Monday, April 12, 2010

Where to go before/after Twins games?

For my entire life, my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins have played their home games indoors (the Metrodome opened for baseball 2 1/2 years before my birth) which means, despite witnessing hundreds of Twins games over the past 18 years or so, I have never seen the sun illuminate the Twins' home whites during a game that mattered. (I say this to exclude spring training/exhibition games.)

That will all change tomorrow, April 12, when the Twins officially christen Target Field as the new home of Twins Territory. It promises to be an historic day, and one that I feel extremely fortunate to witness in person.

Opening a new ballpark, Twins fans are learning, while a blast and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is also a lot of work! You have to find a new "secret" spot to park (or find a new bus/train route), figure out which seats you like the most, which concession stands have the best food and even what innings to head for the restroom. But Target Field's prime location near Minneapolis' Warehouse District brings to light another, heretofore unknown dilemma for Twins fans -- where should I go for a drink/bite before and after the game?

As a 20-something die hard fan, this is question I've been pondering for a surprisingly long time, but I think I might just have my answer: Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Minneapolis.

Saturday, Becca from Lola Red Public Relations invited myself and some other Twins bloggers out to witness a fun event they had staged at Rock Bottom -- a "Biggest Twins Fan" contest, in which an online poll selected four Twins fans to compete for a pretty-darn-spectacular grand prize -- a trip to 2011 Twins spring training in Fort Myers, valued at $1,500! With blogger John Meyer one of the contestant and Rock Bottom only a couple miles from my house, it was a no-brainer -- a couple friends and I decided to check out the event (promises of 2-4-1 beers did not hurt, obviously...).

I'll post a couple of videos that I shot on my Flip cam below, but needless to say, it was a pretty fun event. The four contestants (a woman named Michelle, John, eventual winner Ross and tattoo-guy Joel) competed in a series of contests ranging from spin-the-bat (see a video of John below) to math problems to giving their best angry Ron Gardenhire impressions (hilarious video below). Contestant Ross ended up the much-deserved victor and took home the trip, but there was an excellent crowd on hand and people were fired up for Twins season!

It's interesting to see the various bars and restaurants position themselves to capture a portion of the inevitable Twins traffic - at least 3 million people will be making their way down to Target Field sometime over the next six months, which means a lot of potentially hungry/thirsty customers!

I've always liked Rock Bottom and their custom-brewed beer (the Northstar being my person fav), and they gave away special T-shirts to those in attendance Saturday that entitle them to 2-4-1 beers on the day of any Twins home game throughout the season -- that certainly made my pre-/post-game outing decision a lot easier, since Rock Bottom is just a stone's throw away from the field and a quality establishment to boot.

It remains to be seen if other places around the park begin holding similar promotions to woo Twins fans -- I think they're going to find that the competition for those dollars will be fierce, and differentiating yourself from the throng (like Rock Bottom appears to be doing) could really pay off in the end.

Again, a heartfelt thanks to Becca for the invite -- I know that TwinsGeek (John Bonnes) and Kristen Brown (@kbrobaseball) also made appearances. I'll definitely be stopping by Rock Bottom with some friends on several occasions this season!

The videos I referenced above are embedded below -- the actual contest itself was a hoot, as you can see!

**ADDENDUM: Sarah from Oh It's THOSE Girls baseball blog has a far better recap of Saturday's event, complete with pictures (w/out all the pontificating that I am prone to) - check it out!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Twins v. Cardinals - first Major League Baseball games at Target Field

Okay, so I'm about a week late with this post (although bear with me, I'm going to put a couple things on here tonight), but I was in attendance at both of the Twins exhibition games against the Cardinals at Target Field April 2 and 3.

Friday night (the first-ever Major League Baseball game at Target Field!) I had excellent seats right on top of the visitors dugout (a place I hope to sit once or twice more this season, if I'm lucky). The experience was awesome -- gorgeous night, everyone just in awe of the stadium and having a great time.

