Saturday, July 20, 2019

Joey's World Tour: A Twin Killing in Minnesota


Twins Territory?  Not when the Mets are in town!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)


How's everything going, my fellow Mets fans?  This is your favorite Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert, Joey Beartran, and I just returned from a trip to the land of Juicy Lucys and Mary Tyler Moore.  Ya, for sure.  You betcha I'm talking about Minnesota.

Target Field is home to the Minnesota Twins, but you wouldn't think that after the Mets made themselves at home there for a couple of days.  I only made it to the series opener, but unlike my trip to San Diego a few months ago, my colleague didn't get tickets to the wrong game, mainly because the Mets swept the two-game set.

In addition to attending an actual Mets road victory for a change, I also toured the ballpark and sampled some local eats.  Along the way, I found out that Prince is still really huge in the Gopher State, the Mets have employed a whole bunch of Twins Hall of Famers and tour guides are very friendly with their guests.  Almost a little too friendly.

Are you ready to be taken for a ride?  Then fasten your seat belts, 'cause we're about to blast off like a Pete Alonso home run.


Malls are so huge here, they have roller coasters for people who'd rather shop for thrills instead of scented candles. (EL/SM)


Since our stay was going to be brief in Minneapolis, we decided to take the Target Field tour on the morning of the Mets' first game against the Twins.  There were several tour guides there to accommodate the dozens of mostly Mets fans who showed up expecting the usual "here are our expensive suites and here is the one tiny place in the ballpark where we acknowledge that the team has some history" spiel.  Oh wait, that's what they do at Citi Field tours.  My bad.

At Target Field, they actually appreciate and celebrate their history.  And it's not just Minnesota Twins history.  Prior to 1961, the Twins played in our nation's capital as the original Washington Senators.  Just because the Senators don't exist anymore doesn't mean they've been forgotten.  Within the ballpark are homages to the three pennant-winning Senators teams.  (Washington played in the World Series in 1924, 1925 and 1933.)  In addition to these tributes, our octogenarian tour guide, Bob - who looked like he could have been an usher for the Senators at old Griffith Park in D.C. - showed us a wing dedicated to the franchise's super slugger and gentle giant, Harmon Killebrew.  And since the first seven seasons of Killebrew's career were spent in Washington, it was pleasing to see that he was equally depicted wearing Senators and Twins jerseys.


First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.  But not last when it comes to producing superstars.  (EL/SM)


The Twins have had many great players in their fifty-plus seasons in Minnesota.  And it seems like all of them have sections devoted to them in the ballpark.  Hall of Famers such as Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett all have statues and gates named after their uniform numbers (Gates 3, 29 and 34, respectively.)  But native Minnesotan Kent Hrbek also has a statue and gate, as well as three-time batting champion and 15-year member of the Twins, Tony Oliva.  (Their statues are near Gates 14 and 6, naturally.)  And if that's not enough in the statue department, they even have full-size bronze effigies of two-time World Series-winning manager Tom Kelly and mascot TC Bear.

Within the park are also display cases and walls dedicated to Paul Molitor, another Minnesota-born Hall of Famer, as well as fan of flatulence Bert Blyleven and 21st century Twins legend Joe Mauer, whose number was retired by Minnesota just nine months after he played his final game for the team.  (Let's see how long the Mets wait to retire David Wright's number.  Hopefully before the team "accidentally" gives it to Kelvin Torve's son or some other no-name Met.)

There's basically no part of the park in which you can't find a tribute to a great Twins player, as illustrated by the photos below.  Even former Met Jerry Koosman got a mention because he was born in Minnesota and was a 20-game winner for the Twins in 1979.


Kirby Puckett's statue was so excited, it almost punched me in the head!  (EL/SM)


Just look at all those beautiful statues.  Meanwhile, all the Mets have is a Casey Stengel gnome tucked away near a window in the team's Hall of Fame and Museum and a not-yet-completed Tom Seaver statue that'll probably be put in the same area where the Home Run Apple was relegated to in 2009.  Because Mets.

But I digress.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame and Museum, the Twins even display their history outside the ballpark, with pennants depicting all of the members of their own Hall of Fame.  And of course, all of them fared far better for the Twins than they did for the Mets.


But at least we got a no-hitter from Johan, right?  (EL/SM collage)
 

Seeing how the Twins honor their former greats made me want to take off my roving reporter hat and put on my culinary expert cap.  So before heading out for some poutine (I was in a state that borders Canada, you know), I decided to check out what Target Field had to offer in the food department.  And I'm happy to report that I wasn't let down.

