I often get asked, especially when I'm traveling, how someone from Montana becomes a Red Sox fan. I will talk about my fascination with US history when I was little and how I was enamored with the city of Boston, the fact that they were good but cursed when I was first becoming interested in the MLB circa 2003 (similar to my dad's team at the time, the Cubs), or how I went out there for school and got to see them play every once in a while. All that's true of why I like the Red Sox, but when I think about why I love the Red Sox, it has a lot to do with one player- David Ortiz. Of the Red Sox greats, he was the one most relevant to my generation- he came up clutch in the biggest moments and helped a franchise known for their postseason failures win THREE World Series titles. His personality was easy for me to love and relate to: easy-going and happy-go-lucky until he wasn't. He was without a doubt a leader in the clubhouse and his at-bats were a must watch for me. And as if all of that wasn't enough, one of my favorite moments as a sports fan involved him- I went alone (crazy) to the first game at Fenway after the Boston bomber was caught and saw both his infamous speech ("This is our f*cking city") and the win that followed, which included a couple of clutch hits from Mr. Clutch himself. It sounds corny, but I knew during that game that that team was special, and they proved me right by going on to win the World Series that year.
When Ortiz announced that he was retiring following the 2016 season, I knew I had to make it a priority to see my favorite player play as much as possible in his final season. This isn't exactly an easy task living in Montana, but I lucked out and had a business trip that allowed me to see him early in the season in Houston, and Joel and I figured a road trip to Minneapolis during the Red Sox stop there in May wasn't too difficult. We'd driven the 8 hours to Denver several times; what's another 4 hours each way?
Whenever we go to a baseball stadium, I prefer to go for a full 3-game series. There are so many great seats in a ballpark and each with different views of the stadium, so I like to get 3 different views while we're there. In addition to 3 different views, I generally go with 3 different "tiers" of ticket prices. We decided to splurge for the Friday night game and get seats behind home plate because we initially thought that David Price would end up pitching that night. However, stuff happens in baseball, including injuries, so the pitching rotation ended up switching slightly and instead, we saw Steven Wright pitch. I can't really complain though- he was an all-star that season and a knuckleball pitcher, so it was cool to see from that angle.
We weren't in the very first section behind home plate- that section gets nice padded seats and free food and we're still in the "ballers on a budget" phase of our lives, but these seats were still super nice. It was cool to see Steven Wright dominate- he threw a complete game, and before the game, we got the see the Twins presentation to David Ortiz up close at home plate. He played for the Twins before coming to the Red Sox (they released him- idiots), so where other teams gave fancy gifts to the legend in his last series in their stadium, the Twins had Torii Hunter come and give him a jar of peanut butter. Apparently, he lays out his whole uniform before he goes to shower before the game- underwear and all. One time, one of his teammates on the Twins put chunky peanut butter in his underwear, and he pulled them on and made it halfway to the door before he noticed. He then turned right around and got back in the shower. It was cool to hear that story and see how much he genuinely enjoyed reliving that memory and the gift.
The Red Sox won a great game and there was a firework show afterwards- overall, a great night in great seats.
When I think of Minneapolis, rooftop eating doesn’t necessarily come to mind, but it’s all the rage in bigger cities and Minneapolis isn’t getting left behind. It was fairly warm out for springtime, so we decided to try one out on our way to the field. The one we went to was Cowboy Jack’s. It was pretty good and while the views were basically of the parking garages surrounding it, eating outside in the fresh air was great after driving in a car for 6 hours.
The Twins have tons of eating options to offer from gourmet sandwiches to stadium food and more. We just snacked during game 1, but we definitely scouted out what we wanted to try for game 2!
After the game, we headed to my mom’s cousin Melissa’s apartment in St. Paul and got some food for the boys at a bar across the street. I didn’t have anything, but they seemed to enjoy it- in fact, I think that meal is where they really bonded.
To split up the trip a bit, we drove halfway to Bismark on Thursday night and got up on Friday morning for the second leg. Traffic wasn’t too bad getting into the city, but I totally forgot about the whole time change thing, so thankfully we had given ourselves enough time that losing an hour didn’t really affect our plans too much.
The Twins have a parking garage that’s pretty affordable- I think we paid $20 and were right there next to the field. We got there extra early because we did a stadium tour- I always like to do these, and I’m glad we did the one on Friday, because you get early access to watching batting practice. This might sound boring to some, but I love seeing how the players prepare, especially as hitters. They don’t just get out there and swing away with no intention- they go several rounds working on hitting different balls to different parts of the field. If you’re a fan of the game, I definitely recommend checking it out- you can usually catch part of it during the first game of a series, even with a regular ticket.
The stadium is fairly new, but what it lacks in history it makes up for in quirky additions to make it home. Their old stadium was really designed for football, so they wanted something that was clearly meant for baseball, and I think they hit it out of the park (pun intended). There were so many things that we were told about and saw that made me say, “wow, that’s so cool and I never would have noticed that” such as baseball bat shaped light posts outside the gate that light up according to the inning, an old school scoreboard in center field that lights up differently depending on what’s going on in the game, and several other interesting additions. And talk about a great view in the outfield- it looks right into the downtown skyline. Our tour guide was awesome and clearly invested in the team and loved the stadium, which made us love it too. Afterwards, we headed out to left field to watch batting practice and got two balls that players hit out. People started filling in pretty quickly once the normal gates opened and we didn’t get any after that, so I was again grateful we’d gotten the early access.
We stayed at Melissa’s place- I’m always so grateful when family members let us stay with them because it takes so much stress out of the trip for me. She lives in St. Paul, but St. Paul/Minneapolis is basically all one big metropolitan area and it was easy to get there from the game.
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Just a couple of sports fans touring the world, one stadium at a time.