While the Twins have been playing better on the field of late, one thing the ballclub has yet to do this season is enjoy the same flawless weather patterns during homestands it endured during Year One of Target Field. That luck carried over to guests of the facility this week, as the three state baseball championship games — dubbed the Prep Championship Series — were pushed back a day because of a poor weather forecast.
Though tardy, the games were finally played Wednesday, where six prep teams were treated to all the luxuries of the major leagues to cap off another high school season.
When Burnsville designated hitter Bo Hellquist singled to clinch the improbable Class 3A championship for the Blaze just after 8 p.m., it marked the end of the longest preps season anyone can remember. It had been 294 days since the season’s first football games to that moment, one of several memorable ones from the day.
• The reality of Mother Nature’s sometimes fickle ways was literally spelled out in black and white. A sign was taped to all ticket windows outside Gate 29 that read in part: “You are purchasing a ticket for an outdoor event being held in threatening weather.”
• Grounds crew members paced nervously as Eden Valley-Watkins and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial players prepared to take infield practice for the day’s first game. The Twins are happy to open the gates, but a perfectly manicured field gets fouled up for no one: A photographer’s tripod was whisked from the grass to the dirt, players had to ask permission to stretch on the grass and only one bullpen was made available.
• Players were also barred from one of baseball’s saltiest traditions: spitting sunflower seeds. Said one team host as he delivered the news, “When you sign your first $1 million contract, you can spit seeds here.”
• Classy moves: Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial coach John Madsen rushed to shake each umpire’s hand before they left the field. A few minutes later, Eden Valley-Watkins third baseman Grant Warren got after a few teammates for not clapping while LCWM players received their second-place medals.
• How appropriate: Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels” blared out of the public address system as St. Cloud Cathedral and La Crescent prepped for the Class 2A final, the only game of the day not to feature a repeat participant at Target Field.
• St. Cloud Cathedral won the Class 2A championship, the seventh title for the Crusaders and 41-year coaching veteran Bob Karn. He called Wednesday’s experiences “awesome.”
• A few concession stands and portable carts were open during the day, but that didn’t stop some from enjoying their lunch elsewhere. A handful of Twins employees stepped out from their offices in left field and had lunch, while some downtown lunch-break dwellers peeked through Gate 34.
• The Class 3A title game had the three plays of the day: Burnsville’s Dan Motl made a diving catch for the second out of the first inning, the guy sitting behind Maple Grove’s dugout barehanded a foul ball ripped his way in the bottom of the third and the Crimson’s Logan Hershey made a diving catch at second to end the sixth.
• The Class 2A game featured some familiar-sounding names: Andrew Thome and Christopher Knoblauch of St. Cloud Cathedral and Brandon Guzman of La Crescent. None are related to the past Twins of the same name.
• Among the announced crowd of 5,561 were Terry Ryan and Jim Rantz of the Twins. Broadcaster Jack Morris also took in some of the action. He sat alone, just enjoying baseball. “This kind of thing puts a smile on my face,” the 1991 World Series MVP said. “I had to watch.”