Commentary: Amazing memories of baseball old and new
Most baseball fans seem to recall with little effort their first big-league game with their father.
My first game took place Aug. 6, 1994, at the Metrodome. The Twins were hosting the New York Yankees in the first game of a two-game set. We were sitting in right field, six rows back.
Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill hit a rocket to center off Twins starter Pat Mahomes in the top of the first inning that landed in the upper deck, giving the Bombers a 2-0 lead.
Back then, the Yanks didn't bully the Twins the way they do today, and Minnesota got one back in the bottom of the first on Kirby Puckett's 18th homerun of the season. The Twins took the lead in the third when their burly first baseman, a fading star after years of injuries had taken their toll, hit a long, lazy fly ball that just kept going until it clanked off the right-field seats.
I recall laughing as Yankees pitcher Melindo Perez hung his head and then smiling broadly as Kent Hrbek pumped his fist ever so slightly as he rounded second base.
A few weeks later, when the strike-shortened season came to a close, Hrbek retired.
He hit 293 homeruns in his career, the last coming in the third inning of that 10-4 pummeling of the Yankees. I love that I was at that game. I've lost track of the conversations my father and I have had about the Twins of old and new, the legends, the what-could-have beens and the who-could-have beens. Those debates go on and on, sometimes into the early morning hours. But invariably they conclude with the memory of a Twins-Yankees game in August 1994.
On Saturday, my father and I ventured to Target Field for the first time, as the Twins hosted the Texas Rangers.
We got to the ballpark around 1 p.m., just in time to see the Twins take batting practice. I'd attended more than 100 games at the Dome since 1994 and had never witnessed this ritual. I found it remarkably compelling.
I couldn't stop watching.
Maybe it was how close I felt to the field or the fact that if I listened hard enough I could hear the players' comedic jabs at one another. Maybe it was just the hum of that unbelievable stadium.
My father and I walked that entire complex, deck by deck, snapping photos and shooting video. We rambled excitedly and unintelligibly until finding our seats on the first base side.
Three hours later, and a little hoarse, we were again buzzing excitedly and unintelligibly, this time about the Twins six-run, sixth inning and an 8-2 win for the good guys.
I haven't stopped thinking about that game since. Something tells me it will likely come up again in some late-night or even early-morning-hour conversation about the Twins of old and new, the legends, the what-could-have beens and the who-could-have beens.
As a fan, it's long amazed me the memories a few hours at the ballpark can produce, the stories those memories prelude and the future moments they can influence.
I just thank the baseball gods that on these two days, the Twins won.
Dan Burdett is copy editor of the West Central Tribune.