Going to the ballpark is an experience that is different for everybody. While it’s foreign to some and routine for others, you’re at least guaranteed an experience. Some games will be good, some are great, others are just horrible. Your experience can be remembered for reasons that are unscripted by people who aren’t on the field. The experience isn’t always remembered by the final score, but rather by the interactions you have with the people around you.
I’ve been going to Minnesota Twins games as long as I can remember. I’ve been fortunate enough to have an aunt that loves me to death and has been a season ticket holder of the Minnesota Twins for the last 13 seasons. Thanks to my aunt for spoiling me over that time period, I feel like I’ve been a part of Twins history — even if it hasn’t been all that great during my lifetime. I had so many great experiences at the Metrodome and — sadly — am only hoping for some great memories at Target Field. Through the pains of recent Twins seasons, I continue to go. Why? For the experience. Well, and it always a little extra fun when the Twins win, and I enjoy the time with my aunt.
One of my favorite things to do now at the games is people watching. Not just the players, but other people. It wasn’t until a game last season against the Red Sox that I noticed how freaking odd some people at the ballpark are.
After going to a game last week against the Toronto Blue Jays, I was reminded by the diverse group of fans at Target Field that I had planned on creating this blog at some point when I had some time. The plan was simple — locate and identify as many different types of people as I could at Target Field (while trying to enjoy the miserable Twins on a miserably hot day). Well, now I found the time.
Note — All fans were spotted at Target Field and my writing is generally geared towards Twins fans. However, “Twins”, “Minnesota”, “Mauer”, etc. can be swapped out with other professional teams and players to fit each ballpark’s personnel because I’m sure this is close to the same across the nation.
1. Fans of the Other Team
Now, this one seems obvious. You can usually spot these spectators because they’re wearing jerseys, shirts, hats, jackets, etc. of the away team’s colors and logos. I say usually because when I was at the Blue Jays/Twins recently, there was a man sitting about 4-6 rows in front of me that was wearing Toronto gear. What was unusual was that whenever the Twins got a base hit or made a nice play in the field, he’d take off his blue jays shirt and reveal a Twins shirt he was wearing underneath. He’d also switch from a backwards, alternate Blue Jays hat to a cheap Twins hat he must have received from a 2006 July handout for volunteering to bag groceries at Cub Foods. Once the Blue Jays would do something positive he’d switch back to the Toronto gear. He was the first ever bandwagon fan doing a live feed — literally jumping ship during the game.
2. The Obvious High School Baseball Player
Spotting a high school baseball player is also very easy to do at a baseball game. While these young men are obviously varying in age from 15-18, their outfits are what makes it so simple to recognize who they are. When a high school player is in attendance he’ll be wearing his team’s dirty high school baseball hat, a dri-fit Twins shirt, athletic shorts, and possibly some sort of gimmick energy balancing necklace or bracelet. This fan is almost guaranteed to be wearing his baseball glove just incase he needs to show off his fielding skills on foul balls.
If you spot a young man wearing this outfit, I almost promise you that he’s a high school baseball player. However, if you still aren’t sure, this final test is a guaranteed pass or fail. If you are listening to this fan, I will assure you that he will almost positively at some point say out why he could’ve made a play in the field after an error was committed on the field.
3. The Foul Ball/T-Shirt Gun Guy
This guy is not only a complete psychopath, but literally doesn’t have any friends. One time I watched this guy run up the stairs after a foul ball, dart into an empty row, hurdle the empty row, and dive on the ground so he could have a baseball that was fouled off by a player on the other team with a name he probably couldn’t even pronounce.
I haven’t seen this guy in my section for a few games, but at my last game I spotted him walking down the stairs while T.C. was loading his t-shirt gun. The only reason I knew it was him was because he started howling and waving his arms for a shirt so loudly that I actually had to turn around and see who it was. And then, I realized this was an old friend, t-shirt gun guy. While the t-shirt was in the air, t-shirt gun guy started boxing out fans like he was Moses Malone and was throwing elbows in a way that would make Bill Laimbeer smile. He proceeded to literally — LITERALLY — rip the shirt out of another man’s hand and deliver the rolled up, screen printed shirt to his grandma. While the gesture was nice, it was unnecessary, as always. Grandma doesn’t even wear an adult extra-large, dude.
