Monday, April 10, 2006

You Bee 40

Growing up, I spent many Sunday afternoons with my family walking the malls of Brookdale and Rosedale and on special occasions, Ridgedale. This past Sunday I spent the day walking a mall in downtown Cleveland. I mention this not as an example of how far (or how not so far) I've come over the years, but rather that malls are about as comfortable place for me to be on a Sunday afternoon as any other. This particular Cleveland mall was connected to the Ritz-Carlton motel I was staying at. As I wandered around on a lazy late morning trying to kill time before I headed out to the airport, I saw a long line of people waiting outside a shoe store. Turns out this long line of people was for those waiting to tryout to be extras in the next Spiderman movie.

For the second time in two years I was in Cleveland attending election administration classes. The irony isn't lost on me of taking election administration classes in Ohio, the state that ran into the most publicized troubles in the country in 2004. The class I was taking had to do with public policy making. The instructor introduced himself as a huge baseball fan (he liked the Braves) and went on to say that the reason he likes the lawmaking process is for the same reason he likes baseball- that's it's a terrific game. He kind of lost me there. One of the reasons I stopped working at the Legislature was that I was tired of watching people treating the passage of important public policies as some type of game to be won or lost.

But I was glad to be in Cleveland again.

My second trip to Cleveland thankfully included going to the Indians' home opener that happened to be against the Twins. It rained the morning of the game but by the time we got to the stadium it was just drizzling. A fog rolled in around the third inning but never got thick enough to be too bothersome. Jacobs Field is a terrific ballpark. For non-baseball fans it's a place to go just to be. For those of us who need to hang on to each and every pitch as if our life depended on it, the experience of being in an old fashioned immaculately designed atmosphere with all the modern conveniences (a huge scoreboard, fireworks, and sushi) just makes the greatest game of all, that much more enjoyable.

For years I've advocated for a new Twins ballpark simply because the Metrodome was never meant to be a place to watch baseball. God almighty how can we even consider it the same game with all the phony aesthetics not to mention the pop flies lost in a white(!) roof? And for freaking sake, the majority of seats in the Dome are facing the wrong way... The experience of watching a baseball game at Jacobs Field versus watching one in the Metrodome is akin to the difference between shopping at a mall and walking up and down the store fronts of your friendly small town main street. Having now seen a few games at Jacobs Field I'm more convinced than ever that this is exactly what either downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis needs. This isn't all about giving a billionaire owner and millionaire players the benefit of our tax dollars. It's about how baseball can mean so much for our state and we the fans and semi-fans deserve a great place to enjoy the game.

The Twins got hammered 11-6 with the biggest damage coming from Casey Blake, a former Twin, who hit a grand slam home run. But amongst the obnoxious Indians' fans we were surrounded by I couldn't help but feel a little optimistic that the player I consider to be the key to the Twins' season, Justin Morneau, smacked two home runs and nearly missed a third. And despite the dreary weather I quite enjoyed seeing the new Twins (Luis Castillo, Rondell White, and Willie Eyre) for my first time. (Was I the ONLY one in the stadium hoping that we'd get to see Francisco Liriano?)

It's great that a new baseball season is underway. It's even greater that I got to watch the beginning of this one in a fabulous venue. I'd never thought I'd be jealous of Cleveland.

On the plane ride home I was listening to Bob Dylan on my Nano when the flight attendant wheeled her cart up to my seat. I asked for some juice and she said, "Ham or Turkey!" Turns out she was handing out sandwiches not beverages. I meekly said, "Ham, please," and she handed me my sandwich with a gruff snort. I was glad to be getting home albeit a bit thirsty.

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