My weekend in Minneapolis
A few months ago, when I looked at the Rangers schedule, I was delighted to see they'd be in Minneapolis (just a four hour drive from my Iowa home) on my birthday. I never thought I'd be so excited to turn 28. Gas prices thwarted my earlier Minneapolis trip and also a trip to Kansas City, but I wasn't letting anything get in the way of this weekend. Here is a recap and a few photos.
Road construction extended my drive long enough to hear five innings of the Rangers/Twins game. It never really got completely out of hand, but Millwood didn’t sound too solid. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I received a text later that let me know the Rangers had lost. I was surprised, however, that they were shut out. First time all year. I guess the Twins were just returning the favor from Padilla’s masterpiece in late April.
Walking through the Nicollet area with my friends that evening, I was wearing my Kinsler All-Star player tee. A few Twins fans came up behind me and asked me who Kinsler played for. They already knew the answer, but I didn’t know that so I answered. They gave me a hard time about their team’s victory that evening and about their boy Morneau’s show during the All-Star festivities.
THEM: Who won tonight?
ME: Yeah, well…you won’t win all of them.
THEM: We’ll see about that. Who won the Home Run Derby?
ME: Who hit the most home runs that night?
THEM: Doesn’t matter. Jason Morneau still won.
ME: Jason? Um, and you call yourselves fans.
THEM: It’s a joke among fans. And this guy’s from Canada, so he knows Jason Morneau.
ME: Yeah, well who drove in the winning run in the All-Star game?
THEM: Who scored the winning run in that game?
ME: Well, Morneau couldn’t have come home if Young hadn’t hit that sac fly.
THEM: Yeah, yeah, whatever.
They were nice about the whole thing. I honestly don’t mind taking heat from fans who are actually knowledgeable and aren’t jerks about it.
My first Rangers game of the 2008 season. What a way to kick it off. A 14-2 loss. Yuck. Absolute yuck.
I arrived at the Metrodome in my Hamilton player tee just before 5 p.m. I had wanted to get there a little earlier, but road construction in Minneapolis is rampant thanks to the upcoming Republican National Convention. Ah well. I still caught the end of batting practice and got to chat with Shirley "The Cookie Lady" Kost for awhile while we watched our favorite boys warm up. I met Shirley three years ago in Texas and we’ve sort of stayed in touch ever since. I’ve run into her in Anaheim, Kansas City and Minneapolis so far. She’s a great Rangers fan, and I hope someday I am in a comfortable enough financial situation to follow them around like she does.
I also quickly realized I'd forgotten to load the battery in my camera. I was bummed and angry at myself at the time, but in hindsight, I'm not so sorry I am without photographic evidence of this massacre.
The game started, and, Matt Harrison got into trouble early. That Mauer home run just felt like the beginning of a long night. And it was. Well, it was a short night, but it sure felt long. The game was less than three hours long, but when you’re being tortured like I was, three hours can feel like much longer.
The one highlight, for me, was the Chris Davis two-run homer. His swing is so sweet. There was just no question about the hit as soon as it left the bat. Two guys next to me cheered, and I was confused since they were wearing Twins garb. The one quickly explained that Crush was on his fantasy team. I congratulated him on his good pick-up.
There isn’t much else to talk about regarding this game. It was hideous, but it couldn’t completely kill my excitement over my first game of the year. It was nice to finally see some of the new faces in person – Hamilton, Bradley, Boggs, Ramirez, etc. I got a nice wave from Hamilton (although he had just finished signing when I got there) and Frankie Francisco as well.
After the game, I met back up with my friends and we went and saw "The Dark Knight" at the imax theater. This is a little OT, but well worth a mention. Such an amazing movie. I don’t usually get into the superhero-type films, but this was just … wow. Heath Ledger was absolutely captivating. If he doesn’t at least get an Oscar nom, there’s something wrong with Hollywood.
