Can’t anybody here play this game?

Thursday, May 8, 2012–Twins 2, Blue Jays 6

The very nice lady at the post office had a theory: The Twins were playing back to lull their division rivals into a false sense of security, and when July comes around, “that’s when we charge.” When I expressed doubt about these sentiments, her reply was, “well, we can hope, right?” If she is right, July can’t come soon enough for the Twins. As I write, they are 8-23, and if the display I saw in Minneapolis is typical, I’m not sure how they’ve even won eight.

I sat next to a very friendly guy who was telling me about the Twins latest roster moves and the fuss that was being made about how the team was considering moving the fences in  because there weren’t enough home runs being hit, and then added “but the opposing teams don’t seem to be having that problem.” I explained that the only player for either team I knew really well was former Isotope Josh Willingham, I told him about the time Hammer hit one over the scoreboard at Isotopes park, and he was suitably impressed. He told me about the giant neon Twins sign in center field—twin baseball players representing Minneapolis and St. Paul hold hands across the river “When we hit a home run, the sign lights up and the twins shake hands,” I think he told me this doubting that I’d actually witness this spectacle.

This was just ugly baseball. In the third inning alone, Yunel Escobar scored from second as Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla fell asleep trying to turn a double play and Bret Lawrie went first to third on a passed ball that Ryan Doumit couldn’t find. And it wasn’t over yet. Edwin Encarnacion is credited with an RBI single in the fourth. It was actually a fly ball that went half a mile in the air before landing—completely untouched—three feet in front of the plate. Even the baserunning was ugly, Eric Komatsu reached on an infield hit, took second on a throwing error and then got caught in no-man’s land trying to get to third.

How bad was this game? Even the umpires were falling asleep. At one point, they had to have a conference to confirm that Jose Bautista had indeed been hit by a pitch. At another, first base ump Tim Tschida was so unimpressed that he simply shook his head rather than making a signal on an appeal play. The only saving grace for the home team was in the sixth, when Josh Willingham hit a laser beam into the leftfield porch. I got to see the twins shake hands. “Your boy!” my neighbor exclaimed, clapping me on the shoulder.

At the top of the eighth, in the part of the game where most Major League teams ask fans to sing along to Sweet Caroline, the Twins have chosen a song that might be meant for the lady at the post office: Don’t Stop Believing.

Here’s the scorecard.

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Down the Capitol Corridor

Saturday, July 24, 2010– Orioles 2, Twins 7

After my day in Philadelphia, I continued down the east coast to Baltimore. How exhausted was I by this point? I remember nothing about this game. About a month later, when I was back home, I went to mlb.com and looked up the video highlights of the game. In the second, Luke Scott hit a bomb to center for the home team and Dennard Span leaped halfway up the wall to make the catch, arm extended at least four feet over the top of the wall. I know, I saw it on the computer screen. Not only do I not remember the play, but even seeing the video didn’t bring it back. Nonetheless, I look at the scorecard and see that I dutifully penciled in “P8!” in the appropriate box, so clearly I was there and relatively awake–but mentally, I was out of it.

It doesn’t help that it wasn’t a very good game. Brian Matsuz walked the bases loaded in the first, but somehow got out of it only allowing one run. After getting robbed in the second, Scott hit another ball a few feet higher over the center field wall, a two-run homer in the fourth to give the home team a brief lead. Delmon Young put the Twins on top to stay with a homer in the 5th, and then Minnesota tacked on another in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th to put it away, without many threats from the O’s.

I got all that from the scorecard, but what I remember is more impressions of the stadium itself. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the progenitor of the newest wave of baseball-only, “retro” ballparks, and was hailed as one of the nicest in the country. What I found was that everything you see in the main seating bowl (and consequently, everything that can be seen on television) is kept up immaculately, however, many of the concourses and other public areas have not aged as gracefully.

