Damn Yankees! – Yogi was right even when he was wrong

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, according to Yankee legendary malapropster Yogi Berra. But he also said, “It’s like deja vu all over again”, and right now that seems closer to the truth for the Minnesota Twins. It would take either a miracle or a deal with the devil, such as an appearance by the fictional Joe Hardy, for the Twins to get past the Damn Yankees in the American League Divisional Series.

Quite simply, the Twins have not figured out a way to beat the Yankees in the playoffs. You may not want to join me in my pessimism just yet, but realism, at least, certainly seems appropriate and optimism would be downright silly in the Twins’ trip to the Bronx this weekend. So let’s just tip our hats to the Yanks (we can curse them without hating them) and give our Minnesota Twins high fives for a wonderful season in our great new ballpark.

Twins celebrate a walk-off win over the Toronto Blue Jays last Saturday (photo by Steve Date)

Rather than dwelling on the losses of the past two evenings, I prefer to remember my visit to Target Field with my family last Saturday. It was a stunningly beautiful autumn day (if you were sitting in the sun). The home town boys had been on a slide since clinching the AL Central Division title. They needed a win to stir up some mojo for the playoffs.

Wacky hijinx by the kids before the game in the big glove. (Kyle, Emily, Lauren) (photo by Steve Date)

Shortstop Alexi Casilla provided the necessary excitement with a base hit in the bottom of the ninth, driving in two runners for a walk-off win. The celebration on the field and in the stands could have been mistaken for a championship win. It was one of those moments that can make baseball as thrilling as any sport. I feel lucky to have been there.

'. . . and we'll see you tomorrow night!' - the words of 1991 World Series announcer Jack Buck echo in the ears of Twins fans when they see Kirby's statue at Target Field (photo by Steve Date)

The Twins have provided a lot of thrills over the years and I was fortunate enough to have been an in-person witness to two of the best — the Game 7 win in the 1987 World Series and Kirby Puckett’s game winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 Series, a moment that has been immortalized by Kirby’s Statue at Target Field.

The outfield at Target Field is a work of art. (photo by Steve Date)

As I’ve said before, I love Target Field. I’m glad it was built and I’m happy with the plan the movers and shakers came up to pay for it. To the extent that taxpayers are chipping in, all I can say is that it’s worth every penny. It’s an amazing asset to downtown Minneapolis and to baseball fans all over the upper midwest.

No matter what the outcome of this playoff series, the situation is this: The Twins have a solid team with a bright future, they have a great stadium that is generating a lot of community pride and they’ve moved to the next phase of a team history that doesn’t take a backseat to anyone.

Yogi Berra also said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”. The Twins took the fork and will be providing the beauty, excitement and spirit that baseball brings to a community for many years to come.

Yogi missed the mark a bit though, when he said, “The future ain’t what it use to be.” For Minnesota baseball fans, it is — and maybe even better.

So my hat is off to the Minnesota Twins baseball club and the powers that be in government and business, not to mention journalists such as my friend Steve Berg (see earlier post), that had the foresight, creativity and determination to make this happen.

We Minnesota baseball fans now have plenty to look forward to and it has nothing to do with beating those damn Yankees this weekend.

So go Twins! It ain’t over ’til it’s over. New deja vus have to start somewhere.

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Two breakfasts, a walk with my daughters and my first game at Target Field — maybe yesterday is what heaven is like?

Yesterday was one of those rare days when you know it’s going to be a good one, then you just let it play out and enjoy every minute.

Lauren flew in from Chicago on Wednesday evening. She went down to visit Emily in Rochester on Thursday and stayed overnight. I drove down to bring her back to Minneapolis yesterday morning. So began my great day.

Breakfast #1 at Little Oscar's in Hampton

Little Oscar’s, a roadside diner in Hampton was brought to my attention by Kyle after it was recommended to him by “Uncle Mike” Dervos. Known for their great breakfasts — and especially their bacon — I decided to leave home early and give it a try. I liked it a lot. The bacon WAS fantastic. I like to eat breakfast out but don’t do it often. I also love the 60s-style angular, clean-lined architecture of the place (see also Target Field later in this post) and the way the owner walks around and chats with the regulars.

With a healthy dose of cholesterol coursing through my veins and a fully caffeinated nervous system, it was off to Rochester.

I arrived at Emily’s house 45 minutes later to find that she and Lauren had just baked scones.

Breakfast #2: Fresh, home made scones, fresh coffee poured by Emily. Life is good -- very good.

Well, the scones were amazing — and I mean that — I’d never had one that light, fluffy and melty-in-your-mouthishly good.

Lauren snaps a photo of her father, who is in a state of bliss.

Soon, Peet was ready for a walk and Emily suggested we go to Quarry Hill Park. It’s about a mile away, down a path that follows the railroad track. The park was an an unexpected delight — overgrown remnants of the old limestone quarry, large fields of prairie grass and wildflowers, no one but us in sight — a beautiful nature preserve right next to a residential area and state psychiatric hospital with a scary-looking prison fence around it.

Peet, Emily and Lauren amid the prairie grasses in Quarry Hill Park

There are old caves in the limestone that were once used as natural refrigeration “for the produced raised, stored and eaten by patients residing at the State Hospital”, according to one of the signs.

Peet guards the entrance to one of the old caves


The Date girls take the road less traveled

In the evening, Lauren and I went to our first Twins game at the new ball park, Target Field. I’ve been waiting all summer — waiting for years, really — for this.

Lauren and I had this same thought at the same time. Here's a scene that we would never have dreamed of 10 years ago -- fans flocking to see the Twins play outdoors at a downtown ballpark with a light rail train going past. Chalk a couple up for Minneapolis for getting these things right.

Lauren has been a big Twins fan for most of her life, going back to the glory years of ’87 to ’91, when they won two World Series. It’s been more difficult for her to cheer for them while living in Chicago for the past 3 years, but the new Target Field and a current team with some talented and likable players have rejuvenated her enthusiasm.

Lauren enters the stadium wearing her Kirby Puckett t-shirt at Gate 34, which is numbered in honor of her favorite player of the '80s.

Lauren's polish sausage with onions from Kramarczuk's just prior to gametime. OK, now I KNOW I'm in heaven.

The Twins won, 5-3 — just as they should. Jim Thome hit a home run right in front of us that just cleared the flower bed by the left field foul pole (you gotta love this place) — just as he should. As the sky grew dark, we could feel a gentle summer breeze as it ruffled the flags in right field a just a bit.

Just as it should.

And the day played out just as I had hoped it would.

Target Field -- gorgeous ending to a beautiful day.