Saturday, July 17, 2010

First Visit To Target Field - Chicago White Sox 4 at Minnesota Twins 7 - July 16, 2010

After using the Metrodome for 28 years, the Minnesota Twins finally joined the new stadium brigade by opening Target Field this season. As you know, whenever a new MLB park opens, I have to visit. I would have liked to see Toronto play, but they were only here at the end of the season, so I decided a mid-July series against Central Division rivals Chicago was a good time to revisit Minneapolis.

Target Field

Located just west of downtown, Target Field is easily accessible by the LRT system that runs from the airport all the way to the ballpark. Like all new stadiums, there's quite a bit to talk about here so I'm going to write 3 separate posts for each game this weekend and discuss a different part of the stadium each time.

Club Level

I found a single club-level seat online and was thus granted access. These seats are only sold as season tickets and require a separate members fee, so I was happy to have a chance to see the club, despite the relatively high price of the ticket.

The club area is spacious and filled with several concession stands that are not available to the general public. But what makes this area worth visiting are three displays dedicated to the greatest Twins ever: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett. Each has a restaurant section named after him and several cases of memorabilia. The most interesting display was Killebrew's Hall of Fame induction speech (below).

There's plenty of seating around and as the interior is air conditioned, it makes a great place to relax before the game. I noticed that one restaurant had a "one-pass" buffet for $19.95 which I thought was a bit unreasonable. Not the price, but limiting customers to just one shot to belly up. Buffets are about eating a lot over several trips, not trying to maximize plate coverage for a single attempt. Anyway, I didn't partake, choosing instead a calzone at Frankie V's. Nothing special there.

There's a few other notable areas in the club. Some signature calls of famous Twins' plays are on one wall, and several photos of long-retired players are scattered about. There's also a model of the stadium which looks pretty cool.

I've been told that this area is open to the public after the game but I haven't confirmed this yet. But it's worth visiting if you have a chance, just to see how the other half lives.

Seating Areas and Concourses

The first thing that surprised me was just how crowded the stadium became a full hour before game time. Most people are still making their first visit so it was a slow walk around the first level concourse as people oohed and aawed. Given the limited space available for building the stadium, the tightness of the concourse when full is understandable. The upper deck is a bit roomier and open and provides nice views from all areas.

Paul and Minnie shake hands across the Mississippi - this lights up during various situations during the game

There are 23 seating areas listed on the Seating and Pricing Chart for Target Field, and 3 different game types. Most seats are reasonably priced when compared to other new parks, and it seemed like the upper deck isn't that far away. I can't recommend a seating area at this point; I did try a few different spots and found all of them to provide good sightlines. There's also a lot of standing areas, so my advice would be to find the cheapest ticket and stand behind first base for some of the game. The ushers were not checking tickets later in the contest and allowed me to move down to sit next to friends, no questions asked. The picture below is the grandstand in right field.

The field itself is huge. Home runs here will be at a premium as it is 411 feet to the farthest spot in the ballpark. It's 339 down left field and 328 down right, so those might be better areas for dingers, but there wasn't anything even close in last night's game.

My first impression of Target Field is that it is a nice place to watch a game, but doesn't have anything new or unique to it. The view from the upper deck along third base (below) is nice and the scoreboard is excellent, but these are not unusual aspects of a new park. I've still got a couple of games to see here, so my opinion may change, but for now, I'd say it's a typical new stadium. That's not to say you shouldn't go visit - if you are in the area make time for a game.

In the next couple of posts, I'll talk about the various food options and Target Plaza, the area outside the park which contains a number of intriguing attractions.

The Game

The division leading Chicago White Sox were in town for a 4-game set that began Thursday night. The Sox won that game 8-7 to extend their winning streak to nine. For a mid-season contest, this one was pretty important for the Twins, who were 4.5 games back. With All-Star Justin Morneau on the DL with a concussion, things were not looking up for Minnesota, but they had Francisco Liriano on the hill facing Gavin Floyd.

Brent Lillibridge singles - this is from my club seat location

The story of this one was errors. Chicago made 4 miscues, 3 of them coming on ill-advised throws, while Minnesota added an error of their plus a wild pitch on a strikeout that allowed Alex Rios to reach (below).

The Twins scored 4 in the fourth (3 unearned) and then 3 more in the 8th (2 unearned) to take a 7-2 lead into the final frame. Jon Rauch came in and promptly gave up 2 runs on 3 walks and 2 singles before being removed with the bases loaded. Jesse Crain was brought in and got Rios to fly out and then struck out Paul Konerko to end the game. With Konerko representing the go-ahead run, it was pretty tense at the end which saved this one from being all-around ugly.

Liriano (above) pitched well to earn the win, going 7.2 innings with 8 strikeouts. J.J. Hardy was the offensive star going 3-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI.

Juan Pierre on first

The very detailed scoreboard

I'm back there today and tomorrow and will have more updates shortly.



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