Major League Ballparks: No. 21 The Metrodome
With Fenway Park celebrating its 100th anniversary and Dodger Stadium its 50th this year, our editor Matt Hurst, who was a baseball beat writer for four seasons in the mid-2000′s, takes a look at the ballparks he’s worked at in his life and ranks them from worst to first. We continue the series with No. 21 – Minnesota’s Metrodome.
The first time I went inside the Metrodome was in the summer of 2005 and one of the first thoughts I had was “This place is old.” It felt old. It smelled old. It seemed poorly maintained in the form of the building and facilities, yet things did feel clean, so I guess that was nice. Thinking of the cookie cutter stadiums previously played at in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, I figured the Metrodome was built in the mid-1970s.
It was built in 1982. There are a few ballparks built before then that have aged far more gracefully than the Metrodome – Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium, old Yankee Stadium. The Metrodome had nothing fun or nice about it. It was boring all the way around. No wonder the Twins could never get free agents to come here. (And, don’t give me that ‘small-market’ line.)
If there was one good thing about the Metrodome, it was that the clubhouses were positioned right down the stairs from the back of the press box. So, getting to those and our laptops was relatively easy. If there were two good things about the Metrodome, it was that the press box had a small freezer loaded with ice cream cups, Drumsticks, creamsicles, etc. That was about it.
Finding the press box was a little bit of an adventure, too. The doors to the Metrodome were revolving doors on steroids. They had to be because of the snow and wind and the ‘Dome had to stay warm during Vikings games. But, once inside, you had to really know where you were going to find the press box. There were no signs and if you walked around the concourse long enough, you’d make your way all the way around. I figured out that the door was right near a certain player – I think one year it was Justin Morneau – wallpapered to the concourse, so I had to find the guy, then see the door cut out of the banners. It almost felt like a secret passage.
The front of the box butted up right to the crowd, so whenever you left to get quotes, you always placed your laptop on your chair and tucked it in, so no one could reach over and grab it. Not that Minnesotans are the sticky-fingered type, but you didn’t want to come back and be missing your phone or laptop. It was a prevention policy. If there was a big play, you had to stand up as well, to see over the crowd. It was odd, but a neat quirk that made you feel part of the game.
The clubhouses – for the Twins and visitors – were long and narrow with cages. It almost resembled an upscale high school or small college locker room. Inside of them there were more snacks than most places had, including a tub of Cheetos-type balls that had probably been there since the opening of the Metrodome.
Rumors abounded about the Twins turning on some form of air conditioning when the team trailed late in games to help fly balls carry out. Those rumors were never fully squashed because you could look up deep in left field and see the American flag and the Prisoner of War flags fluttering.
(The snow caving in the roof of the Metrodome might have been the thing needed to blow it up and rebuild everything eventually.)
The field itself didn’t have much personality and it wasn’t aided by a giant Baggie of a right-field wall. The ball did fly there, lending itself to the name “The Homerdome.” I just remembered watching the 1991 World Series and even then thinking “This place doesn’t seem fun.” Adding to the oddity was that longtime – and deceased – public address announcer, Bob Casey, was shown on the big screen before every game giving his signature line “Nooo smoooooking in the Metrodome.” Around the fifth inning there was a Hormel Row of the Game where fans in that row got a free hot dog. One of the lines was “You can be a wiener winner!” That always cracked me up. Yes, I’m 12. The guy with the wireless mic, though, who did between-innings promotions and pregame stuff, was kind of douchy and over the top and just flat-out annoying. Wireless mic guys usually are, but I really did not care for this one and the fans didn’t seem to either. Maybe getting constantly yelled at turned you off. That’s just me.
Every city in the country you go, there is always a weird media guy who has been around forever. Some are just characters who you tolerate. Others are curmudgeons. Some are senile. Others are just punching in and out and haven’t cared since 1965. There was a radio reporter who carried around a small microphone (think Bob Barker) and a huge cassette recorder with a strap over his shoulder. He looked 104. I just remember always thinking of Minnesota as a little backwards and slow to get to the new wave of things in America and this guy didn’t help that feeling.
Not many press meals are good. In fact, most border on gruel. But the Twins press meals were beyond awful. There was a Famous Dave’s inside the stadium that sold some blah barbecue sandwiches, so I learned quickly to eat a big lunch, then pre-purchase dinner and bring it with me.
There were positives, though. I’ll hand it to the fans. They loved their Twins. They were in to every game and wore all kinds of Twins paraphernalia.
And, when I was a cub reporter, the older beat guys got Mike Scioscia to try and mess with me. He claimed that the Angels traded John Lackey to Pittsburgh for Kip Wells. I stood in the manager’s locker room not taking notes because I knew something felt wrong about it. As the group played along, I was about to interject and ask the following question: “Do you really feel like that was a good trade? It sounds awful. Have you ever watched Kip Wells pitch?” but then Scioscia started cracking up and it saved me from looking like I actually believed the lopsided deal.
I’m glad that the Twins have Target Field now. They deserve it. I just wish I was able to have seen it. I feel anyone who had to deal with the Metrodome should get rewarded with a press pass to the new park, if only for one game.