A lack of Internet access the past two days has forced me to combine wrap-ups for Friday and Saturday’s games into one post. July 2 Friday found us back in the majors, at Minneapolis’s new Target Field. Years ago I went to a game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and as we left the stale, mall-like air of the game to find sun and cool breezes, I couldn’t believe that anyone would choose to squander the precious moments of perfection that are a North Woods summer by sitting under that dome for more than one or two games per year. Now they no longer have to make that choice, as Target Field is open to the skies . . . which also means, in April and September, being open to the less-hospitable cousin of the Friday night’s pleasant summer breeze. But Minnesotans are good at bundling up, right? The ballpark itself is lovely, looking like it’s not just sponsored by Target, but maybe designed by Target, too, full of buffed metal and sharp angles and surprising swoopy lines. The outfield seating is particularly nice to look at, with the right-field bleachers rising to a dramatic point in right-center that ends in a row of just two or three seats. Everything is spacious and open, as in most of the newest parks, but unlike a lot of those ballparks–Philly’s comes to mind–it doesn’t feel too large; rather, it seems of appropriate scale, both for the crowds and for its place in the relatively modest skyline of Minneapolis. Oh, and transit nuts should take note: the park is built next to a new light-rail stop. The Twins won, 2-1, behind a strong seven innings by Scott Baker, while the Rays’ David Price was nearly as good, holding the Twins hitless until the fifth and not giving up a run until he started to visibly tire in the seventh. Ben Zobrist and Carl Crawford both made eye-popping catches for the Rays, Zobrist’s involving a
basketball-like leap; the Twins fielders didn’t really have to do much, as their pitching staff struck out ten. While we watched, Jim ate a pork chop on a stick, which our friend and hanger-on Peter Bodensteiner called a “state fair food.” Said Peter, “You have no idea how big a deal the state fair is in Minnesota.” After the game, the Twins put on the first-ever fireworks display at Target Field, which, fortunately, didn’t lead to the first-ever thousands-dead fireworks disaster at Target Field, despite the strong winds. These were major-league fireworks, much showier than the ones we’d enjoyed in Iowa City the night before. And they didn’t play Lee Greenwood. July 3 Last night we were in Cedar Rapids, at Perfect Game Field, where, it hardly needs to be said, we did not see a perfect game. The Cedar Rapids Kernels are an Angels affiliate, but the lasting effects of the decades-long dominance of the Cardinals radio network throughout the Midwest was evident in the large number of Cardinals t-shirts and caps in the stands. The Kernels put a beating on the Clinton Lumberkings,13-3, scoring early and often. Walks, my friends, will haunt, and the Kernels received eight of them, while Kernels starter Ariel Pena allowed only one in his seven innings, striking out eight. Seated down the right-field line, we were in a perfect position to see the difference between the majors and A ball, as demonstrated by the ball that bounced right off the heel of the right fielder’s glove and led to two runs. There was also a failure to cover first in the midst of a complicated, multi-base rundown, a misjudged carom that nearly led to an inside-the-park home run in left field, and, oh, yes, the aforementioned eight walks. Another highlight: each side featured a player named Jose Jimenez, one a pitcher and one a designated hitter. We did not, however, see both on the field at once, as the one time Jimenez would have batted against Jimenez, he was pinch-hit for. Pinch-hitting for the DH is unusual enough that it made us wonder: maybe there was really only one Jose Jimenez after all? After the game, there were the obligatory fireworks, along with the obligatory “God Bless the U.S.A.” The fireworks were pretty low-key, suitable for A ball–as was the poor aim that caused a dozen or so flaming, bright-colored balls of fire to hit the light standard in right and carom off in scary, groundward directions. Ah, the minors! Tonight we wrap it all up with a visit to the home of the Kansas City T-Bones, in Kansas City, Kansas. Here’s hoping the threatened rain stays away!