For your enjoyment, I'm posting a couple of videos that I shot with my Flip came -- including the first-ever hit by a Twin at Target Field (a lead-off triple from Denard Span), a panorama of the entire stadium just before the first pitch by Carl Pavano and a pitch-by-pitch view of Joe Mauer's first-ever at-bat at "The House that Was Built For Joe."

I'm sure almost all of you will get to Target Field at some point this season, and these videos will cease to be novel. But for now, I think they're pretty cool, since no more than 80,000 people have witnessed a Twins game at the new stadium.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Live from Fort Myers: Day 1

As I mentioned, I'm going to be only sporadically posting on Twins Chatter this season (which is fine, we don't get many hits these days anyway). I'm still working on updating that logo (I promise to have it done before Target Field opens though).

Anyway, I took a somewhat impromptu trip down to Fort Myers this week to catch a couple of Twins spring training games, and caught most of Thursday's 8-3 win over the Orioles before the downpour set in. A beautiful night before the rain, and a good game to watch -- the projected Opening Day starting lineup took the field (Span, Hudson, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young, Hardy, Punto, with Baker on the hill) and the Twins scored a bunch early before the starters came out.

But the most impressive part of the game had to be the outing of Francisco Liriano. Not only did he toss two scoreless frames, but he genuinely looked like the F-Bomb of old, at least to my somewhat-trained eye. Spotting the fastball (generally-speaking) at 92-94 mph, with a filthy slider that was coming in over the plate at 84-85 mph -- guy looked dirty. The less-than-stellar Orioles lineup was almost helpless up there.

I filmed a little video w/my Flip cam below for you to see for yourself -- look for another report tomorrow!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The O-Dog's potential defensive turnaround

I probably won't be commenting on current Twins news/speculation here as much as I used to back in the day (that niche is plenty filled in the Twins blogosphere), but the most recent move I couldn't let slip by. The Twins signing Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $5 million contract to play second base is a fantastic move by the team and signals a big step forward for the franchise -- actually going out and procuring a veteran player at a position of need. And the best available player no less!

While many Twins blogs have done an excellent job breaking down the move (I happen to like Nick's analysis myself) I thought I'd share with you a little tidbit from Keith Law at The article is behind the Insider paywall, but here's the paragraph I found the most interesting:

Hudson had an unusually strong year hitting from the left side, but even if he reverts to his previous form at the plate will give the Twins more baserunners and more thump from a position where they were getting marginally more offense than they'd have received from sending a good-hitting pitcher to the plate. Hudson was a premium defensive player while he was with Toronto, but spent the last four years with teams that emphasized defense less than the Jays did, and his defense suffered, with traditional evaluations and defensive metrics agreeing that he was average or even a tick below. It's possible that was just a function of age, but it's also possible that Hudson needs to be with a coach (or staff) who works with him constantly on his glovework for him to be effective on defense; it's one area of the game where coaching can make a huge difference, including areas like positioning. The Twins have generally run good defensive clubs out there the last few years, and they've been willing to sacrifice some offense for better defense -- it's mostly speculation on my part, but I think there's a good chance that Hudson rediscovers some of his lost defensive value in Minnesota.
If there was any criticism of the Hudson signing, it's that, despite having an excellent offensive first half in '09 (he actually hit third for the Dodgers after Manny's suspension) and winning his fourth Gold Glove, he might be on the decline and in danger of falling off substantially. Law brings up an excellent point here -- even though the Twins defensive reputation as a "small ball" team that "does the little things right" has been undeserved for the past two years, it's hard to deny that Jerry White and the Twins' coaching staff makes a point to coach infielders; Corey Koskie, Jason Bartlett, Justin Morneau and others have made great strides defensively during the Gardenhire regime.

Perhaps a chance of scenery will in fact help the O-Dog rediscover his lost defensive prowess -- something to watch for as the 2010 season gets closer.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Joe Mauer: ESPN Homecoming with Rick Reilly

It's going to take me a while to get back into the swing of things with this blogging business, so please bear with me if these start off rather disjointed and difficult to read.