In the Champions Club, you can get everything from street corn dogs to a steak mushroom Alfredo pizza.  Had my colleague remembered to bring extra meal money, perhaps I could have sampled some of these delicacies.  Instead, I had to eat food from the concourses.  Fortunately, I did not consider this a downgrade, especially after I saw all the choices.

You can have Cuban sandwiches at Tony O's or the Italian fare at Frankie V's (named after Frank Viola, of course).  Want a 24-inch long Boomstick frankfurter or some tasty bratwurst?  They've got that.  There's even soul food at Soul Bowl and Mexican delicacies at Señor Smoke's.  (I had the last two for quality assurance purposes.)

Target Field has no shortage of food selections for hungry fans.  In addition to these stands, Target Field has an area of rotating vendors near the Kirby Puckett gate.  Clearly, they were speaking my language when they built the food stands at this ballpark.


Mac n' cheese, collard greens and smoked mushrooms to the left; chicken burrito bowl on the right.  (EL/SM)


So far I've discussed Target Field's tour and food.  Now it's time to talk about the ballpark and some interesting features that you won't see in many other stadiums.

Located in the Terrace Level behind home plate is 2 Gingers Pub.  Sure, you can get an adult beverage there.  But the main reason people go there is to chat with Twins organist Sue Nelson.  Throughout the game, Ms. Nelson plays her favorite instrument, which sounds so much better than the ear-shattering recorded music that we're normally subjected to at baseball games.

When Ms. Nelson is not playing, she's shmoozing with fans, who are allowed to go up to her throughout the game.  And who wouldn't want to say hello to her, especially with that radiant smile greeting you when you enter the pub?


I was calm when I met Sue Nelson because her bag told me to trust her.  Who am I to question a bag?  (EL/SM)


In addition to Ms. Nelson's organ playing, other features that make Target Field a little different than most other ballparks include exit velocity and launch angle on the scoreboard (for all you nerdy kids out there), the classic logo of Minnie and Paul shaking hands over the Mississippi River, the flagpole from old Metropolitan Stadium (which was the Twins' original home when they moved to Minnesota in 1961), the MLB and Twins logo made entirely of wooden bats, a plethora of purple Prince products in the Twins clubhouse shop and the only mascot in the American League that's also a bear.

As you can imagine, my colleagues had to stand in line to meet TC Bear, even if it meant missing an inning or two of the Mets game.


My colleague was way too happy to meet TC Bear, who reminds me of what I would look like on steroids.  (EL/SM)


So that's all for my trip to the North Star state, a trip that featured two Mets victories against the Minnesota Twins.  On this journey, I learned that the Washington Senators are gone, but not forgotten.  I also learned that the Twins are proud of their homegrown players and anyone who has ever contributed positively to the franchise.  They also specialize in a diverse assortment of ballpark cuisine and Irish pubs that are actually secret hiding places for smiling organists.

Oh, and remember when I mentioned Target Field's very friendly tour guides twenty paragraphs ago?  (You can scroll up; I'll wait.)  Yeah, they get very attached to their guests, especially when they consist of famous roving reporters and culinary experts.

Love you, Bob the Tour Guide.  Thanks to you and the Mets' performance in Minneapolis, my stay in your state was one I'll remember for quite some time.


Can we get some privacy, please?  (EL/SM)


For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)
World Tour Stop #17: Detroit
World Tour Stop #18: Atlanta
World Tour Stop #19: Miami
World Tour Stop #20: St. Louis
World Tour Stop #21: Kansas City
World Tour Stop #22: Anaheim (and San Diego revisited)


Monday, May 13, 2019

Joey's World Tour: I'm Going Back To Cali, Cali, Cali

The Mets could have used these bats when I went to see them in San Diego.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Greetings and salutations, Mets fans!  This is your favorite Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert, Joey Beartran.  I just got back from the West Coast, where I fulfilled both of my duties as reporter and eater.  On this trip, I visited Angel Stadium of Anaheim and then traveled south to see the Mets play in San Diego.  Both stadiums were beautiful.  The Mets, however, were not.

Most of the trip to Southern California was under the cover of clouds.  But the blue sky did make an appearance when we were in Anaheim, just in time for our ballpark tour.  The first stop on the tour was the area outside home plate. In addition to the gorgeous home plate entrance, which you can see in the photo above, the Angels have two large caps on either side of the plaza.  How large are they?  At size 649½, they might even be a little too big for Bruce Bochy's head.

