Last weekend, I flew up to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet up with two college roommates and friends and take in some baseball. As it happened, the Indians were in town, so it turned into an opportunity for me to see them in person for the only time this year. As it further happened, when we planned the trip and bought the tickets in July, Jim Thome was playing for the Twins, but by the time we arrived in Minneapolis on September 16, he was a Cleveland Indian again. This was also the first time I've visited a stadium that wasn't Progressive Field more than once, so I was able to get a great look at Target Field, the newest stadium in baseball until next April.
Upon all of us landing and meeting up, we hopped on the Short Rail train and headed down to Target Field, only a couple stops from our hotel and the end of the line. Once we got there, we walked away from the stadium a bit and found a local pizza place, which was packed with Twins fans. All three of us wore Indians hats all weekend, and that wasn't all the Indians gear we had on. But there was only one point where I felt anything less than welcomed by the Twins fans, and the absolute majority of the interactions we had with them were positive: good-natured ribbing, asking what we thought of the stadium, and comparing the Indians’ fading hopes with Twins’ lost season.
The atmosphere around the stadium was really good too. There were plenty of local, atmospheric sports bars and places to eat in the downtown area, and walking around was an enjoyable experience. And better yet, there's plenty of room for development. Wrigleyville is widely accepted as the best area around a sports stadium, and the large part of that that's because of tradition will never go away, but the area around Target Field, if developed properly, could definitely rival Wrigleyville's dominance.
The initial (and, as far as I can tell, only) criticism of Target Field when it opened was the fact that it wasn't a dome, that it was open air. The low on Friday night was about 50 degrees, and while it was kind of chilly in the upper deck and fans packed blankets, no one looked unhappy to be there. There are a couple of warming huts in the upper deck (people who drink call these warming huts “bars”) that worked pretty well for thawing out a little bit, and in the lower deck the temperature was even less of an issue.
I imagine the cold weather thing will be more of a factor in October and April, but as a traditionalist, I prefer open air stadiums to domed stadiums. A retractable roof would have been a good idea for a compromise, but the view of the Minneapolis skyline from Target Field is pretty spectacular now, and would have been obstructed by supports for the roof. So in all, I think the open air stadium was the best choice: design for the majority of the season, the warm summer months, and worry about the colder months later.
The stadium itself has a somewhat rustic feel, with a lot of wood paneling (or real wood) on the concourses and walls. Seats weren't just laid out in cookie-cutter fashion; it's like a bunch of people got to pick where their fifty seats were and what view they would have. Those features made the stadium feel very warm and homey.
The Indians played well for most of the weekend, except Sunday. But even on Sunday, they played better than the Minnesota Twins, who allowed a six-run seventh and let the Indians climb back to the lead they'd need to win the game, and the Indians won all three games. A couple of the highlights:
- In the top of the ninth on Friday night, after getting a warm reception from the Twins fans before his first at bat, Jim Thome crushed his 603rd career home run into the right field seats. It was the first time I had seen Thome homer as an Indian since 2002, something I was really hoping to see, just one more time.
- Carlos Santana hit two home runs over the weekend, including a mammoth shot on Saturday that made it into the second deck at Target Field.
- Asdrubal Cabrera made a beautiful behind-the-back flip with his glove on Saturday that should have started a double play, but second baseman Jason Kipnis couldn't handle it and only managed to get one.
- Kosuke Fukudome had a good weekend in right field, making what might have been a game saving catch at the wall in the ninth on Friday and several other good catches throughout the weekend.
All in all, a great weekend in a great sports town. Everyone we talked to in Minneapolis thought Target Field was a huge improvement over the Metrodome, and seemed to really like the new stadium, and I agree. It'll be interesting to see what the stadium itself as well as the area around the stadium is like in ten years. But at this point in time, Target Field is one of the best baseball watching experiences in the nation.
More photos from my trip to Target Field are posted here.