Tuesday, March 8, 2016

baseball stuff!

Like basically everyone ever, I look forward to summer with rabid anticipation. Winters in the Midwest drag on and ON, and the promise of summer is the only thing that keeps us going. All it takes is one day above zero degrees for us to ditch our winter coats and staunchly declare that spring is here.

It’s only early March, and the possibility of more blizzards is all too real. We’ve had snow in MAY before, for crying out loud. However, this first week or so of March has been downright glorious. Our snow has all but melted, and I have given up on wearing a coat altogether – and I’m weaning myself off socks. I was at HyVee the other day to pick up some food to grill, and I waited in line for FIFTEEN MINUTES at the grill case. Everyone had the exact same idea as me, it seemed. We Midwesterners start our summers as early as possible.

I love everything about summer – the lake time, the road trips, the beer… EVERYTHING. Summer makes me feel like a person again after a long winter of just existing. And today I want to talk about one of my new favorite summer pastimes.


It should be noted that my interest in organized sports is quite recent. (Or, organized sport, to be more accurate: baseball is the only thing I care about.) And maybe “interest” is too strong a word. I don’t play baseball, as my hand-eye coordination is a tad pitiful. I’m not dedicated enough to listen to baseball on the radio or watch it on TV or learn stats and the like. But I love watching baseball in a stadium.

South Dakota doesn’t have a baseball team, so most everyone in my home state roots for the Minnesota Twins. When I was younger, my family would make the occasional summer trip to see the Twins play in the Metrodome. I went once or twice, but was never that interested. I was also a grumpy teenager and not interested in much of anything, so there’s that. Even by the time I was done being a grumpy teenager (at age 17), when offered the chance to see a Minnesota Twins spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida, I chose to go shopping at the outlet mall instead.

I did, however, love baseball movies. Baseball movies are clearly the cream of the sports movie genre crop: A League of Their Own and The Sandlot come immediately to mind. Rookie of the Year wasn’t bad, and I have vague memories of Angels in the Outfield being an ok way to pass an afternoon. But those first two? A League of Their Own and The Sandlot? LIFE CHANGERS.

Movies alone weren’t enough to make me want to watch a baseball game. A regular old baseball game didn’t have the heart-stirring stories and life lessons that my favorite baseball movies did. So what was it that changed my mind about baseball games? I can tell you EXACTLY what it was. And by what, I mean who.

Joe Mauer.
 When I was a sophomore in college, I took an absolutely useless speech class. I was toying with the idea of becoming an English teacher, and my friend Sara was thinking about a major in speech communication. We both signed up for a 3000-level speech class during the spring semester, and we quickly realized how ridiculous it was. I had taken a harder speech class in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. I think we only gave two speeches during the  course of that class, and I have no memory of what they were supposed to be about. I do, however, remember that one girl did her speech on Joe Mauer. I don't recall anything about that speech except for one thing: Joe Mauer and I have the same birthday.

I know it's a tad childish, but you can't deny that you automatically like someone better if you find out that they have the same birthday as you. It's just a fact of life. I had a couple of pretty great birthday buddies - Dudley Moore, Tim Curry - but Joe Mauer? He was a hometown hero.

That is the one and only thing I gained from that speech class in 2007: Joe Mauer and I have the same birthday. And that was enough to pique my interest in the Minnesota Twins.

Still, it was quite a long while before I actually went to a baseball game. One needs money to do these things, after all, and I had none. I didn't go to a Twins game until 2010. They were in their new home at Target Field - and it was AMAZING. My dad, brother, and aunt came for a game while I was living in Minneapolis, and they invited me along.
I had to buy this Twins shirt ON THE WAY TO THE GAME. The first of a whole drawerful of Twins apparel.
It was an evening game in early spring, and I loved the fresh air and the palpable excitement emanating from the crowd. It was intoxicating, and I finally began to understand what the big deal was about baseball.

The first time I went to a Twins game of my own accord was... wait for it... my honeymoon. YES REALLY. Of all the people to go to a sporting event on her honeymoon, no one would've guessed that it would be me. While planning James's and my Winnipeg road trip honeymoon, I got a wild hair to swing home through Minneapolis and catch a Twins game. James - who cares even less about sporting events than I do - wasn't so sure. But he was easy to convince: all I had to do was ply him with ballpark hot dogs and beer, and he was on board.

We picked a day in early August, and the weather was downright glorious. Minnesota summers can get stiflingly hot and humid, but our wedding and the week or so following it hovered at a beautiful 75 degrees. James and I had purchased nosebleed seats, but no matter. I had my first ballpark beer, and let me tell you, it was the most delicious beer I'd ever had in my life.
On that day, I decided that Twins games were an essential part of my summers. Granted, living nearly four hours away from Target Field makes that more difficult to accomplish than I'd like,  but I still wanted it. Oh, how I wanted it!

2015 was a fabulous year for Twins games. In April, I traveled with my parents and James to Kansas City, where we met my sister and went to a Twins vs Royals game. But that's not all: we went with Dad's crop insurance underwriter WHOM HE'D NEVER MET BEFORE! She knew Dad was a Twins fan, and Dad knew she was a Royals fan. They'd sprinkle their crop insurance emails with comments about how either team was doing, and Dad decided that - should schedules align - we needed to go to a Twins v Royals game in Kansas City. So we did.
Kansas City was one of the most wonderful places on earth - the people were delightful, and the food was phenomenal. And so was the baseball! It was a close game, but the Twins lost. If you recall, though, the Royals ended up being the 2015 World Series champions, so it makes sense. It was there that we learned the rally cry for Mike Moustakas ("Moooooooooooooose!") and that people in Kansas City will feel absolutely terrible if you get barfed on. (Yes. That happened to us.) Barfing aside, we all loved Kansas City so much that we're going back for another Twins game this April. 2016 is your year, Twins!

James and I went to a wedding in Duluth in May, and we went to a Twins game with James's brothers the next day. Our seats were way WAY up there, but honestly, I don't think there's a bad spot in Target field. We were so far up there that we had a little cement ledge to put our drinks on. It worked out beautifully. 
At that game, the Twins gave out embroidered pillows! That was my first game with freebies, and those smushy blue pillows are all over our house.

The last Twins game I attended in summer 2015 was in July, and it somehow worked out that my parents, brother, sister, James, and I could ALL GO. A minor miracle, indeed. We had great seats, great weather, great everything. The Twins won – and they’ve won every home game at which I have been present. It must be me.
Bonus: we got a picture for the Christmas card.
 Now that I have a few Twins games under my belt, I’m thirsty for more. I still don’t know anything about baseball stats, nor can I name all of the players (but I know Brian Dozier now, and he’s important!). But I understand the fundamentals of baseball, and I understand what’s so great about it. And I want to experience that as much as possible.

Besides, it's on my bucket list to be circled by Bert. I can’t do that without being physically present at a Twins game, so there’s another reason for you.

Take me out to the ball game.

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