White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen once said he couldn't wait to see how those piranhas, the Minnesota Twins, would play in their new outdoor stadium. For years the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, aka the Baggie, was a house of horrors for Sox teams, with its oddball bounces and nonbaseball nuances.
Turns out nothing has changed baseball-wise as the Twins enjoy one of the best home-field records in the game, including a 4-2 advantage over the Sox there this year — and the Sox return there next week for what has turned out to be one of the hottest rivalries in baseball this year. But baseball's newest $544 million stadium is a great destination for fans throughout the Midwest, easily accessible by plane or, at about 400 miles, less than a day's drive by car. Here is a breakdown of what awaits visitors at Target Field.
Historical factor: The Twins took their 50-year history and brought elements of it into the design of the ballpark versus adding statues and memorabilia after the fact. Statues of Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew can be found outside the stadium, and gates to the park are identified with retired numbers. The park also is "homegrown" in terms of materials, with a facade containing more than 100,000 square feet of Minnesota limestone.
Watching a game: Sport shops throughout Minneapolis are selling Nike T-shirts proclaiming, "Twins Just Do it Outside," reflecting the open-air stadium, but don't take our word for it. We met Travis Anderson, 34, from Blaine, a suburb of Minneapolis, who told us at a local watering hole, "There's no question every Twins fan wanted to get out of that dome."
"Summers in Minneapolis are beautiful, and people want to be outside," he said. "The sidelines are close to the infield, and the seats actually face home plate — for once."
On the downside, unlike U.S. Cellular, where rows are about 15 seats long, Target Field's are more than twice that length, which makes everybody get up nearly every inning to let someone out. The three-tiered outfield seating holds heat in the park, which makes for a stuffy bowl atmosphere.
On the bright side is visibility. We went to three games and sat in three areas, in both lower and upper levels. All had great sight lines. And for stat rats, the scoreboard had some of the most amazing array of information I've ever seen without being cluttered.
Food and beverage: The Cell has rightly been hailed as one of the kings of baseball food, but many of the newer parks have upped the ante on cuisine. Target Field has a wide range of hot dog and burger spots but also boasts everything from gourmet sandwiches at a carving station to an Asian wok stand. We also found walleye and pork chops, each served on a stick, kettle corn, cheese curds, and even turkey legs. Of special note are the sausages made locally by the iconic Kramarczuk folks, who offer bratwurst, Polish and Hungarian sausages served U.S. Cellular style hot off the grill with grilled onions and kraut — not to be missed. And there's plenty of kiosks offering Minnesota-made brews to wash it all down.
Before and after: Located about 12 blocks from the Metrodome, Target Field is in the center of downtown, with plenty of bars, restaurants and hotels all around. In three days, we visited a white-tablecloth restaurant, a major movie theater, numerous bars and a retail store all within four blocks of our hotel and Target Field. The light-rail train will take you there right from the airport for less than $2.50, and you can — as we did — also ride the light rail and kill a day at Mall of America before going to a night game.
Final thoughts: The park was surrounded by lots of ticket scalpers with their fists bulging, surprising given the popularity of Sox-Twins games. The city as backdrop behind the park is awesome. Overall we got some perspective about Target Field from Clay Sigg of Sacramento, Calif., who we met in the airport after the game.
"I've been to every ballpark in the country except for the two in Florida, as this is sort of a 'bucket list' goal I've had," Sigg said. "My favorite, overall, is Pittsburgh, but I'd put Target Field at about seven on my own list; that's pretty high."
Most fans love their team and the park it plays in, but Target Field should be on everyone's bucket list.