Tuesday night Target Field in Minneapolis hosts the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I’ll be watching, but my seat won’t be nearly as good as the one I had a few weeks ago. That’s when I was treated to VIP seats in the front row at Target Field. Say it like Bob Uecker did in that iconic Miller Lite commercial now, “The FRONT row.”
Beth’s written here before about her family’s Christmas tradition. Because there are so dang many of them, buying gifts is prohibitive. So everyone draws a name and has to make something. It can’t cost too much—there used to be a dollar limit but pretty much everybody knows what “too much” is. And it’s what you spend…not the value mind you.
Beth’s niece Caren, who lives in suburban Minneapolis with her husband and two kids, drew my name. And it so happens that Caren’s employer has Champions Club seats at Target Field. So last Christmas, Caren—knowing I’m a White Sox fan—presented me with a hand-knitted black-and-white scarf (Sox colors) accompanied by an invitation to pick a Twins-White Sox game and attend as her guest.
Fast forward to June. Caren and her husband Mark and their kids pick us up at our hotel in Minneapolis. We drive to the park. Or I should say, under the park, where a valet takes our car. We enter and next thing we know we’re in this big restaurant where, well, you can eat anything you want. As much as you want. A carving station. A pasta bar. A charcuterie station. Free beer. Ice cream. Hot dogs. Free beer. Did I mention free beer? In keeping with local custom, I had a Grain Belt.
We walked out to our seats, which were sort of like these Lazy-Boy big boy seats. While Caren and her family stopped at around the fifth row, well, Beth and I headed down to row one. Right behind the plate. So if you were watching, you could see me on every pitch. It was hot, but I didn’t move for several innings. Because you don’t often get a seat where you can see the movement on pitches. At one point, Beth was guessing fastball vs. off-speed by the sound of the ball in the catcher’s mitt. And when Jose Abreu crushed a double to the right field fence, well, I’ll always remember that sound.
Beth and I did eventually take a lap around the full park on the concourse to see how the other half was living. Pretty well, from what I could tell. Really nice ballpark. And Minnesotans, well, they were a little more polite and a little less boisterous than fans here in Chicago on either side of town.
Fast forward again to a week ago Sunday. Our neighborhood friends Jim and Janet and we sprang for…$5.00 tickets in the Upper Deck of U.S. Cellular Field. (Also known as “The Cell” or just White Sox Park, as Beth calls it).
We usually take the Red Line L train—it’s only three stops away. But it was so beautiful that day that we rode our bikes (Beth and I have a tandem, lest you fear). Locked up our bikes, walked way way up (imagine where Bob Eucker actually sat in that Miller Lite commercial).
And somehow, it was no less grand. Great sightlines, good company, a bratwurst for Beth, Italian sausage for me. OK, we had to pay for our beer, but that seems only fair.
The chatter was great. A little kid behind us gamely screamed at the top of his lungs “Let’s go White Sox,” trying to get the crowd going. Given the far reaches of our perch, he was often screaming alone. But it didn’t stop him.
And the vendors. That’s what I realized I missed at the Champions Club in Minnesota. Rather than use vendors, the Champion Club sent someone down to take orders, and would return with food and drink or whatever in hand. Which was swell.
But a good vendor is part of the game for me. My all-time favorite vendor experience at The Cell was a guy peddling cotton candy, of all things. As he climbed and descended the stands, he would boom out in his best overwrought Charlton Heston voice, “For the love of God, buy some cotton candy!” Every park has its characters.
So next time I’m in Minneapolis—which I hope is soon, because the Twin Cities are a terrific place—you probably won’t see me on TV, I’ll be out with the vendors. And we’ll treat Caren and Co.
If you’re a fan–or even if not, I hope you’ll read this terrific, in-depth piece about the rich history of baseball and town teams throughout the state of Minnesota. I had no idea.