Under one of the caps is a giant Mickey Mouse painted in Angels colors.  In 2010, Anaheim hosted the All-Star Game, making a deal with Disney (Disneyland is only a hop, skip and jump away from the stadium, you know) to produce giant Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice?) with each team's colors and logo featured prominently on them.  The friendly rodents were then placed all around the city so that fans could find them.  This is similar to what the Mets did when Citi Field hosted the Midsummer Classic in 2013.

The other item of note outside the Home Plate entrance was a built-to-scale baseball diamond made out of bricks.  Our tour guide told us that this diamond is usually hard to spot on game days because of all the fans congregating in that area.  But on this beautiful morning, it was as visible as Brandon Nimmo's smile after he hits a home run.



Home is where the heart is, or in this case, where my sister, Iggy, is.  (EL/SM)

Once inside the ballpark, we saw reminders of the Angels' one and only World Series championship.  Even though the Angels have won nine division titles, it was their only wild card-winning season in 2002 that produced their sole pennant and Fall Classic victory.  Winning a single crown means that they only need one large display case to show off their hardware and other memorabilia from that magic campaign.  But they have many interesting items in that case.

Included in the display are various newspaper headlines, the ball and glove used to secure the final out of the World Series, a cowboy hat worn by the late owner Gene Autry (who passed away four years before the Angels won it all), photos from the championship parade in nearby Disneyland and of course, the World Series trophy.  I guess it isn't just Super Bowl MVPs that get to go to Disneyland after they win a ring.



Trophies won in the 21st century look much shinier than ones that have been collecting dust since 1986.  (EL/SM)


From here, we were brought to the visitors clubhouse, which doesn't have the amenities the home team's players have.  However, it was spacious and had its own video area where coaches can discuss flaws in swings, pitching mechanics, etc.  The bathrooms were also equipped with every kind of toiletry you can imagine so that opponents don't have to worry about trying to sneak large bottles of hair gel past the TSA agents in the airport.

Near the home team clubhouse we were taken to a special press conference room for former Angels manager Mike Scioscia.  The room was built at the request of the man who gave us post-traumatic Mets disorder in the 1988 NLCS so that he wouldn't have to trudge up a few levels to the regular press conference room to give post-game interviews.  I guess running around the bases after homering off Doc Gooden in the ninth inning of Game Four tired him out so much that he ended up having difficulty going up a few flights of stairs a quarter century later just to talk to reporters.

One of the interesting features of Angel Stadium is the dugout suites.  As you may know, all stadiums have suites for those who have large groups of people and a few thousand dollars burning a hole in their pockets.  But most of those suites are above field level.  The Angels have ten suites behind home plate that are a few feet below field level.  This gives a unique perspective to what's going on in the game, assuming you're not back in the suite trying all the delicious food that is included in the deal.  One unfortunate thing about these suites is that it's really hard to see fly balls from such a low vantage point.  Also, the suites are really HOT, as in sweat-through-your-fur hot.  I mean, I almost had to take off my Mets hoodie just to cool down, which probably would've made the tour experience less memorable for the other tourgoers in our group.

At least the dugout suites are close to - wait for it - the dugout!  That means they're also close to the field.  And why do we do ballpark tours in the first place?  It's not to see memorabilia of other teams winning championships or custom-made press conference rooms for Met killers.  It's also certainly not to visit suites we could never afford even if my colleague gave me a 100% raise.  (Speaking of which, my direct deposit never hit my bank account this week.  Just because I'm not human doesn't mean I can't complain to human resources about this.)

The reason we do these stadium tours is to sit in the dugout and walk on the field.  And that's just what this roving reporter did.  I came, I saw, I roved.



Who needs to sit in a dugout suite when we can sit right here?  (EL/SM)


After the tour was complete, we decided to walk around the park to get a glimpse of some of the banners and of course, the "Big A".

For all you kids out there, the "Big A" is not just the nickname for Angel Stadium, it's a 230-foot tall structure situated in the parking lot that's shaped like the first letter of the alphabet.  The "Big A" is topped by a halo that lights up after every Angels victory, which is perfect if you're a big fan of rubbernecking on the nearby freeway.


I give a big A-OK to the "Big A". (EL/SM)

From Anaheim, we went down the coast to San Diego, where we attended two Mets games.  Of course, the only game in the three-game series we didn't go to was the one game the Mets won.  You can thank my colleague for buying tickets to the wrong games.

Anyhow, if you're a longtime reader of my World Tour series, you know that we visited Petco Park in 2011.  (You can read about that trip by clicking here.)  But a lot has changed in those eight years.

