Ahh, back to writing baseball stories. Those are much more fun to write. Below is a rundown of last Friday evening, when some friends and I were lucky to attend the Twins' home opener. Good stuff, if you don't mind watching your baseball through flesh. I'll explain later.

Friday, Minnesota vs. Detroit, Metrodome

The blessed evening: the Twins' home opener. I've been lucky enough to attend every home opener since 1998, but none were anticipated like this one. The Twins were nearly cut from existence this off-season due to "contraction" (don't get me started) so the fact that they were actually playing this game was noteworthy. (Incidentally, is anyone else bothered when, because of their survival of contraction, people like Linda Cohn refer to the Twins as "America's Team?" As much as I like the world embracing the team, where were you when we were listening to Willie Banks give up 8 runs in the first inning? Maybe it's just me.) Plus, on top of surviving, the Twins actually had a winning record last season, their first since 1992. "Experts" are picking the Twinkies to finish at or near the top of the AL Central this season. Al Newman is the new 3rd base coach! Who doesn't love the Twins???

The evening got off to a weak start when the owner of The Little Wagon, my fave downtown watering hole, threatened to kick me out for taking up an entire booth to myself (Alex and Brian were a few minutes late.) The owner and I bickered back and forth for a couple of minutes (he had the nerve to point to the Wagon logo on his shirt to prove he had authority) when the waitress told him to leave me alone. She recognized me from my frequenting said establishment. I didn't know to laugh or to look for my nearest AA group.

Nevertheless, Matty joined us in a few minutes after his disappointing City Center haircut, and we ate, drank, and made fun of each others' fantasy baseball teams. After, oh, let's call it three rounds of Coke and his friend Jack (ask Al about the Wagon, gimlets, the 2000 opener, and Midre Cummings), we made our way to our Teflon mecca, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Our tickets were upper deck, third base line. Not too bad of sight lines, for the Dome. As we sat down, we noticed no a) rowdy drunks b) rowdy kids c) groups of nuns or d) baseball commissioners, so we felt fairly safe that other fans wouldn't impair our enjoyment of the game. Wrong answer.

The National Anthem was.. well... "sang" by the... um... legendary Ann Margret (and seven of her closest friends who actually can sing, apparently.) Then Harmon Killebrew came out to thank the fans for their support and say that he didn't mind being passed up on the all-time homerun list by Barry Bonds. Riiight. That's like me dropping down my fantasy standings to a guy starting Marty Cordova as his catcher. Anyway, it was good to see Killer. And not surprising to not see Kirby Puckett doing this task. In case you haven't heard, well, Kirby's had a rough offseason. I think he even got dropped from his sweet endorsement deal by Peter's Billiards. Does it not suck to see people who were thought of so highly and respected fall down into the gutter? Bill Clinton? Robert De Niro? I saw a Randy Quaid cameo during a rap video on MTV this morning. Sure, it's not like he's Sidney Poitier or anything, but this is Cousin Eddie....

The players finally take the field, much to my relief. I was seriously worried that Al Newman had eaten Luis Rivas and/or Christian Guzman. Nope, they're still there. (Although I am curious about Jason Maxwell's absence. Something had to give Newmie that gut. He led the Twins in stolen bases only 13 years ago! Now the only category he'd claim is Scarfed Krispy Kremes. I'm rambling.) Bad Brad Radke tosses the first pitch, and it's over for a strike. Here's the wind, and the pitch: striiiike two! We applaud uproariously. It's the natural progression: in the first couple of innings, fans clap for every strike pitched by the home team. By the end of the game, we're in the kind of mound-visiting, batting-glove-adjusting haze so that even a home run by the Twins gets a tepid cheer. Baseball, it's FAAAAAANTAzzzzzzz.....

Radke's got an 0-2 count on someone named Andres Torres, a Tigers rookie who has probably never heard of Chet Lemon. Here's the wind and.. um.. excuse me? A couple of women walked down the aisle through our field of vision to the concourse exit, apparently jonesing for that 7:07 pretzel. We missed Senor Torres ground weakly to third. "That's awfully rude" we said to each other, in language not nearly that nice. Oh well, those two apparently aren't savvy to baseball etiqutte, which states that you wait until the half-inning break to go from the stands to the concourse. There's an awfully good chance that you will block the view of many ticket-buying fans on your way.

Well, it's apparently time for the Twins to give the upper midwest a refresher on this. Of the 54 outs recorded in the game, we probably saw half. EVERYONE from our entire section needed to leave their seats and go to the concourse during the game, some people several times. We even named some of these people we saw them so often. Oh, grey femullet needs another hot dog. Golly, drunken 15 year old needs to water the lilies again. By the fifth inning, our politeness was out the door and we began to be rude to our obstructors. (And our politeness wasn't all that polite.) Do people truly not realize that they're in the way when they do this? And could the Twins afford some sort of usher staff to prevent this on the second deck? They police the lower levels pretty rigidly. Second deck maybe equals second class. I sound like I'm dissecting the Titanic.

Anyway, the Twins won. Everyday Eddie Guardado picked up the save (more points for the fantasy team) and we left the game happy for the "W" but a bit jaded towards rude fans. The problem may be alleviated with a stadium better constructed for baseball rather than football-- but I don't think we'll get those seats ever again.



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