Take Me Out to the Ball Park

The Lakehead University Thunderwolves Baseball squad was slain by the Dragons in a one-sided 26-0 drubbing.
The Lakehead University Thunderwolves Baseball squad was slain by the Dragons in a one-sided 26-0 drubbing.

Thrill of ‘The Show’ at the Ball Park

THUNDER BAY – LIVING – This past May our family headed to the Twin Cities anticipating the first week of Major League Baseball. With the hometown Twins hosting the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox at Target Field. During the same week Major League Baseball (MLB) released its accumulated sales inside a Sporting Industry that’s become much more than Abner Doubleday or any of the pioneers in the realm of this game might ever imagine. Up to date accounts in the Wall Street Journal were reporting MLB is an $8 billion dollar concern.

The only other North American sport to exceed that is the National Football League (NFL) where revenues had been in excess of $9 billion. Thus, every time we attend a game an appreciation of what ‘’a sporting lifeline’’ baseball is to North Americans. For the early months of play is often in the coolest of conditions though the narrative of this sport still carries through the longest season of any Professional schedule in virtually the whole world. Some might point to the year long Test Matches in English Cricket. But the lords of International Cricket do not play every day, or every other day, the way franchise teams do in our hemisphere.

And so it was fans in St. Paul-Minneapolis were braving chilly temperatures with a cutting wind. The ball park gauge registered 54 F.

While the attendance was posted as 29, 628 where Target’s capacity is built for 39,000 especially during those mellow ice cream melting days of mid-summer.

This was—no doubt about it– quite an amazing turnout. The aggregate of well bundled fans crowding into the seats was benignly intriguing. We were awed by the oldies in the crowd. Complete with thermal vests and toques. One grandfather wore a sign: Oldies Rule The World Now.

With the inclement of weather we discovered the hot coffee venues were sold out by the 6th inning. One from St, Paul told me, as we stepped away from a coffee stall, ‘’this is why Schnaaps was invented.” However, as a family we witnessed a game-for-the-Ages. Before getting to the field, we had talked of what might happen in our game and how it might appear to anyone attending their first –ever–baseball game.

Because what we saw was distinctly memorable. The umpire called: Play Ball, following a terrific National anthem event, and the experience of watching LIVE baseball went on directly before us.

Here was a tape measure home run by Chris Bramalee, in the second inning, on a pitch from Boston’s Clay Buckholtz.

It lifted so high into the upper deck. “Would it have landed in Wisconsin?” asked one nearby, “if it wasn’t for our barrier?”

Humour lives in Minneapolis. Mary Frances Veeck, wife of Chicago’s former baseball owner Bill Veeck, always told me when we watched baseball together, “I actually wait for the- most- magic-of-moments-in-baseball.”

That’s because I come from the world of New York Theatre.

I can’t tell you how much I am, really, enraptured with the live drama of a double play.

It just stupefies my expectations of the sport. Well, Mary Frances our family was blessed with your vision. When, in the middle innings, the Red Sox defense sparkled when Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia and Frank Napoli synchronized their connections.

It became fleet-footed instantaneous leather smacking baseball zipping into three gloves for what is known as “a twin killing” in the parlance of baseball.

A highlight reeling double play. A Web-gem as ESPN broadcasters call it. Side retired. And, Target Field’s faithful very kindly yet gently—but so objectively– applauded Boston for what they’d seen. But, the home side Twins took a 3-1 lead into the ninth.

That’s when Boston found a way to tie.

Baseball’s all-time designated hitter David Ortiz led off with a hit.

Both Johnny Gomes and Mike Carp delivered in succession to load the bases. Will Middlebrooks (whom I wrote about in last year’s World Series when the Red Sox made history by going from last to first place claiming their World Series rings) launched an impressive hit that zoomed above the diamond before becoming a sinking liner to right, on a pitch from Glen Perkins, to tie the score. The game would go to extra innings.

Again, anyone seeing their first ball game would have been impressed. Coming events would warm up Target Field’s patrons. As an arctic sun tried to poke through the formerly smothering, moody charcoal clouds.

Minnesota’s Kurt Suzucki—our family’s favourite Minnesotan– belted a double.

That’s where Boston’s lanky pitcher Andrew Miller was caught in the drama.

He held on, though. Miller was gaining confidence as he set down two batters. But the Gods of Baseball where dwelling somewhere in the upper lodges of this park because with two out and the pitch count at 3-2. Miller threw. Aaron Hicks lashed the ball into the greening grass of the outfield. The outcome: a walk off Home Side Victory. Twins 4. Boston 3.

It was a game worth every penny in its purchase of being there. On our way back to where we were staying taking the inner city’s wonderfully efficient Light Train commuter,

I inquired of a grandmother who her favourite Twins player might be? “Well…” She thought carefully. “I really don’t have one. I adore, and love, every single player in our Twins line up”. Nuf ced.

As well one who worked for a Mattress Firm had a witty line as our train emptied out and we departed for the night. Our conversations merely words lifting into space with the night wind just hovering down so conspicuously. The mattress fellow wanted us, as Canadians, to hear his firm’s slogan. “If it matters to you. We’ve got it covered. Besides, we’ll even let you sleep on it.”

Ronn Hartviksen

AN OCTOBER FOOTNOTE: The current issue of The Economist (Fall edition 2014) carries a very articulate three page story on the beauty of small Market Franchise Baseball Teams making this year’s MLB Playoffs. The Economist story carries coverage on how teams like Oakland, Kansas City and Baltimore—all of them like Minnesota’s Twins—have harvested a method of reaping rewards by “re-considering the essentials” to winning baseball.

Listing good overall team defense, savvy hitting (including taking advantage of hit and run situations the way Hicks did in this Twins game) besides developing stellar Bullpen pitching. Where this fall’s Playoff format saw Baltimore signing Andrew Miller earlier in the Season. Miller has turned so much around within his game. Likely the pressure of not pitching an entire season in front of Fenway’s Green Monster where batters might smack the devil out of any left-hander. And, more instinctively, Miller has gained confidence in—often—being used to face just one batter, perhaps, two at the most. Allowing him to maximise his thrust in blazing high speed throws. Presently knowing he is “making all this looks easy,” as the Economist explains, because his imagination is not overweighed with a journeyman’s thoughts of having to go up against an unknown, never ending cluster of more opposing batters. The Economist’s revealing result in baseball statistics. Andrew Miller is truly exceeding. His ERA: is 1.04. An awesome recovery at the Major League Level.