For some, the first sign of spring is the sight of the first robin. To others, it is the emergence of the first tulips.
My signs are different. Spring is teased by pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. As the snow melts, teams evaluate the emergence of rookies and the fading of aging stars. For me, the first day of spring is not March 21, but Opening Day.
Since 1982, the magic of spring in Minnesota has been dulled by the reality of the Metrodome. The water stained yellow roof, the plastic grass, the ugly cheap baggie, and the misaligned seats all conspired against it. While spring and, eventually, summer arrived in the rest of the country, we were subjected to a pale, less substantial imitation. We existed in a faux spring, without the resonance of the real thing.
It wasn't just spring and summer that were dulled by the presence of the Metrodome, but baseball itself. Even in the championship years of 1987 and 1991, the Twin Cities has never felt like a baseball town. Excitement at the event, surely. But I've never felt that it truly loved baseball. How could that love survive the dump that fans were subjected to every game? We were treated to a cheap plastic version of the sport. Consequently, I have never had much regard for the baseball that was played here. I've always felt like an outsider. A stranger in a strange land.
Since the construction began on Target Field, I've felt a growing excitement at the possibilities that it presented. I've also had a small germ of fear lurking in the back of my mind. What if all of my anticipation led to disappointment? What if it wasn't the ballpark that I hoped it could be? Was I expecting too much?
On Thursday, I attended the game against the Red Sox. As I strolled through the plaza, the years of Metrodome misery were lifted from me. Target Field is everything that the Metrodome was not.
Beautiful. From the sandstone facade to the pine trees in center field to the view of the Minneapolis skyline in right field, Target Field is visually stunning. We had a bright blue sky and a breeze swirling inside the ballpark.
Comfortable. From what I've been able to tell, there might not be a truly bad seat in the house. You can watch the game from the wide concession areas. The scoreboards are state of the art and packed with information.
Authentic. As I watched the wind push a fly ball just over the corner of the left field fence for a home run, everything changed. I had my first spring of the past nearly thirty years. After years of being an interloper, I finally felt at home.
But I'm still rooting for the Yankees.