It's only January, but with the Vikings out of the playoffs, Gopher basketball and hockey middling along and the Timberwolves... well, I won't even go there, Twins fever is slowly starting to catch hold. Wednesday night, I went with a few friends to watch the taping of ESPN's "Homecoming" with Rick Reilly, featuring the Hometown Hero himself, Joe Mauer.

ESPN crammed almost 4,000 people into Cretin-Derham Hall's new gym (which is pretty nice, by the way) and the event was definitely a worthwhile one. Some of the recognizable faces in the crowd included Twins' GM Bill Smith, former GM Terry Ryan, longtime Mauer teammate (and on-field mentor) Mike Redmond, agent Ron Shapiro and nearly the entire Mauer family.

Despite the length (over 3 hours in bleacher seating you couldn't leave) the event was an enjoyable one. Here are a few memorable moments:

- While most of Mauer's family was pretty "aww shucks" during their interviews (not unexpected) Grandpa Jake can, as advertised, can spin a "colorful" tale... He had a couple of gems that aren't likely to make it onto ESPN, I think.

- I've always thought Rick Reilly was terrible on TV (in fact, I've always believed he was terrible at everything other than writing for the back page of Sports Illustrated), and these notions were confirmed Thursday. He's like a cross between Jim Souhan and Jimmy Fallon -- he never stops laughing at his own un-funny sports cliches/jokes.

 - Ron Shapiro is a decent guy as far as sports agents are concerned, but he's still a showman -- he did his best to play up the Mauer Legend, even on the eve of a (probably) $160-$200 million payday for his client.

- The rousing boos that ensued when Reilly suggested Joe would be happy to catch Mariano Rivera on a regular basis were entertaining.

- Reilly would NOT stop trying to get Joe to do something outlandish -- whether it be dance the moonwalk (something his friends said he was good at) or break out his rap lyrics. Joe wasn't about to break character in front of 4,000 people and a national audience, and I give him a lot of credit for that!

- When asked if he'd rather play for a winner or play at home, Joe's response of "Why not both?" drew the biggest cheers of the night. Good answer... Several eyewitnesses say that Smith and Shapiro shared a little fist bump after the comment... Take away from that what you will.

- My favorite line of the night though? Reilly asks "Is there anything you're not good at?" The question elicits shrugs from the Mauer family, and Joe (truthfully) answers "I don't know... Probably this interview?" I thought that was highly appropriate!

Overall, even though Joe won't be winning any personality batting titles anytime soon and Reilly is about as smug and annoying as can be, it was a cool behind-the-scenes event. And in the end, Joe's personality (or lack thereof) is one of the things that makes us like him -- he truly is One of Us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coming Soon: An all-new era of Twins Chatter

Hello super faithful readers! I know it has been a long, long time since Twins Chatter existed in any real form (pretty much since 2004-05), but I never really gave up the idea that I would start it back up.

Well, after four years of inactivity, that time has finally come, and the impetious is the opening of Target Field. As a season ticket holder (part of a group), I'm planning to be at the new heart of Twins Territory quite a bit this year, and I'll populate this newly-redesigned (read: simpler) blog with my thoughts about the venue, with a few rants about the team thrown in as well.

I'm planning for there to be less writing and more multimedia (videos, audio, pictures); the old Twins Chatter format (a daily column analyzing the team and its performance) has fallen out of favor since the early days of blogging.

Who knows what will happen, but it should be fun! Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Touring Target Field

Even though there hasn't been a real update on Twins Chatter for quite some time (I did, after all, retire from blogging in 2006), there has been a recent uptick in the traffic to this site due to a couple of links floating out there.

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be invited by Shane Nackeru (he of Greet Machine fame and a fellow employee here at the U of M) on a behind-the-scenes tour of Twins' new ballpark, Target Field. Talk about a great opportunity! Naturally, I was thrilled to go along.

The park was spectacular (and it helped inform my season ticket seat selection choice -- look for me in seat 1 of row 8 in section 124 next spring!), but I'm going to let others tell you about it far better than I could. Here are some links of descriptions (which, sadly, was without photographs) for your enjoyment:

Greet Machine (Shane)


Twins Ballpark 2010 (Rick)

What Jeff Thinks (Jeff Thompson)