So, yet again, it’s come down to this: a late season showdown between the Twins and White Sox with the division in the balance. This time, thankfully, it’s on our turf. The Sox simply can’t feel good about coming into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this late in the year.
Actually, not many people feel good about coming to the Metrodome, no matter the stakes or the season. The Dome is routinely ranked by players, fans and lovers of basic aesthetics as the worst facility in Major League Baseball. It’s a tough position to argue against, but that’s exactly what I intend to do. I posit that the Dome is, in fact, the greatest home field in all of sports.
Ozzie Guillen famously dissed Wrigley Field as a crumbling relic that’s uncomfortable for players and spectators alike. The Metrodome meets those same criteria, minus the benefit of natural sunlight. And that’s just one of the reasons I love it. As frustrating as it can be to spend a beautiful summer afternoon under the murky haze of an inflatable tarp, I am heartened to know that the filthy, translucent dome over my head is one of my team’s strengths. I don’t know just what genius came up with the idea of putting a baseball-colored roof atop a facility where sighting airborne baseballs is of primary concern, but I give thanks for him every time I see that familiar look of befuddled horror flash across the face of an opposing outfielder who’s just lost the ball in a flowing field of off-white.
The same goes for the designers of the playing surface. In a setting where growing genuine grass is an impossibility, seamless turf should be of utmost importance. That’s apparently not a sentiment shared by the Metrodome grounds crew, as any hapless opponent who’s seen an easy grounder take a bizarre hop after hitting a seam, or who’s overrun a bouncer that accelerates mysteriously on the contact with the carpet can attest.
Remember when Baltimore’s Camden Yards revolutionized stadium design back in the ’90s? A lot of ink was given to the plush bullpen area, where both teams’ relief staffs could get their warm-ups on in comfort in seclusion. Many stadiums soon followed suit, but not the Metrodome. If you want to get ready for your turn on Minnesota’s mound, you’re damn well going to do it on the sidelines, right in front of God and everyone. Heck, you might even get some fielding practice when the batter interrupts your delivery with a scorching foul ball.
No discussion of the intricacies of Domeball would be complete without a mention of right field, an eternal reminder of whose town this really is. See, the Metrodome is also the home of those perennial contenders for the title of Most Frustrating Team in Professional Sports, the Minnesota Vikings. Despite that squad’s continued ineptitude, football still draws a lot of water in this town. Thus, the Metrodome’s right field bleachers are pulled back and left uninhabitable during Twins games, creating a gaping, fanless void covered up by the infamous Hefty Bag. This unsightly sheet of plastic is as unpredictable as the turf, a notorious deadener of long drives and maddener of outfielders. You’ve got to hand it to those Dome designers – they managed to capture all that was bad about the Green Monster concept while wringing it dry of all that distracting grandeur and quirkiness.
So how do all of these failings make the Dome baseball’s finest facility? Well, did you ever have a friend with a crooked basketball hoop in his driveway? Remember how obnoxious it was to watch your jumpers ricochet off at weird angles while your pal sank shot after shot, benefitting from familiarity with his own substandard equipment? That’s pretty much what playing in the Dome is like for opposing teams. Sure, every now and then Nick Punto will boot a grounder that takes an unexpected 170-degree trajectory into his shin, and maybe you could blame Dennis Reyes’ tendency to serve up first-pitch homers on the artificial lights, but by and large our guys are just used to it. Maybe that’s why solid veterans like Adam Everett never seem to catch on to life under the roof – they’re like classical violinists entering a ukulele competition.
All of this is going to be moot in a couple of summers, when the Twins move to their new stadium (known locally as At Least It Wasn’t 3M Park). It’s a highly anticipated transition here in the Twin Cities, but I for one will never feel quite at home without a Dome Dog in my fist, a garish blue folding chair beneath my buttocks and a ghastly, grimy, gorgeous sheet of inflatable, Teflon-coated fabric glowing eerily above my head. Here’s to the Humptydome casting its hex on the White Sox one (or two or three) last time.
Ira Brooker is an award-winning freelance writer and editor from St. Paul, MN, and a co-founder and co-editor of No Touching Magazine. His work has also appeared in Make, The Drama, and Where Y’At, among others, and he has a sweet collection of old-school NBA jerseys.