4. The Franchise Starter
Over the years I’ve grown accustomed to seeing certain people sitting in my aunt’s section who have been season tickets holders for what seems like, well, forever. The longer you sit with those people the more you learn about their cheering habits, players they like/dislike, and generally, how much they know about baseball.
I never learned any of the names of the fans in our section, and they never learned mine. However, what I did learn was how much these fans loved their Minnesota Twins – one couple in particular – because when I cheered they whistled the way your parents did when it was time for you to come downstairs. This old, old couple sat the row in front of us – and a little to the right — for as long as I can remember. They even made it through the move to Target Field and sat in the same spot up until sometime a couple of seasons ago. I never shook their hands, never learned much about them, and never really even talked to them outside of really brief conversations during games.
While the Twins were still in the Metrodome I remember being a young kid going to the game with my aunt and getting our usual round of food before the first inning started. We’d then sit down in our ridiculously crowded Metrodome seats and chow our food down quickly in order to catch the tail end of the players warming up. I can’t speak for my aunt, but I know in my lifetime there wasn’t a time that I ate my food faster than before a Twins game because I loved that part of it. I really, really enjoyed getting there to watch the warm ups – it was and still is part of the experience. Generally, it’s your chance to get as close to the players as possible. But now that I’m older, it doesn’t mean quite as much to me anymore because I don’t look up to those guys the way I did when I was young. But for some people, that never ever changes. Each time we’d arrive early for a game, sure enough, the old couple from section 118 would be there.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’d even remember that couple if it wasn’t for the man’s hat that must have had every Minnesota Twins related pin in it since 800 BC. You could tell that they were A) no joke and B) long time fans that must have been watching since the franchise’s original opening day. If the man’s pinned hat didn’t give it away than the woman’s smashed “1991 World Series Champions” butt pad certainly did. She either has sat on that thing literally every single day since 1991, or else she picked it up at a 2004 garage sale and permanently attached it to her belt loop with a with a cloth chain made of ’87 and ’91 homer hankies.
The franchise starter is somebody who has been around to see evvvveerrrryyytinnnggg. And for that, you respect them. Salute!
5. The Old Man
Not to be confused with The Franchise Starter, The Old Man only believes he knows everything because “he was there when…” The Old Man will argue until he dies about how the 7th batter in the ’77 lineup would be the best hitter on the team now because yada yada yada.
The Old Man does know some things, but that’s only because he walked to and from school uphill, both ways. The respect level should be lower for him than it is for The Franchise Starter because The Franchise Starter enjoys the game as a fan, not because they’re old and are required to pay attention to America’s pastime.
6. The Old Man’s Wife
The Old Man’s Wife — also known as The Old Woman – will keep score in a book with a #2 pencil and refuse to accept that the score with graphics on the super-duper board isn’t accurate, but that her book is. This isn’t a youth game, you aren’t required to keep score anymore. And don’t let her tell you that she does it for fun because if you’ve ever ran the book for a sport, you know it certainly isn’t fun.
7. The Bathroom Hopper
Now, for everything good I’ve said about my aunt, here comes the bad (don’t worry, she knows this is true and will laugh as she reads every word of this.).
My aunt is the most premier, most elite bathroom hopper in the history of major league baseball stadiums. As soon as we get to the park she has a natural body reaction and needs to find the john immediately. I’m not trying to embarrass her, but I tease her about it because each time she makes a trip into the concourse she needs to find the bathroom. After the game, bathroom stop. After the bathroom stop, bathroom stop. When we’re in the car on the way home she says she needs to make a bathroom stop.
Okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but some people just need to go more than others! And my aunt certainly isn’t the only one. There’s nothing wrong with it and everybody knows somebody who always just, ya know, needs to go!
The only time this becomes a problem is when the bathroom hopper happens to bring his little kids and they take 39 minutes to wash their little hands. C’mon man! Some of us need to get back out to the field!
