Baseball opening day was last week, but with half the teams starting the season on the road, yesterday marked first games at several stadiums, including something old and something new, plus a non-first-game at something that its tenants are outspokenly blue about:
- The Minnesota Twins debuted their new $522 million Target Field (of which $387 million is being paid for by county taxpayers), and goggling fans described the new place as “intense and extreme” and “how baseball is supposed to be played.” (The Twins had been indoors at the Metrodome since moving out of Metropolitan Stadium in 1982.) The Mankato Free Press calls it “ultra-intimate” and says the “second deck of the left-field seats hovers so cozily over the field that it’s remindful of a Fenway Park Green Monster seat view &mdash minus the stiff cost.” From my vantage point watching on TV, this looked like more than a bit of an exaggeration — the upper decks are set back fairly far and stacked relatively high, and the “party deck” in the left-field corner looks like a bit of an obtrusive eyesore (kind of a cross between San Diego’s Western Metal Supply building and Citi Field’s glassed-in Acela Club) — but it certainly is outdoors. If any FoS readers were there, I’d welcome hearing your thoughts in the comments section.
- Wrigley Field held its 97th season opener (the 95th for the Cubs; the first two were for the Chicago Whales of the long-ago Federal League), and debuted the first of the offseason renovations that new owner Tom Ricketts has planned. The most talked-about improvements seemed to be to the bathrooms: “Clean, dry, toilet paper, it was very nice,” said one female fan, while a male fan noted: “Much nicer, much cleaner, and I’m glad they kept the tradition of the troughs, but they do have some private urinals if you’re into that kind of thing.” Other changes include a spruced up back of the scoreboard and large banners of Cubs players adorning the front of the stadium. No glowing Toyota ad in the bleachers yet, though. (No, it wasn’t recalled.)
- The Tampa Bay Rays actually had their home opener last week, but the Yankees‘ first series of the year there sparked a war of words over Tropicana Field, starting when Yanks catcher Jorge Posada griped “it’s not a baseball stadium” after a ball hit a catwalk and was ruled a single. (Note to Jorge: If stadium-specific ground rules aren’t baseball, then what are all these for?) Rays manager Joe Maddon shot back: “Tell them we’re trying to get a new yard ourselves. If they want to contribute in any way, we’ll take it. … We’ll take all kinds of donations; any major-league team that wants to contribute to the new ballpark, we’d be happy to accept.” Added Maddon: “We could just build it on Jeter’s property out there.” Maddon tactfully failed to mention that the Rays, along with 28 other major-league teams, are already helping pay for the Yanks’ own new stadium.