This might have been the most evenly split crowd I’ve seen, it certainly seemed that there were nearly as many Twins fans as Oriole rooters (and not very many fans of either team). I might be wrong about this, but I know the Twins fans had more to cheer about, and they definitely were. What I remember best are the “kiss cam” hijinks. This is a ballpark staple where cameras scan the audience looking for couples, and hopefully the couple in question will notice themselves on the jumbotron and kiss. First, a young lady threw herself theatrically into the arms of her companion. Later, a young man took several back-and-forth glances between the woman sitting to his right and the man to his left, before puckering up and turning to the left. They cut away from this to a close shot of a young couple: she gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he looked away with a pained expression. The game was so awful, this got the loudest reaction of the night, fans of both teams were booing.

Here’s the scorecard.

A scorcher in KC

Thursday, August 9, 2007–Royals 1, Twins 0

What can I say about this one? It was hot. This was another overnight travel game, take the Amtrak out to KC, wander around the city for a while, see a day game, and then get back on the overnight train back home. I got there about 8 in the morning, and it was already in the 80s. I misread the map, so what I thought would be a hop, skip and jump over to the Negro League Baseball Museum, actually turned out to be quite a hike. One thing I really like about the museum is that as soon as you walk in, you can see the “field,” a miniature baseball park with statues of some of the greatest Negro League players, but you have to go through a number of other galleries outlining (among other things,) the obstacles black players faced (until much more recently than I’d really like to believe) before you can actually step onto the diamond yourself.

I tend to chew up museums and spit them out: even when I am interested in what’s on display, I notice I’m usually at the gift shop, window-shopping and waiting around a good fifteen minutes before whomsoever I accompany. Not so with the NLBM. True, I did go to this museum by myself, but my point is I left due to time constraints, not because I was “finished.” I only had time to really study about two-thirds of the galleries, and decided I’d come back after the game if time allowed. And if I hadn’t lost my cell phone and had to make a vain search of my seat and the Kauffman Stadium lost-and-found, I would have had a chance to get back–and still not see everything I wanted to before they closed.

It was a Thursday afternoon game, for a last-place team, so there were only 14,569 fans in attendance. I got the seat in the front row of the overhang, directly above the radio announcer’s booth. I had to move because there was a handrail right between the plate and my eyes. I didn’t have a problem finding another seat. I know I’m not talking about the game very much, because there’s not much to say about the game, a 1-0 Royals victory over Minnesota. The story was the heat. Being from the desert, I don’t usually have to deal with the concept of “heat index.” On August 9th, 2007, I did. It was 97° and the heat index was in the 120s. At that time, I was employed as a ballpark hawker at Isotopes Park. That’s an outdoor job, lugging heavy stuff around and climbing lots of stairs, in a ballpark in the desert. Nonetheless, I was more miserable sitting in the stands for this game than I’d ever been humping the snacks around the yard in 107° temperatures in the high, dry Albuquerque air.

The game: John Buck was the cover boy for the program, and I got to read all about how he was going to turn the team around. Because it was a day game after a night game in scorching heat, Buck didn’t play. Jason LaRue started behind the plate, and was the big producer. He drove in the only run in the game with a sac fly in the 3rd, then gunned down Torii Hunter in the 9th on a swinging bunt for the penultimate out.

If Kyle Davies (coming off the game where he had given up A-Rod’s 500th home run, no less) was paying any attention to who was in the stands, he might have thought I was stalking him in the summer of 07. He was the starter for the Braves for that game in Denver, and then after being traded to the Royals his time in the rotation just happened to come up the same day I picked for convenience with train schedules. As if this wasn’t enough, Later (maybe in ’07 or maybe in ’08) he was pitching for Omaha against the ‘Topes in one of the few games I went to as a fan. Anyways, on this day, he outdueled Matt Garza, giving up 3 singles in 6 2/3 innings. Garza, for his part, only gave up 1 run on 4 hits, but was pegged with the loss nonetheless.

Here’s the card.