For one thing, it's not all about Tony Gwynn anymore.  There's a lot of Trevor Hoffman love in and around the ballpark now that the closer has a plaque in Cooperstown.  And it's not just love for Gwynn and Hoffman.  The Padres now have a wall dedicated to all players and coaches who wore the team's uniform, whether it was for the old San Diego Pacific Coast League team or the current major league club.  There's even one for Mike Piazza, who played just one season in San Diego.

And the Padres Hall of Fame?  Well, that's just a sight to behold.  Within the 2,000-square-foot hall, we found photos and stories of the old PCL team, as well as newspaper clippings (including one of a game against the Mets in which a bad managerial decision may have cost the Padres a chance at their first no-hitter), bats, gloves, awards and videos of great moments in club history.  The centerpiece of the hall is a section devoted to every member of the Padres Hall of Fame.  But one particular Padre is missing.

Steve Garvey, whose No. 6 was retired by San Diego the year after he played his final game in the majors, is not in the Padres Hall of Fame.  My colleague and I were intrigued by this and asked one of the employees working in the hall about it.  The hall worker smiled and said that no one has any idea why that's the case.  Indeed, after further research by my colleague, we found nothing on the subject.  It's a mystery why Garvey's achievements as a member of the 1984 pennant-winning Padres led to his number being retired by the team, but the entirety of his five-year career in San Diego wasn't enough to warrant enshrinement into the club's Hall of Fame.  Truly bizarre.

The only way Steve Garvey will find himself in the Padres' Hall of Fame is if he buys a game ticket.  (EL/SM)


One place we had to visit when we were at Petco Park was an area that non-Mets fans wouldn't care to see.  It's certainly an area former Padres pitcher James Shields isn't comfortable with.

On May 7, 2016, Bartolo Colón hit the only home run of his long career off Shields.  The ball landed under the "Hit it Here" sign in front of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.  To mark the event, the Padres gave what Gary Cohen called "one of the great moments in the history of baseball" the Steve Garvey treatment, meaning there's nothing to mark where the ball landed.  But thanks to my colleague's calculations of exit velocities and launch angles, as well as me letting him know that he could've just watched Colón's clout on YouTube for research purposes, we were able to find the spot where the ball landed.  And we took some photos in the area before Padres security gave us their own version of the Garvey treatment.


I'm glad security didn't call the San Diego Zoo to have us removed.  That's worse than the Garvey treatment.  (EL/SM)

The Mets won the game we didn't go to, erasing a three-run, seventh-inning deficit to eke out a 7-6 victory.  The two games we did attend, the Mets scored a combined two runs and left runner after runner on base.  Because the Mets didn't give us much to cheer about in the stands, our photographer spent a good chunk of each game taking photos of the players.

Speaking of which, I'm glad our budget allows us to spend an arm and a leg on tickets and then we end up spending all of our time at the games behind a camera instead of, you know, watching the games.


They came, they played, they lost.  Twice.  (EL/SM)

The tour in Anaheim didn't take us to any of the stadium's food stands.  But the games in San Diego allowed us to pig out on a San Diego staple - burritos!  And the ones served in and around Petco Park were some of the best and most unique we've ever had.

Before going to the park, we enjoyed a California breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, home fries and avocado.  That burrito was served with Mexican rice and refried beans.  Then at the Lucha Libre Taco Shop inside the ballpark, we had a Fryer Cali Burrito, which was both a play on words on the Padres being Friars and also incredibly delicious.  This burrito had steak, jack cheese, French fries, chipotle sauce and pico de gallo.  Apparently, putting potatoes in burritos is a big thing in San Diego.


As Weird Al Yankovic would say, "Might as well face it, I'm addicted to spuds."  (EL/SM)


So that's it for our California trip, in which we visited Angel Stadium of Anaheim for the first time and revisited the fun and festivities at Petco Park in San Diego.  On this trip, we learned that dugout suites are only good if you like searching in vain for fly balls while relaxing in a sauna.  We also learned that Met killers get lazy with age and there are hats that are even too big for Bruce Bochy to wear.

In addition, we found out that the Padres embrace their history more than the Mets do, but still have a strange relationship with Steve Garvey.  Also, Tony Gwynn isn't the only player who is celebrated in San Diego and oh yeah, they put taters in everything.

On behalf of the Studious Metsimus staff, I'd like to thank you for reading about our trip to Southern California and if you can find out why Steve Garvey isn't in the Padres Hall of Fame even though his number is retired, please let us know.  You should probably let Garvey know as well.

The Mets were washed out to sea on this trip.  Good thing we weren't.  (EL/SM)


For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)
World Tour Stop #17: Detroit
World Tour Stop #18: Atlanta
World Tour Stop #19: Miami
World Tour Stop #20: St. Louis
World Tour Stop #21: Kansas City