In the shadows of Target Field at the Home Run Derby

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Top: The big screen outside Target Field shows Home Run Derby action for fans without tickets. Bottom: The plaza fills for Justin Morneau's stint behind home plate.
Photo By: Thomas Wrede

It’s July 14 and 57 degrees — the coldest mid-July day on record in Minneapolis. It’s miserable, frankly, as rain drizzles intermittently at Target Field.

People from across the country are packing the downtown Minneapolis ballpark in droves, yet many are in Minnesota Twins attire. I’m an intern on the Target Field plaza with no ticket or credentials to get into the radiant stadium for Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby — an appetizer, of sorts, for the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

The smell of kettle corn is the most appealing thing in the bustling area. But I’m not here to eat or catch a home run ball. I’m outside the park to meet with a professional journalist who is reporting on site for the Derby. He wants to interview people outside for a story and agreed that I could come along to see how he does his job.

I’m hardly alone. Instead of splurging on a ticket, several fans mention that they’re content to just hang around and enjoy the atmosphere as baseball’s biggest stars gather inside the stadium. Some say they are trying to get lucky waiting for a dinger to land his or her way. One teen stands with a fishing net. Countess others, of all ages, stand patiently with gloves.

A big screen on the other side of the stadium displays what’s going on inside the park. Fans without seats begin to congregate to watch the Derby. As news agencies from across the country set up on the plaza to interview fans, it’s easy to see that some individuals really enjoy the attention they receive from simply standing in the rain. A majority, however, take cover under the large overhang near the plaza.

It’s 7 o’clock. The Derby is supposed to start. I’m still waiting to connect with my mentor, yet with the rain delay, he decides to stay in the heavily secured venue until the action gets underway.

After an hour passes, the program finally commences. Fans emerge from their cover to catch a glimpse of what they can from the plaza — which isn’t much, to be honest. But three fans suddenly get lucky. A generous passerby hands them tickets as they hang close behind the main gate.

Soon the plaza swells as former Twins fan favorite (now Colorado Rockies first baseman) Justin Morneau comes to the plate. He is the only left-handed batter in the Derby, so he’s the best bet to hit one onto the plaza. Fans gleam as Morneau blasts one within 100 feet of the gate. He hits another a bit further away, but unfortunately, that’s it for excitement. As quickly as the plaza filled up, it drains out to only a couple dozen. No one gets a keepsake.

I head back to the big screen where I see a crowd still milling around and spend the remainder of the night there. My mentor decides to stay in the park for rest of the Derby, so unfortunately, duty calls when you’re a reporter working in hectic conditions.

All in all, it was still a unique experience to observe what transpires in the “shadows” of Target Field — in the midst of a huge Major League Baseball spectacle.

Now, the hype is over. Yoenis Céspedes of the Oakland A’s captured back-to-back Derby titles. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, a timeless player for his generation, didn’t disappoint with a 2-for-2 performance. He also received a majestic introduction and exit — totaling two huge ovations — for his final All-Star Game.

It was a treat for all fans of the sport. And even better, quite an event for the Twin Cities to host — something that only comes around once in a generation.

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