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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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New Stops on the Tour

If the Orioles played us every day, they’d be 162-0.

Seriously, this is getting to be a bit much. The Orioles need the Hubble telescope to see fourth place, let alone the top of the standings, but they’ve had no problem handling us this year. On Tuesday Jason Vargas pitched decently enough, but I still maintain there’s no way innocent Little Leaguers should be subjected to any reading of the Vargas Index in Williamsport on Sunday. In all seriousness, won’t someone think of the children?

Anyway, the Mets had a brief lead, thanks to the unlikely offensive combination of Kevin Plawecki and Amed Rosario, but then the bullpen crumbled and a sloppy slog of a game turned into an embarrassing mess. A day ago the Mets beat the tar out of the Yankees, but then they looked helpless against the worst team in baseball, and the only sane conclusion is …

… that it’s just baseball. Seriously, there’s no conclusion to be made, other than that it was a shitty game and you’ve already read more about it than you probably wanted to.

So let’s move on!

* * *

My recent neglect of my recap duties came with a not-bad excuse: I was on a ballpark tour.

I took in games at four parks I’d never visited before: Target Field, Miller Park, Guaranteed Rate Field and Great American Ball Park, bringing my total to 27 of the 30 current big-league stadiums. I also returned to Wrigley Field, because why not? (Still to go: SunTrust Park, Marlins Park and Globe Life Park. I may not get to that last one, seeing how the Rangers will have a new home in 2020.)

Target Field, with Minneapolis beyond

The first stop on the tour was Target Field, home of the Twins. I’ll preface the rest of this by admitting that Target Field may not have gotten a fair shake, for an odd reason. It was the one park left on my list that I’d heard terrific things about, so I walked in expecting wonders, and comparing it to a nebulous ideal in my head. It didn’t live up to that and perhaps there was no way it could.

Look, Target Field’s a fine ballpark. It’s nicely integrated with downtown Minneapolis, which seems to press up against the stands (as it should be), it eschews the usual ironwork and greenery to make use of local limestone, and you arrive and depart through plazas sporting statues of Twins greats such as Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew. (As well as Calvin Griffith and the Pohlads, which is despicable.) The Twins saved center field for a Minnie and Paul display, with the two mascots celebrating various positive developments, which is a perfect marriage of modern spectacle and tradition.

The food’s pretty good, drawing heavily on local providers, with snobs like me drawn to a pair of outposts from Andrew Zimmern. (I had a frozen dulce de leche that I’m still thinking about.) There’s also an impressive amount of fancy beer at prices that are high but not astronomical by ballpark standards. (Tragically, the craft-beer stand is exposed to the elements, meaning its staff ran for cover during the hour-long rain delay we all endured.)

Minnie, Paul and visitor

Minnie and Paul, statues, good food, decent beer. It all sounds good, right? And it is. But somehow, there’s a certain something missing.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Target Field’s basically a big circle broken by a plaza, without much in the way of interest along the way. In Comerica Park you’re constantly running into displays of Tigers history or unexpected treats (like a freaking carousel with tigers, for instance); here you’re going to hit another sausage cart or beer stand. The bleachers are metal benches with numbers, which is old-timey in a bad way. Linger or look closely, and Target Field starts feeling like less than the sum of its parts, even if those parts are pretty good.

Maybe that’s the secret sauce of ballparks — a certain something that ties the architectural features and the view and the bits of history and the game experience together, elevating them all. Comerica Park has it. So do PNC and AT&T. Target Field doesn’t.

But again, maybe it’s my fault for expecting it would. It’s a good park. I’d just been hoping for a great one.

* * *

On the other hand, I didn’t expect much from Miller Park, beyond vague thoughts of Bob Uecker, Bernie Brewer, a roof and a sausage race. (Seriously, it still seems wrong that the Brewers are in the N.L. while the Astros, our ’62 brothers, are exiled to that overstuffed beer league with the incorrect rules.)

