On July 5th of the 2016 season, the Oakland Athletics lost a game to the Minnesota Twins, 4-11. For an A’s fan, you’d expect this to be a game one would want to forget. In Target Field where I sat among Twins fans, I thought the exact opposite. It was a game I knew I would never forget, though maybe the happenings on the field had little to do with that. It was a great game for the locals, but it was a remarkable one for me, an A’s fan who traveled from California to see the Oakland Athletics play their 4th of July series against the Twins. It was remarkable because of the raucous and strange atmosphere, one which was caused by a simple thing: first pitch was 9:52pm.
Now, long rain delays are not unheard of, but they practically are when you live in the drought stricken state of California. Before I found myself in the torrential downpour in the streets of Minneapolis on the 5th of July, I hadn’t felt or seen rain in months, and I may never have seen rain fall so hard as it did that evening.
The likelihood of the game being played seemed to dwindle more and more as time went on and, by the time my friends and I ducked under the cover of the concourse inside Target Field, it seemed utterly impossible. It was raining buckets, there was thunder louder than I’d heard before, and lightning was striking every few minutes (not to mention the sky was a very ominous shade of green.) Begrudgingly, we took the first opportunity we could to run the half mile back to my hotel in the rain. I spent the whole trek back just hoping I wouldn’t be stricken by lightning. I had almost all but given up hope for seeing baseball that night, and if I did see any, it’d be on TV. Or so I thought.
After waiting for an hour in my hotel, the Twins announced to my surprise that the game would be played, and it’d begin at 9:50pm. I sat in my hotel room for a few minutes after seeing the announcement. The plans I’d had for that night in Minneapolis had gone completely awry. I’d expected to be, at that moment, sitting with two of my friends in Target Field watching baseball. Instead, I was alone in my hotel room after having said goodbye to my Minnesotan friends, with a flight to catch in a matter of hours (ten to be exact), and a baseball game I’d almost given up all hopes for, beginning in 30 minutes. It didn’t take me much time to realize that there was really no choice to make at all. I’d come 1,500 miles for two reasons: to spend time with my friends and to watch the Oakland Athletics play the Minnesota Twins. Being solo wasn’t going to stop me from finishing what I’d planned. I bolted from my chair, swiftly repacked my backpack with baseball game essentials, and rushed from my hotel.
Rain was still falling, though it was nothing more than a light drizzle. The sky was no longer such a horrifying shade of green, it was much lighter. The city lights and neon signs were bright and shining with the dampness. The farther I got from my hotel and the closer I got to the ballpark, the greater I felt an ecstatic adrenaline. I found myself quite literally running, clad in green and gold, down 6th Street towards Target Field. I knew to a passersby that I must have looked completely bonkers, but I was having the time of my life. When finally I arrived at Target Field, I could see through the stadium to the sky on the other side and it was a deep pink sunset, shining a stark contrast to the apocalyptic skies I’d seen only a couple of hours before at this exact spot.
The security let me back in without a question, they even seemed glad to have me back. I rejoined the folks at the ballpark who were dwindled to a very limited few, all of whom were strangely electric. I don’t think even the locals, who see rain like that often, expected the game to go on that night. Getting to witness baseball felt like a gift bestowed upon us directly by the baseball gods and I think that feeling was shared by the fans.
I’d made it with fifteen minutes before the new first pitch. Rain was still falling, the seats were all sopping. It took me a long time to adequately dry my seat with paper towels I’d taken from the bathroom before I could sit. Once I settled in, I had time to observe the crowd and appreciate where I was before the players took the field. There were very few people in their seats outside of the overhang of the second and third decks. Those who had joined me in the still wet stands were damp or sporting very stylish plastic ponchos. It seemed as though the crowd was as excited as I was, though I may have been projecting. Projecting or not, the people who I was joined with in the stands were happy nonetheless.
As I sat in my seat, the rain slowly beginning to taper off, I thought about the serendipitous nature of my love affair with baseball. Two years prior, I’d come to Minnesota for the first time to stay with my aforementioned friends. We’d been offered tickets to see the Twins, and quite coincidentally, the A’s. As would be a surprise to anyone who knows me now, I was happy to turn down the tickets. The offer was too early, I hadn’t seen an A’s game in years at that point. It wasn’t until about two weeks later that I watched an A’s game, and I’d watched it for a reason that had almost nothing to do with the Athletics. I found out that musician Jack White was at the game and, having seen him perform the night before, I wanted to see if he’d be on TV. He wasn’t, but I wasn’t disappointed. I realized that evening how much I enjoyed watching baseball and I then found myself tuning into games every time I knew they were on. Two years later, I was watching the matchup I’d been offered to see during my last visit to Minnesota and I couldn’t have been happier.
The game itself was not pleasant for an A’s fan. Losing 11-4 is nothing to write about. The atmosphere at the ballpark, however, certainly is something to write about.
For the first couple of innings, it felt quite like a normal ballgame (aside from the wetness of it all), but it didn’t take long for the atmosphere to become quite deliriously strange. As it became later, and the Twins began to whoop the A’s asses, Twins fans (otherwise very quiet and subdued in my experience) became harmlessly rambunctious. The man who sat behind me slowly switched from whispering his heckles to his friend (a very Minnesotan thing to do) to yelling them at the players (like your average fan). Fans in general became louder and louder as the game went on, and not because of the state of the game. At one point, people were yelling and screaming just to hear their own echoes, and it seemed that fans had yelling competitions now and again. One girl screamed for as long as she could, a good 45 seconds. My favorite of the shouts was from a man who simply shouted, “SPAGHETTI!” repeatedly. The seventh inning stretch was a unique experience, it began just after midnight and you could very clearly hear the voices of individual people.
The game ended at 1:05am and, despite the time that it was on a then Wednesday morning, the Twins set off fireworks in honor of their win. I can only imagine the bright spot that game was for Twins fans during such an abysmal season. I was happy, too, despite a horrendous loss (and despite having to be on a train in three hours to get me to the airport). There was such a unique camaraderie in the ballpark that night, it’s something I won’t soon forget.
Baseball isn’t just about what happens on the field and the players who play the game. In fact, that’s just a small part of why it’s so loved. Any fan knows it’s about the people, the passion, and the experiences. This late night game is a perfect exemplification of what makes the sport so special to me, and the fact that I’d never have understood this two years ago when I’d been first given the opportunity to see the A’s and the Twins only makes it more meaningful. The happiest of coincidences led me on a full circle, from Minnesota to Minnesota.