Big League Stew - MLB

This past weekend, my friend Howie and I took a road trip to Target Field to check out, first hand, the new Minneapolis phenomenon called "outdoor baseball."

Between pitches of that crazy 12-inning game between the Twins and Brewers, we took notes on what we liked and what we didn't about the major leagues' newest playground.

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• Plain and simple, it's just a beautiful place to watch a game:  Architects borrowed characteristics from modern and retro ballparks to create something entirely new. Target Field's limestone face and use of glass evokes a late '60s view of what a modern park might look like. The backdrop of downtown Minneapolis helps, like at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and other urban stadiums. If you don't think city architecture can be beautiful, you can't be helped.

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Gorgeous wooden murals of Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett: And, even better, they're behind bartenders! Inside respective atriums on the club level, these pieces of legitimate art remind us that nothing says Twins baseball like Rod Carew and booze. As for the selection, tap the Extra Pale Ale from Summit, a local brewery.

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Seats in the Legends Club: Your ballpark might call this section "loge." Anyway, the seats are wooden like in olden times, have padded bottoms and are an extra-wide 19 inches — which is great if your own seat is padded and extra-wide. If you can afford this premium, it's worth it.

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Walleye on a stick: The favored fish in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin is fileted and put on a wooden stick — state-fair style — alongside the corn dog and pork chop. Walleye was advertised in some places as a being "on a spike" but there was no such renaissance fair feel to this (though you could grab yourself a turkey leg if desired).

UPDATE: Well, look what finally rendered — a taste of walleye video. Enjoy!

The $11 pricetag for the walleye was disappointing. Might as well catch your own, shake 'n' bake it and bring it to the park. But it was a tasty piece of fish. As long as you don't care about eating a little bit of scale. (You don't mind, right?)

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Entering, exiting and getting around inside the ballpark: Claustrophobic? You will be if you attend a game with a big crowd (which will be pretty much every game this season). We could not have picked a much busier time, considering it was a weekend, the opponent was the Milwaukee Brewers (an old AL rival with plenty of fans just across the state line), the Twins are fighting for first place and the place still has that new ballpark smell.

The commissioner of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority said Target Field is a 12-acre site built on a parcel fit for eight acres, and there are consequences. Most fans enter and exit in the right- and left-field corners (and there's a metro train station in left. It's great for getting to the park, but then it gets dicey).

The lower concourse isn't tiny wall to wall, but there are too many concession stands and little room for the crowd to flow. You gotta squeeze into the park, then you have to dodge lines for escalators  — which they need more of, actually — along with lines for the team store, hot dog stands, beer vendors, etc.

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Put it on the board, already: TV replays are slow, infrequent and often cut off before the play is over. Once a run is score on field, it is slow to accrue on the board. Did you miss Justin Morneau's(notes) double into the gap that scored Joe Mauer(notes)? The big TV ain't always gonna be there for ya'.

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White dudes shaking hands: Like the "Liberty Bell" in Citizens Bank Park, there's a giant sign of the Twins' traditional logo that looms above right field and goes off after the home team homers. "Minnie" and "Paul" shaking hands to represent the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul coming together to root against Ozzie Guillen.

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Saturday uniforms: Perhaps the best retro duds in baseball, straight outta Killebrew. Cream colored. No names on back. Pinstripes. Agreeable navy blue and red colors. I would have bought one, but my White Sox fan mother would kill me.

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There's no actual Target store: Granted, there's a downtown Target less than a mile away, and there's no bleeding need to have a general merchandise store inside of a baseball stadium. But if they had the room, it would be so cool to pick up a $5 DVD, a new undershirt and a 2-liter of Sprite after you get your Michael Cuddyer(notes) on.

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Statues dig in: The slightly larger-than-life statues of Carew, Kirby and Harmon Killebrew have been criticized for, well, not looking like the players themselves. They are caricature-ish. Kirby Puckett was never THAT fat. But, the coolest thing was the base of the figures. They're made of similar stuff to that of the dirt around home plate. Fans are encouraged — begged, practically — to climb up and pose with the statues. Dig into the dirt with your cleats! Awesome touch.

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No giant milk: The Metrodome had the best advertisement ever for milk; an oversized gallon inflated with water that rested down the right-field line.Torii Hunter(notes) said he was lactose intolerant, so they removed it for the Dome's final seasons. I hoped they would bring it back. Buto such luck.

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They've already renamed the Metrodome: It's now Mall of America Field. OK, this doesn't have anything to do with Target Field. But let the old man rest in peace for a while, eh?

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Retro left-field grandstands: As you can see below, they resemble the stands of old Metropolitan Stadium, the Twinkies first Minnesota home park. It seems purposeful, though it could be a coincidence. No matter, it's a nice homage to Larry Hisle.

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Portraits of men: At the suite level (which I saw only because a ticket literally fell into our laps from the upper deck), the hallway is appointed with oil portraits of Twins managers. This Tom Kelly speaks for itself, no?

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Lake WHOA-Be-Gone: All of the fancy suites are named after lakes in Minnesota. Makes sense, considering it's got 10,000 or however many in-state. This was addtionally funny to us because the same thing was true of the meeting rooms in our hotel. My favorite Target Fied suite name: Winnibigoshish.

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The people: Ballparks are more than bricks and mortar, not simply glass and steel. Twins fans are so excited about their new home — and their team — that their emotions augment the park's positive features and marginalize its few negative ones. It's easy to have a good baseball conversation with a stranger in Minnesota. And the service people are naturally friendly. Target Field and its humans (and Bear) deserve one another.

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