinee between the Twins and Red Sox. I arrived at the Dome about an hour before first pitch and spent my time wandering, taking photos, and saying my last good-byes. I finally got a picture next to the Kirby Puckett seat. This seat in left-center field marks the spot where Kirby Puckett's 11th-inning homer run landed, sending the 1991 World Series to its epic Game 7. This home run will forever live in the memory of Twins fans with the words "And we'll see you...tomorrow night" echoing as Puck rounded the bases pumping his fist. The game itself promised to be a good one with Fransisco Liriano facing Brad Penny. Liriano didn't have his stuff though, giving up 11 hits and only lasting 4 innings. The Twins tried to make it interesting in the 9th, however, with Joe Mauer hitting a pinch hit 2-run homer with 2 away to pull the Twins within 1. But, they would get no closer and the Sox triumphed 6-5.

So farewell Metrodome, and Target Field, we'll see you...tomorrow night!

Brewers 27-20, -1.0 (3 v. Reds)
Reds 26-20, -1.5 (3 @ Brewers)
Twins 24-25, -3.5 (3 @ Rays)


Erik - 17 (+ 8 worked)
Peter - 21

No comments: