Target Field has a heart. But a soul? Give it time
"Every baseball crowd, like every theatre audience, has its own distinctive attitude and atmosphere."
"The most beautiful thing in the world is a ballpark filled with people."
"I'm for the dreamers. The only really important things in history have been started by the dreamers. They never know what can't be done."
In brief time, it has been established with great celerity that Target Field has heart. Ardent (and expected) fan support -- combined with the Twins' 14-7 home record (9th best in baseball) -- have fast established as much.
Moreover, ample and deserved lauding from both local & national media meshed with consistent praise from learned baseball men have quickly tabbed Target Field as one of the Major League's finest ballparks.
The effect of the stadium's presence has created a tangible vibe in the Bread Basket, just as the already rhythmic heartbeat of downtown Minneapolis has been juiced with defibrillator-like mania for each of the club's 21 home games.
The stadium is now alive. But does it have a soul?
The fast & hard answer: Barely. The soul for any sporting venue develops over time and, of course, isn't simply born of moments of merit, achievement and bliss. Rather, like a person, the stadium soul is an amalgam of times also consisting of heartache, defeat, strife, struggle, loss, obstacle, and lament.
On April 12th, Target Field was unveiled in earnest and within the moments of Joe Mauer being announced onto the field, the F-16 flyover, and the leviathan flag presentation -- a soul was born. That unseen entity is still very much in its infantile stages, but over the course of the next three days, that essence will be readily fed and watered with the first and lone (regular) season appearance of the New York Yankees.
In hardball terms: When Jason Kubel hit the first grand slam off of Mariano Rivera in nearly eight years to give the Twins a 6-3 win in New York back on the 16th , the club got off the schneid versus the Yanks. In human terms: avoiding an unlucky 13th consecutive loss to the Pinstripes gave the Twins' psyche a good scrubbing. Playing competitive, losing ball against the league's benchmark for success only means something if you're the Royals. For the Twins: consistently competitive losses to the Yanks has only served as a reminder that -- when rubber meets road -- our Boys play in the Pinstripes zip code, but don't succeed in their stratosphere.
New York and the Twins are playing equally cool ball right now, as evidenced by the Yanks having dropped five of their last six while the Twins have lost six of ten. Nonetheless, the clubs have mirrored 26-18 records which chart for second-best in the American League. But given the Twins' 6-8 record vs. the A.L. East and 18-9 against everyone else, it's readily apparent that past proves a continued prologue for our club's standing among the big dogs of baseball. I undoubtedly consider the Twins (like the Yanks) to be among baseball's top-5 teams, however the Twins remain in need of some proof-of-purchase regarding their ability to be more than leaders of one of baseball's weakest divisions.
And that opportunity comes to Minneapolis this week. Rarely does a May series hold the gravity of the next three days, yet given that this is the teams' final scheduled meeting it serves as a magnified gauge of the Twins' readiness to compete at the highest level. Versus teams with a sub-.500 record the Twins are a stellar 18-10. Above .500? A measured 8-8. Without doubt, this series will be referenced and reflected upon for the 115 games to follow.
Is that unfair pressure for pre-June baseball? Yes. And while Target Field outlines foul from fair, the collection of inanimate stone, grass, metal and glass cannot of course comprehend such pressures. But it can envelop ours. And from that, the soul of the stadium grows. Through the generations, through the elements, through wins & losses. And we invest ourselves in pursuit of the former.
The stadium will feel if we sweep the Yankees. And so will all of baseball.
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