Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A day at Target Field

The last time I can remember all four of us being together at a ballgame was 1994, the first year Jacobs' Field in Cleveland opened and we were on our way back to New England. As luck would have it, the Twins were in town. As skill would have it, the Indians toyed with them. Those were good days.

Carolie says we went to a Mother's Day at the old Metrodome, but I can't remember it. When it comes to indoor baseball, the mind blocks out trauma.

Jon McTaggart, the chief operating officer of Minnesota Public Radio, gave us his four seats to the Indians-Twins game at the new Target Field today. Before I tell you about our day, let me tell you a bit about Jon, who've I've known since the first week I started at MPR when he was running the station in Collegeville. He also ran the new media department and was the one who approached me about being MPR's first online news editor.

Some years later, after seeing an e-mail that announced I'd be gone for a few days because Patrick and I were going to Cincinnati to watch some baseball, he literally ran down the street to the parking garage where I was exiting, to give me $20 for a hot dog and beer. "You do good work," he said, "and I want you to have a good time."

I've told this story many times since that day, mostly to people who seem to think that some book, some class, some seminar will show them how to get their troops to run through a brick wall for them. Nonsense. All you have to do is give a rip enough to run down a street for them. Trust me. It works.

So we went to the game.

Of course, we had great seats, right in front of the Indians' broadcast booth. Patrick and I have spent many years listening to Tom Hamilton, the long-time play-by-play man for the Tribe. We heard his voice coming out of the booth, and we knew exactly who it was.

"Hey, Tom!" Patrick shouted between innings. And up popped Tom Hamilton:

"Hey, where are you guys from?" he said, after seeing me in my Indians hat and Patrick in his Grady Sizemore jersey (the origins of which can be found here).

"We're from here," Pat said, telling him that we've been listening to him online for years. We didn't bother to tell him we were originally from Massachusetts, that my parents both have Ohio ties, but we otherwise have no reasonable explanation for why we're both huge Cleveland Indians fans.

Patrick got his autograph.

I'd love it if the Twins fans could have a play-by-play guy like Hamilton. Baseball is a great sport and it's worth a guy who can get truly excited about a game, even though it's the last week of the season, your team is 27 games out of first, and is about to turn in back-to-back 97-loss seasons for the first time in its awful history. And by "excited," I mean really interested and excited, not that phony nonsense.

Here, hear for yourself. Here's the only run the Indians scored in the game. It was in the first inning. No sense making it out to be more than it was. And then he got right back to his story:

Great stuff. By the way, Twins fans, Hamilton said, "It's hard to believe Ron Gardenhire has never been manager of the year, which goes to show you how much those awards mean."

Meanwhile, in the second inning, Indians manager Manny Acta decided to blow the game up to mean more than it did, by bunting. Second inning. A bunt. It didn't work. His runner on second got thrown out at third.

Manny Acta is a horrible manager. You know who should manage the Indians? Jon McTaggart.

We love baseball at the Collins house. We always will. More than that, of course, we love being all together when we can. And I love watching my two young men laugh and chat with each other at the game, reminding me again that I was right when I told them during the fights they had as kids, that they'd be each other's best friends later in life. It's later in life.

Target Field is a lovely ball park. A lot of people think it's the best park in baseball and I guess I can't disagree with that. Still, it feels a bit like the Twins tried too hard to have the best park in baseball. There are the usual luxury suites and the restaurants and all, and there are plenty of opportunities to go inside and therein lies the oddity. After complaining about having to go indoors to watch baseball for a few decades, the new facility provides plenty of opportunity to go inside.

But I may be getting an improper perspective. Both games I've been to this year -- both Indians games -- were free tickets. One was the Champion's Club behind the plate and the other was the Legend's Club. I'm probably viewing the park from the high end. I'm not complaining, though, because it's an unbelievably comfortable facility. And I love going to ballgames. And though they've broken my heart for more than 45 years, and I'll never experience the thrill of their winning a championship, I still love the Tribe.

I love acknowledging a local guy who joined the Navy and went to war in 1942 and became one of Minnesota's most decorated soldiers. (by the way, Minnesotans don't show up on time for noon starts)

Is there anything better than a seventh-inning stretch with 40,000 people singing, Take Me Out to the Ballgame? No. No, there's not.

By the way, I know it's Minnesota and everything, but do these look like people who just clinched the Central Division and are on their way to a possible world championship?

You better get your game faces on soon, Minnesota.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Fantastic. I posted a brief ( oh, I guess about 140 characters? ) on twitter a few minutes ago. And then I saw your reference and read your blog post. My parents ( mid-eighties) went to the game monday night and they are changed people. I swear it took five years off of their lives. My comment on twitter alluded to saving public dollars, i.e. stadiums vs. health care spending. I think it has merit. Thanks Bob, for sharing your family and getting me to think about my own.