I have long opined that 1961 was a fantastic year, my Dad was born, Mantle and Maris had their infamous home run race, and Major League Baseball expanded. The 1961 expansion added two ML clubs, the Angels and the Twins.
Angels’ history, from their time in the Pacific Coast League forward, has long been a passion of mine. I have spent countless hours at Angels’ Stadium absorbing everything the quintessentially suburban stadium has to offer. Angels’ stadium has been, for some time now, my home away from home.
Until this past month, however, I had never had the opportunity to explore the home of the Angels’ expansion counterpart, the Minnesota Twins. While the Twins’ have changed playing fields three times since their Major League debut I can honestly say that they have done an unparalleled job of embracing this history in their new home, Target Field.
Yes, the Yankees have Monument Park. Yes, the Red Sox have Fenway and the Cubs have Wrigley. But it seems that no team has dedicated as much time and effort to embracing the new urban feel of baseball in the 2000’s while simultaneously chronicling the history of the team, its minor league predecessors, and former homes as the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
While in Minneapolis for the Society for American Baseball Research’s (SABR) forty-second annual convention I had the opportunity to take two tours of Target Field and attend two ballgames. The first tour was with a professor named Kristen, the second with Twins’ team curator Clyde Doepner. Clyde’s mere presence at the field is a testament to the team’s dedication to preserving their history as he is the only full time curator employed by any of the MLB teams. Both games were against the Royals during a four game, three-day series.
During my time at Target Field I was given the pleasure of seeing a number of different seating locations, and it does not seem that there is a bad line of sight in the house (although the Budweiser Patio doesn’t provide a full view of left field). Particularly impressive was the insight to allow for standing room only tickets- and provide a comfortable place for individuals with such tickets to stand. Behind the last row of seats in the second deck is a waist high bar area for those who choose to stand to place drinks and food while they absorb the beauty of the ballpark and take in the game.
The Twins have installed multiple LED boards, and their communications and social media teams use them extremely effectively. In addition to the scoreboard, which provides access to the line-up throughout the game (instead of in between batters like most parks), the Twins have a board above the bullpen for fans to keep track of pitching statistics. The Twins encourage fan engagement throughout the game with a Tweet Board as well, displaying fan Tweets directed to @Twins. Of all the boards at Target Field, the one that best promotes fan bonding with the team is a tall, thin board in right field. The board first flashes a photo of the Twin coming up to bat, and then displays the Twin with his first name. In using the first name of the player, as opposed to his last, the Twins market their players as people fans can relate to.
The Twins have found many unique ways to honor the history of their team (I think I may now know more about the Twins’ franchise than any other).
Statues of Twins’ heroes, or more accurately, baseball heroes, surround the exterior of the ballpark. Fans have the opportunity to pose with Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, and, of course, Harmon Killebrew. A larger than life baseball glove sits in the spacious courtyard marking the distance of Harmon Killebrew’s longest home run (akin to the Red Chair at Fenway).
Fences surrounding Target Field are lined with pennants commemorating every team, starting with 1961 (you can, of course, find pennants’ with Billy Martin’s name on them). Members of the Twins’ Hall of Fame are commemorated as well.
Inside the gates fans have the opportunity to see the architect’s mock-up of Target Field, a beautiful display of “firsts” at Target Field (including the first home run hit at Target Field and a collection of items from the first game). There is a restaurant dedicated to the history of the Twins’ old Metropolitan Stadium, and atriums dedicated to Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. There are display cases commemorating the history of Harmon Killebrew’s life and career, and quotes attributed to him adorn pillars throughout the exclusive second level club. Every display case is pristinely maintained to tell the story of the Twins.
There is a very interesting display of rookie cards on the suite level. The Twins have blow-up reproductions of Topps’ rookie cards of prominent players lining the left hand wall. The Twins have found an innovative way to showcase baseball, and baseball card history.
The second game I attended was the evening game of a double header at Target Field, and a roll back the clock night against the Royals. The Twins used this opportunity to educate their fans about their Minnesota Minor League predecessor, the Minneapolis Millers, who played at Nicollet Park (Ted Williams and Willie Mays both made stops here). Fun facts about the Millers were shown on the screen, giving the fans an opportunity to learn about the players who used to dawn the uniforms they were seeing on the field.
At Target Field, the history of the game, the city, the players, the team, the fans, and the ballparks are all revered- as they should be. The Twins have over fifty years of history, and they show this off in an aesthetically pleasing, educational, and fun way.
It is, in my opinion, impossible not to be thoroughly impressed with what the Twins have done at Target Field. From their use of scoreboards and space (Target Field is a twelve acre space built on an eight acre plot), to their environmentally friendly initiatives, to the beautiful display of history, to the warm and friendly family oriented approach of every member of the organization, the Twins have exceeded the expectation set throughout the league, and throughout the sports industry.
As an aside, if you have the opportunity to take a tour of Target Field (even if you have been there for a game) I highly recommend it. The tours are unparalleled in their depth- I took two and would love to take another.