First game for boys creates memories, empties wallet

Itasca County DARE students walk around Target Field before a game on April 29, 2018. (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

If there’s one thing I remember about my first Twins game, it was that my family couldn’t walk fast enough.

The neighborhood around the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome seemed stranger to me than the twisted wrecks hauled into my family’s Northern Minnesota junkyard. Nevertheless, I kept a brisk pace, well ahead of my uncle and aunt, my parents and sisters. I didn’t need to know the names of the streets. The destination could be plainly seen from blocks away.

The Dome was a strange stadium, to be sure, but it shared something important with every Major League park. For a kid, walking through the gates and seeing the field for the first time was practically a spiritual experience. An enormous building exists simply to look down on a plate, three bases and perfect green grass. (Or comparable grass substitute).

Last Sunday, my sons Doug and George took their fifth grade Itasca County DARE field trip to see the Minnesota Twins play the Cincinnati Reds at Target Field. I was selected as one of the chaperones after scrawling a desperate manifesto on the application. You see, these were my youngest boys and they had never been to a Twins game before. This would be my last chance to take them to their first game. Shameless, I know, but it worked.

Early in the morning, we crawled onto the bus. For me, the bus seats trigged the same feelings as finding a pair of pants from high school. I remember fitting into them and having a good time, but I’ve long forgotten how. Nevertheless, the excitement on board was palpable. After lunch so, too, was the smell.

Talk of food dominated conversation on the trip to Minneapolis. These 10- and 11-year-olds spoke of massive hot dogs, ice cream, and french fries served in souvenir batting helmets. Parents on the bus could hear the sound of sawbucks whirling out of our wallets like butterflies at a showcase wedding.

The Twins rewarded our DARE graduates with the opportunity to walk along the warning track on the field. I won’t lie, this was really cool. It might have been the first time since Little League that I’ve ever stood in right field without dropping anything.

Your intrepid local blogger with sons George and Doug.

A major league game features far more pre-game extras than I remember. For a solid 45 minutes, the public address announcer directs your attention to beleaguered but inspiring youngsters, stoic veterans of foreign wars, and intrepid community servants. They throw pitches, deliver balls, run bases, raise flags, always escorted by Twins mascot T.C., who is for some inexplicable reason an anthropomorphic bear.

Once the game started, we started on the snacks. All the boys in my group got ice cream sundaes served in souvenir plastic cups. We kept the cups under our seats, except for my son Doug who put his vessel full of sticky chocolate dregs on the balcony ledge. Later in the game, we all realized it was gone. Peering down I saw a crowded section full of fans. I don’t know what happened, but I know what likely happened.

The game was a dud. The Twins were out of sync on the field, on the mound and in the batter’s box. But it was a beautiful afternoon — sunny with a cool breeze. By the end of the game, George was laughing with sheer joy at a plastic bag dancing around the edges of the stadium, up and out toward some distant horizon. I must admit, it was categorically more graceful than the entire Twins infield.

We also saw how much television has changed the game. With long pauses in the game to show commercials on TV, fans in the seats get to see what the players do in between. The Reds changed pitchers later in the game. During the break, baserunner Brian Dozier, parked on second base at the time, meandered over to chat with the third base coach. They looked like a couple of guys on break from running backhoes at the gravel pit. But when fans on TV came back from commercial, it would have looked like Dozier was on second the whole time, ready to sprint at a moments notice.

The Twins ended up losing 8-2 to one of the worst teams in baseball. Or at least, that’s what the paper said. The Reds looked pretty good from our seats. We didn’t win, but this sober band of DARE graduates still left feeling like winners. As far as I know, we all resisted drugs that day.

I saw my first Twins game in 1987. I had no idea then, nor did most, that Minnesota would win its first World Series later that year. Perhaps my boys will be able to say the same this year.

Or at least, perhaps if the Twins could turn a double play to save their lives. We’ll get ‘em next time.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, May 6 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


Speak Your Mind

*