From naps to thrills, baseball provides

Target Field Fireworks
Fireworks at Target Field after the July 1, 2022 game between the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles. (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

Last weekend I watched the most excruciating eight innings of major league baseball of my life. And then I saw the most thrilling ninth inning I’ve ever seen in person. Such is the way of our strange, so-called “national pastime,” a tradition that endures despite the waning attention span of the body politic.

My family and I attended the July 1 game between the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles at Target Field in Minneapolis. We don’t go to many Twins games. We live four hours away and it costs a family of five about $500 to enjoy the game with the comforts of nearby parking, decent seats, snacks and soda. That makes a game like this a rare treat.

The downside of occasional games is that any given baseball game promises a wide variety of results. We might experience an exciting victory, a heartbreaking defeat, or a long, boring slog that triggers a catatonic state. We might even endure the sad drenching of a rain delay. The handful of games we’ve attended have provided all of these outcomes at different times. Whatever we get has to tide us over for a year or two.

The one last week was shaping up to be a weird pitcher’s duel with one of the worst teams in baseball. One by one, our star hitters — Luis Arráez, Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa — failed to get on base. The bottom of the lineup collapsed like old Jell-O. We were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

We have one baseball player in the family, Doug. Despite the drag, he was still enjoying the game. My wife Christina, who normally suffers heat sickness at Twins games, was enjoying the shade provided by the free bucket hat given out that night. George, however, was losing consciousness. Meantime, Henry, our rustic wilderness boy, was overwhelmed by the large crowds and near constant noise of the public address system. He survived only by imaging the fish he could be catching back on the lake instead of being there.

But then, Doug and I observed that the Twins had the top of their lineup for the ninth inning. Arráez is a crafty hitter, one who can get on base many different ways. Sure enough, he singled his way onto first base. Then came Buxton. After falling to a 1-2 count, Buxton launched a ball into the left field seats. The replay revealed he didn’t even fully load his swing; he just used his arms to swat it out of the park.

Target Field erupted into chaos. Tens of thousands of people bored out of their wits just received an adrenaline shot straight to the heart. Fireworks exploded while the team flooded the field to pile onto Buxton as he rounded the bases. The most boring game of my life had just yielded the most exciting five minutes of baseball I’ve ever seen.

So it goes with baseball. Some folks get all wistful about the sport because of its strange rules and seemingly on-the-nose metaphors for life. Crash Davis’s wisdom in the movie “Bull Durham” comes to mind: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” But the sport retains its relevance even as more viewers drift toward the made-for-TV speed of football and basketball.

Historically-speaking, bad things usually happen when 25,000 people show up wearing the same shirt. But baseball provides a relief from that fact. There were Trump and Biden bumper stickers in the parking garage, but inside just Twins hats and shirts. The day provided temporary relief from our political divisions. 

So long as significant numbers of human beings memorize the names of people who play with balls for a living, there will be no revolution. That might be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s true.

More than anything else, what I find appealing about a professional baseball game is the careful choreography of everything you see. Of course, the players adjust into defensive formations, shifting with the algorithms of opposing batters. But so does the grounds crew. I’ve been watching 14-year-olds attempt to rake the base paths of a local park for a couple months. So, it was jaw-dropping to watch one guy rake with flawless synchronicity along the infield grass.

Even the mascot, T.C. Bear, follows a specific inning-by-inning itinerary. This schedule even prescribes specific minutes for him to wiggle his butt and blow kisses at ladies in the crowd (including my wife). If you ever want a head trip, try watching a major league mascot gyrate that funny suit and imagine what the person inside is doing to make that happen.

Mostly, it’s just nice to see people who know what they’re doing work together. That’s what civilization is all about, and perhaps why I still like baseball so much.

After the game, the Twins hosted a fireworks party. The lights of Target Field grew dim while bursts of red, white and blue lit up the city skyline. Players and their families gathered on the field to watch with those of us in the stands.

The night concluded with an hour-long effort to escape the parking ramp. In total, we spent four hours in tedium, one hour in blissful happiness and about seven minutes in euphoria. Naturally, we all agreed it was worth it. In life, those numbers are as good as you can get.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, July 10, 2022 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.


  1. One thing that fans from the further reaches of Greater Minnesota have to face with the wonders of Target Field is the fact you allude to: you can make the several hour trip and then get rain. Of course, these days rainouts are rare unless the rain is falling so hard that the TV cameras can’t see the field for several hours, with the players forced to struggle on under horrible conditions not very conducive to playing ball, and the fans soaked and cold; but there still are some rainouts. One of the things with the old Humphrey Dome is that you always knew you were going to see a game in comfort, and the fielders wouldn’t have to go wrist deep in water to catch a grounder.

    The Dome was also ridiculously and wonderfully eccentric — the weirdest venue in the Big Leagues and a throwback to the strange old configurations of the twenties and thirties. The plexiglass wall extension in left and center left that Kirby climbed like a Garfield the Cat stick on doll, the “Hefty Bag” in right, the fact that a wild pitch or passed ball always — and I do mean always — bounced off the back wall and veered sharply to the first base side; Twins catchers knew enough to always run to their left instead of straight back. Plus the rock hard outfield surface that sent Texas Leager hits bouncing thirty feet in the air — Atlanta learned about that the hard way when Dan Gladden left the batter’s box flying for second on a broken bat high pop, knowing that it would either be caught for an out or that he could make second when the ball blasted high on the bounce, winning the series against Atlanta and its flummoxed outfielders. Plus the constant rumor that the engineers running the AC system changed the pressure each half inning to benefit the Twins. A lot of fun to watch compared to the cookie cutter stadiums typical now. A few times a summer I used to drop the kids and the wife off to shop or at Valley Fair and drive in to the Dome. There were always singleton seats in good positions, no matter how full the park was — usually inside the bases on one side or the other — and the cost of a ticket, a brat, a soda, and a seventh inning bag of peanuts was reasonable.

    Reading this over, I sound like my Grandad when he talked about the good old days of Bernie Bierman’s Golden Gophers and their run of national and Big 10 championships.

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