Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Metrodome Years

Baseball in the Metrodome is dead. Buried and gone. Most people couldn’t be happier, and in many ways I am one of them.

Lost in the cries of Metrodome “good riddance,” however, is a generation of baseball fans who have known no other home. For people under the age 30, who never saw a game at Metropolitan Stadium, the Metrodome was the original Minnesota baseball stadium.

The older generation (people over 30) has memories of outdoor baseball, and seemingly always approached the Metrodome as a temporary home, unworthy of any affection.

A place where baseball was trapped inside, unable to escape.

The dome, of course, was flawed. And quite frankly, from both a technical and purist standpoint, was the worst stadium in baseball. It was cramped, dingy, poorly constructed for baseball, and all around devoid of any nuance. (Unless you count the baggy or Teflon sky as “nuance.”)

For all its flaws, however, it was home. For 28 years (and each of my 22) it was a source of baseball comfort. It was a place where the emotional highs and lows of the game on the field could literally be felt. It mirrored the ups and downs of the fans in the stands. It was a place where 55,000 screaming fans could be deafening; and their silence even louder. A place where you actually knew the players felt your presence, because it was impossible not to.

For me, most Metrodome memories are at least somewhat bittersweet. I was six months old for the Twins first World Series championship, and four years older for their second; ages hardly conducive for baseball memories.

And, while my first Twins game at the dome came in 1991, I have no memory of the event - mostly because I fell asleep. The worst part about this was I dozed off before my favorite player came into pitch. That player was Steve Bedrosian. Why? I’m not really sure, but I think it had something to do with his 1990 Topps baseball card. I can’t be sure what exactly that was, but it was probably his beard. That thing was bitchin.

Really, though, the first thing I remember about the dome is the Plexiglas left field, and my thinking that Dan Gladden looked like one of my uncles (because of the ‘stache, not the mullet). From that point on, all I have is a random reel of Metrodome memories spliced together throughout the Metrodome Years:

- Eddie Murray’s 2,998th and 2,999th hits, but not his 3,000th. I will never forgive Murray for not getting a third hit that day. Especially since my brother went the following day when Murray did, in fact, get number 3,000.

- Kirby Puckett chugging around the bases for an inside the park home run after, I believe, Bernie Williams lost his fly ball in the ceiling.

- Jim Thome clubbing three home runs off the white curtain in right field. (Note: this may not have actually happened. I know he hit three bombs, and it just sounds more impressive if I say they all hit the curtain.)

- Johan Santana dominating the Baltimore Orioles with 14 strikeouts, and the crowd booing when Joe Nathan came in for the 9th because we wanted to see a complete game.

- Shannon Stewart’s walk off home run on opening day 2004. A game which ended in just enough time to get four high school students home around 3 a.m.

- And, of course, game four of the 2009 ALDS, the final of the Metrodome years. Bittersweet yes, but when Joe Mauer got a base hit to give the Twins a 1-0 lead it was the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life.

There is nothing louder than 55,000 screaming Twins fans inside the Metrodome. The sound reverberates so much that you can literally feel it. More than just a noise, the cheers were a feeling. A bonding experience for 55,000 people.

That experience is what I will miss most of all. While it is true baseball belongs outside, nothing can ever match or replace the feeling of full Metrodome house screaming. And that is something Twins fans will never feel again.

After the Twins lost their final dome game, someone asked me if my Metrodome memories were “tarnished” because they never resulted in something truly meaningful, namely a World Series championship. This person expected me to say, “yes,” and justifiably so. But the fact is, they aren’t. They can’t be. Each moment I experienced has its own emotion. Its own feeling. Each memory has its own importance. Whether the moment was joyful, funny, painful, or some odd mixture of all the above that only seemed possible in the Metrodome, those moments will stand out in my mind for a reason.

You can’t undo a feeling. You can’t undo a moment. You can’t undo an emotion. Yes, those feelings and emotions fade over time, but if, like the fans bottled inside the Metrodome, you can hold those emotions within, those memories will never die. The moments will remain special. They will remain part of us forever.

As we move forward to a new, and frankly, better, baseball experience in Target Field, we must remember those Metrodome feelings. While we create new memories, with new moments, in their rightful outdoor home, we must remember the Metrdome served us well.

We can all agree to let the building itself fade away, but let’s remember to keep the memories alive.

Let’s always remember the emotions of the Metrodome years.

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