|My brother Kyle and me at the Dome.|
Now let's talk about Dougie Baseball.
I'm not big on having favorite players, mostly because I learned that sports is a business and guys get traded or retire often enough. But I really loved watching Doug Mientkiewicz. He won a Gold Glove in 2001 for his defensive play at first base. His batting helmet was disgustingly-full of pine tar. He had a superstitious spot in the dugout where he sat as the Twins tried to rally.
He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2004, a move that was part of a four-way trade, I think. It was disappointing for me, but the Twins were making way for their first baseman of the future: Justin Morneau.
Players get traded at the July deadline all the time, but this was special because the Twins were at home in the middle of a series with the Red Sox when he was traded. So all he had to do was walk over to the visitor's club house. We were at that game, and you can bet I was one of the Twins fans giving Mientkiewicz a warm ovation as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat with Boston.
Outdoor baseball in KC
In 2006, Mientkiewicz was playing for the Kansas City Royals. Remember, this was before Target Field and outdoor baseball in Minnesota. I hadn't seen a Major League Baseball game in an open-air stadium before. So, we took a road trip that summer to Kauffman Stadium.
It was a sweltering day, but our seats were under an overhang, so we at least had some shade. The disappointment was that Mientkiewicz was out of the lineup with an injury. I wanted to see him play, but taking in outdoor baseball was fun all on its own.
Decade of division titles
The Twins won division crowns in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010. But arguably the only successful postseason was 2002 when the Twins beat Oakland only to lose in the American League Championship Series to the Angels. I think they were still the Anaheim Angels at that time, pre-Los Angeles.
Anyway, most of the time, the Twins were plagued by the Yankees. It's become a painful memory where the Yanks always found a way to win, while the Twins let it get in their heads that they couldn't beat Goliath. It even happened in 2010, when the Twins had rare homefield advantage against the Yankees in the inaugural season at Target Field.
Perhaps the most disappointing postseason for the Twins was 2006. They had homefield advantage, won the division, drew Oakland as a Division Series opponent rather New York, had the Cy Young winner: Johan Santana, AL Batting Champion: Joe Mauer and MVP: Morneau on their team. That's like a full house in poker, right? Everything in their favor.
And the Twins were swept out of the ALDS in three heartbreaking games. My family and I attended games one and two at the Dome. I even skipped part of a journalism class to make it in time.
I was a sophomore in college at the time, and after the Twins season ended, my friends and I dressed up for Halloween. I went as a Twins mourner. I'm not kidding. I threw on my jersey, painted blue tears on my face and carried around a Twins tissue box. That's how disappointed I was with the outcome of the season. Dramatic? Maybe. But I was just being a passionate fan.
Game 163. It's still cool.
Then there were games 163 in 2008 and 2009. I watched the '09 game (the Twins final regular season game at the Dome) with my friend Cassie at Joe Senser's in Bloomington. It was a nail-biter in the later innings, especially when the game got turned over to the Twins bullpen. We sat there holding our breath and barely keeping our eyes open with each pitch.
I'll never forget when it was finally over and the Twins beat the Tigers. The place went nuts. I jumped up and down and cheered with the rest of the restaurant patrons.
My journey as a Twins fan part 1: A bite from the sports bug
My journey as a Twins fans part 3: The Target Field era