In January, a Dome For Baseball Makes Good Sense

Tucked neatly inside a busy weekend theater schedule for me was a visit to the upended doggy bowl we affectionately call the Metrodome (or just Metrodome, if you work at KFAN) for TwinsFest 2008. Luckily, a visit to the

Twins' web site

the night before warned me about what to expect.

For starters, I was able to disappoint my son at home rather than in public (which is always preferable). His Rod Carew glossy and Justin Morneau cards were going to stay at home unsigned, because the event charged for autographs at rates that went as high as $25 for Hall of Famers. (I learned after I got there that the proceeds went to charity, which is fine, and the sight of hollow-eyed memorabilia hounds clutching bats and balls in long lines for signatures clued me in to the logic of the thing.)

Collecting autographs, in other words, is great fun for the grade-school set and moronic otherwise, so we looked for our fun elsewhere. Stepping down to the field, for starters, we saw a great horde of folks (perhaps inspired by the Morneau/Cuddyer signings of the day before) milling about while gibberish intermittently erupted from the PA system. I looked up at the big screen above and was confronted by the sight of my own bleary mug; a camera was capturing everyone walking in, though Bert-circling wasn't part of the deal.

U of M ballplayers pitched in a pen to kids in a home run derby, and fresh-faced minor leaguers signed whatever was put in front of them. I spotted Hall of Famer Bob Feller at a table looking elderly but stately (oddly, I got a signature from him about 30 years ago in a minor league game in Ohio. Guess we're due to meet again in 2038). From there we waded across a sea of people to baseball's perpetual preoccupation after balls and strikes: commerce.

Turns out TwinsFest is the most vast sports card and paraphernalia show you'll probably ever come across. Which was pretty much useless to me, but I had a seven year-old boy in tow, so things were golden. I walked around buying one-dollar packs of random cards packaged in brown paper, laying them on my son for opening once we got home. My son elevated his consciousness several steps toward Nirvana, a fine reminder really of why watching grown men bat and pitch remains such a happy diversion well into adulthood.

We came upon Chuck Foreman, the Vikings great having brashly rented a table to hawk bobbleheads of himself; the immortal running back gave a chortle when asked what exactly bobbleheads did, lolling his skull around by way of demonstration. Kent Hrbek was there, raising money for charity, looking immense, and generally being very amiable to all the passersby who wanted to chat him up. And, on the way out, we came upon a traveling Hall of Fame exhibit; I was unaccountably awed by the glassed-in sight of Lou Gehrig's jersey and cap, a quasi-religious relic. Ty Cobb's fielder's glove, on the other hand, looked tiny and ridiculous (no wonder he was so ill-tempered, he probably had hairline fractures running all through his hand).

Finally the money ran out, the soda got downed, and it was clearly time to vacate. A long line snaked around the concourse for the signature of some old-time great, but we didn't bother to find out who. The game, after all, is bigger than any single player. Which my son pointed out to me before we hit the revolving door.

"They need to paint over that," he said, pointing to a fine portrait of Torii Hunter on the wall by a concession stand. And he was right.

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