High above Mlller Park

But Emily — who joined the tour in Milwaukee — and I had a great time at Miller Park. It started with the fans themselves. They were friendly, but they were also taking things seriously: we were in the kind of seats often occupied by dim scenesters, but our neighbors watched the game with rapt attention whether they were retirees or Little Leaguers. Granted, they had plenty to cheer about, whether it was the Brewers’ season in general or a Travis Shaw grand slam whose launch angle suggested Shaw had clambered up a 30-foot ladder to hit it. The Brewers led 6-0 at the end of the first, Emily had seen Bernie race down his slide not once but twice, and all was well in Milwaukee.

I’m not sure why, but my wife is a huge fan of Bernie Brewer — though neither of us agree that having him slide into a beer mug was a threat to the republic, the next generation of children, or anything else. Having paid more attention to the whole act, I appreciate it more: there’s Uecker’s catchphrase (“Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!”) picked out in lights, accompanying fireworks, and Bernie waving a flag post-slide. And when you’re there live, you can see whatever poor Brewers employee is on Bernie duty clambering up two flights of ladderlike stairs — while wearing a giant head, remember — so he’s in the proper position in case the Brewers go back to back. They did while we were there; Bernie arrived just in time and his slide was impeccable.

With the Brewers out to a big lead we got to wandering, making a pilgrimage to the Uecker seats high above home plate for a photo op. (At the risk of stepping on a good joke, they’re actually neither the worst seats nor the ones farthest from the field.) And we ate — that’s easy to do at Miller Park specifically and in Milwaukee in general. Walking around Target Field I’d wondered if I’d have to shower off a thin layer of aerosolized butter, but Milwaukee makes Minneapolis look like some kind of vegan cleanse. We took full advantage, drinking shandies and trying multiple sausages.

Me and my new friend.

Greg saw the Brewers’ home with the roof open, yet its mere existence elicited his displeasure, and of course a roof makes a difference: I turned against Chase Field when the roof rumbled shut just before game time, turning an odd but pleasant enough place into a stuffy, weirdly colored mall in which 50 dudes were trying to play a game. At Miller Park the roof was open for us, even though I will cop to some grumbling about A/C not being the worst idea in the world on a sticky night. The fanlike mechanisms of the roofs (which have been a budgetary headache) even make for an interesting tangle of geometry up their above your heads. A roof atop a ballpark will never be anything other than a necessary architectural evil, but Miller Park’s designers did a lot better than one would have guessed.

Something I didn’t like: Miller Park is in the middle of nowhere, one of those new parks that’s borrowed the look and feel of an old stadium wedged into a city street plan, then dropped that stadium into the middle of a suburban parking lot. (This is a fair criticism of Citi Field, too.) It would work a lot better in downtown Milwaukee, which is pockmarked with empty, vaguely dodgy blocks but has plenty going on around them, from vibrant stretches with bars and restaurants (we happily drank big German beers at a place with giant swords and halberds on the walls, because we could) to the lakefront with its swanky Calatrava-designed art museum. Putting Miller Park by Lake Michigan would have turned a nice park into a breathtaking one. Though, to be fair, tailgating culture is enormous in Wisconsin, so that big moat of a parking lot has been put to good use by Brewers fans.

Anyway, you get good food, good fans, some cool quirks and a sausage race. Yeah, that will work. I saw Miller Park more as a box to be checked off than as a destination to be appreciated, but now I want to figure out when I can get back. Though I do hope the roof will be open.

Next time: visiting the home of the White Sox.

3 comments to New Stops on the Tour

  • Dave

    I’ve wondered what Target Field is like. I caught a game at the old Metrodome once, whose fabric roof made it feel like you were watching a game in a big tent. But I can just imagine an Andrew Zimmern food stand…the tastiest griled hedgehog lungs and fried goat eyeballs you’ve ever had, I bet.

    Looking forward to the follow-up report on the White Sox park (where I’ve been) and Cincinnati (where I haven’t). My daughter’s college days in Ohio gave me a love of the Midwest, and a ballpark trip there sounds great.

  • HarmonandHrbek

    After being subjected to the synthetic horrors of the Metrodome, plain speaking Minnesot’n’s must feel like Target field is Valhalla. My experience with Minnesota’s newest stadium left me with no regrets.

  • […] offered my impressions of Target Field and Miller Park earlier this week; after seeing those parks, the summer tour rumbled on to Chicago, where Emily got her first look at […]