8. The Business Man
Listen, I get it, not everybody has apparel to wear to the game that supports the team you’re interested in. You don’t have to either, but just don’t be the person who shows up wearing dress clothes because it’s weird for everybody involved. You can’t fully relax when you’re in dress clothes, either. Take the time if you’re going to be late (5 minutes) and change out of your work clothes.
I always question the judgment of The Business Man who shows up in the bottom of the fourth inning looking like he has nothing except work on his mind. Maybe he needs this game as a stress outlet, but what would make it a better experience is some more casual clothing that you don’t need to live in fear about getting mustard stains on. Also, why is The Business Man always by himself looking like he’s always about to leave? Sit down, relax, and eat some peanuts because it’s a three-hour event!
9. Mr. Random
This guy is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever seen. Mr. Random is almost always wearing team apparel that is completely irrelevant. I’ve seen people at Target Field wearing Cleveland Cavaliers gear, USA hockey jerseys, or even myself when I wore a Free Brady t-shirt (underneath an open Denard Span jersey). Also, we miss you Span!!!!
However, the most random, hilarious experience I’ve ever had took place at Target Field last summer during a Red Sox vs. Twins game. They were doing starting lineups and when the announcer introduced Pablo Sandoval, a fan wearing a San Francisco Giants hat and jacket stood up and screamed, “PABLO, YOU SUCK!!!!!!!!” as loud as he possibly could. Afterwards, he calmly sat down and didn’t say anything the rest of the game.
While fans like this appear to have zero interest in a game, just remember there is a small chance he’s only their to heckle a player that used to play for his team. This guy went through the schedule and found the one game he could make this happen at.
10. The LOUD Drunk Guy/Coach
One of the most annoying things at a baseball game is when somebody has a little too much to drink and takes up the personal space of your ears.
Every single time it starts out funny because you can’t believe what an idiot this dude is, but after about 5 innings of him hooting and howling and heckling, you’ve had enough. You want so badly to call security on this guy, but know you can’t be the one who does it.
If you can make it past his drunk singing during the 7th inning stretch, you’ve made it past everything, my friends. However, what gets me is once he begins to start coaching from his seat. Listen guy, you can barely stand, let alone howl at Joe Mauer why he isn’t getting on base.
11. The Chant Starter
This person you either find entertaining, or obnoxious. There simply isn’t an in-between. Personally, I enjoy when somebody is brave enough to stand up in his/her section and attempt to start a chant. I have only seen it one time at the professional level — usually just high school/college events — and it was amazing. The Yankees were in town years ago, and this dude a couple of sections over stood up and started the famous “Der-ek Jeet-errr *clap, clap, clapclapclap* Ohh-verrr-raayy-teeddd”.
Only a couple of sections jumped in and chanted with him, but I can only imagine the amount of power he felt like he gained by leading the 1/8 of the Metrodome in fighting spirits.
12. Daddy Day Care
The courage it takes to be a Chant Starter is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the amount of courage, guts, and frankly, balls it takes to be the dad who watches that big group of kids you always see on the big screen sometime during the 6th inning.
This is a three-day commitment for that man: One day to mentally prepare for the exhaustion that will immediately follow the game. One day to safely bring that group of kids to the game, watch the game, and safely deposit each child off at the correct house. And one day to relax and let his brain reconstruct in the darkness of his man cave. What he will do in that man cave? He’ll likely sit in the darkness where the only light is from a TV replaying the game he missed out on the day before because he was making sure the $12 ice cream he purchased ended up in the mouths of the children and not on the ground.
13. The Awkward Couples
Your first thought is obviously the couple who is there on their first date because the guy scored some free tickets and brought the girl who isn’t even into sports, but figured he’d bring her anyways. You have to sit there and listen to these people pretend like they’re interested in the game. She asks stupid question after stupid question while he explains the basic rules of baseball to her.
However, there are plenty of different awkward couples and relationships happening all around Target Field — the hinging divorce, step dad with his step son because his new wife forced them to go so they could bond, siblings who end up on the Kiss Cam, etc.