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A walk in the park

  

By Gordy Jones

 

Target Field is a great place to watch baseball! I’ve been to most of the parks in the majors, and the Twins’ new facility is second to none. However, there are a few “bugs.” They are not necessarily the fault of the ballpark – and they are things that I’m sure will improve with time. Target Field is a new experience for everyone, and as the team gets used to playing on this field, the fans must get used to their experience.

First, the fan who drives to the game must decide where to park. Many fans are coming to a part of downtown that is unfamiliar to them. To add to the confusion, First Avenue North is closed on game days.

There are many parking ramps near the field, but many people have decided to take the light rail. In Chicago, the redline train stops at both of the major league parks — the Cubs’ Wrigley Field on the North Side and the White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side. However, they often have more than 20 cars per train, and they roll every few minutes — and they are still packed.

We have three or four cars per train. No wonder the light rail cars were packed like sardines. I’d feel sorry if anyone had a stroller or was in a wheelchair. Unless you boarded at the Mall of America, you probably couldn’t get on.

After the game, there was a huge line to catch the outbound train. I talked to some fans who were very upset, saying that they waited in line an hour and a half to repack the sardine can toward home.

My suggestion is: Drive downtown and park at a meter near the Dome on Sixth Street or Chicago Avenue. Parking was plentiful there during the preseason weekend. You can pay for a meter for up to eight hours in advance, at a buck an hour. Be sure to bring a roll of quarters; $5 should be enough to cover the game and a little look-around-time.

Next, walk over to Seventh Street and begin walking north. On nearly every block, there is a bus stop. When you see a bus, hop on (they were all nearly empty). For 50 cents, which is the downtown rate, you can ride the bus nine blocks, and it will drop you across the street from Target Field.

After the game, do the same thing in reverse, walking south on Sixth Street (streets are one way) until you can catch any bus that comes. Because of traffic restrictions, you’ll have to catch it near Nicollet. Take the bus to Chicago Avenue, and you are at your car hassle free. Or…if it’s a nice summer evening, you can walk the nine blocks and burn off some of that ballpark food.

When you get to the Target Field, be sure to check out the beautiful bronze statues of Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, and another of a giant baseball glove. Otherwise, there is not much to do on Target Plaza. There are no trivia games, no music, no radar throw, just a couple of food vendors.

Other than the statues, Kirby Puckett Plaza had a lot more going for it. A Twins official told me that might change in the future, but for now, they just wanted to get folks inside to find their seats.

And don’t expect to bring your $7 beer that you purchased on the Plaza — 50 feet from the entrance — into the stadium. It is not allowed. Many surprised fans chugged their beers or dumped them before entering the ballpark. My advice: Finish it as you walk to another gate. Gate 34, which is the gate at the Plaza, was too congested last week. It took about eight minutes to walk a hundred feet once you entered. Many fans assumed this was the only entrance to the park. That is why you should finish your beer as you walk a short distance to your left or right, and enter through a less congested gate. It will save you from becoming stressed in the bottleneck, and allow you to enjoy your beverage.

Once inside the complex, many people complained about the long lines for food, and the shortage of vendors in the stands. Twins vice president Matt Hoy acknowledged the problem when I talked with him. He reminded me that everyone and everything was new, but said they still needed to find a quicker way to produce the food and turn it around.

He also said that he was glad they had a trial run to fix things before the start of the regular season. Most lines were shorter for subsequent, but Murray’s Steak Sandwiches at Mill City Grill, and Kramarczuk Sausage Company still had a long wait. Maybe they will be such popular items that they’ll always have a line, like the Pork Chop-on-a-Stick at the Fair. Oh, by the way, J.D. Hoyt’s has a Pork Chop-on-a-Stick at State Fair Classics concession.

Once you are at your seat, it is baseball heaven! Plenty of leg room, no steep staircases and you are looking onto a manicured playing surface…a masterpiece created by groundskeeper Larry Devito.

You won’t want to leave your seat as Joe Mauer cracks a home run to straight-away center into the black spruce trees, as he did against the Cardinals. By the way, the first homer that Joe hit was retrieved my Twins curator Clyde Doepner, who found it in a tree, and it will be placed in the Twins museum that will open soon at Target Field.

One thing I would recommend you do is visit the Terrace Level and go to the Twins Pub. It is there you will find, just 25 feet from the bar and smiling down on the game, longtime Twins organ player Sue Nelson. She is surrounded by friends and fans, raising their glasses and joining her in a CHARGE!

Sue always had visitors in her private left-field booth at the Dome, but you had to be family, media or an employee. Now anyone can watch her as she plays — and it is a unique situation: She’s in the middle of a pub with fans gathered round, clapping to her music.

I asked Sue how she liked playing in her new venue, and she summed it up just as so many other fans have. “It’s really different,” she said. Then after a short pause and a smile she blurted out: “I love it!”

 

Check out Gordy’s book at http://www.baseballguy.org. Gordy can be reached at gejones1@aol.com.