I turned the big 2-8 on Sunday, but my mind was on baseball already. After just a few hours of sleep, I was up and ready to get back to the Metrodome. I sincerely hoped my boys would give me the birthday gift of a win.
I arrived at the ‘dome around 11:30 a.m. unsure if the boys would take batting practice. But after their performance Saturday, I was happy to see they were swinging away. I noticed right away that Wash was tossing BP. Where’s Rudy? The outfielders had already hit, I guess, because Davis, Teagarden, Blalock and Saltalamacchia were the ones in the cage.
Only Salty and Feldman came over to sign autographs, and Salty was the only one I got to talk to. I really didn’t have anything for him to sign, so I just handed over my ticket. While he signed, I chatted him up a bit. Or at least tried to.
ME: Hey Jarrod.
SALTS: Hey there, how you doing?
ME: Good, good. How are you? Are you about ready to get out there again?
SALTS: I’m more than ready.
ME: Good to hear. I mean, I like Taylor and all, but I want to see more of what you can do.
SALTS: *smiles* Thanks, that’s nice to hear. Hopefully I’ll get out there again soon.
ME: Well, good luck the rest of the season.
I also got a wave and a nod from Everyday Eddie. He is still quite well-known and heckled in Minnesota. You should have heard the folks around me when he came in to pitch the 8th. I wish I could remember what all they said, but it’s a blur now. And I’m getting ahead of myself anyway.
The Twins’ Baker looked amazing through five innings. I don’t know if his stuff was just working or if we were that off, or maybe it was a combination of the two. I was getting nervous that I would not only witness a loss on my birthday but that my Rangers would be the victims of a perfect game. I actually started uttering the cursed words in the fourth inning, hoping I could jinx it.
Thank goodness for Taylor Teagarden, who notched his first major league hit and home run in the same swing. I wanted to stand up and cheer, I was so excited for him (and, okay, for myself). But I restrained myself and just clapped from my seat. Especially since the Twins fans around me were groaning and telling the first base ump that had he not given Taylor an extra pitch (referring to a checked swing they thought was a full swing), the perfect game and shutout would be in check.
I was hoping the Rangers would get some more runs before the ninth inning arrived, but despite Joe Nathan's best attempts, they just couldn't do it. It was good to see our closer isn’t the only one who likes to put a few on the bases before getting that third out. Joe Nathan looked pretty shaky in his one inning of work. I prayed the boys would put a few more runs on the board before C.J. Wilson came in. I wasn’t really in the mood for Mr. Drama King. I didn’t want him to ruin my birthday. Fortunately, although he made things interesting, he didn’t spoil it. He got the save, the Rangers got the 1-0 win and my birthday was a happy one.
After the game, I was not yet ready to leave, so I lingered above the Rangers dugout. I watched Teagarden do his interview and then receive his home run ball. I was sure to congratulate him on his first HR/hit, and he grinned at me. Nice day for him.
Finally, I made my way out of the ‘dome and sadly left behind my Rangers for the weekend. My birthday ended with a free ticket to the Neil Diamond concert. The venue was sold out and Neil didn’t disappoint. He’s an amazing performer. No surprise, really. He hasn’t been doing this for three decades on accident.
This was the third out of my last four birthdays I've spent with the Rangers. I hope I can continue do this for years to come.
And now, for a few pictures...
Salty signs a few autographs.
Taylor stretches before the game.
Kinsler steps in to lead-off the game.
The view from my seat in Sec. 118, Row 7.
Kinsler tries to turn the DP.
Michael Young (I thought you all might have fun captioning this one.)
Kinsler drops the tag on Buscher as he's caught stealing.
A botched DP.
Padilla beats the Twins runner to the bag after Davis made a nice diving stop.
Taylor was all smiles after his HR!
Kinsler steals second.
CJ Wilson delivers.
Michael Young executes a strange play to get the out.
Kinsler and Boggs Bradley celebrate the win. (thanks for the correction, LAMF!)