Who would think stark realizations about shrewd capitalism and insight to human nature could come from watching nine innings of pantomime baseball? Not this little black duck, as Daffy would say during cartoons in which Bugs Bunny was the smart one and Daffy was, well, daffy.
Because the Minnesota Twins have had more bad seasons than good since moving into Minneapolis’ Target Field in 2010, and because weather this spring has been agreeable to only — well, a duck — the club offered tickets to a section of the ballpark that is usually dedicated to group functions.
The Budweiser Roof Deck is tucked into a lofty corner of left field. Think of a high, inside pitch to a left-handed batter. When the chance for $16 standing room tickets became available, I bought them, not knowing on game day the Twins would be 700 games over .500 and it would be the nicest day of 2019 — although it arrived, sadly, only a couple of weeks before the summer solstice.
I’ve looked up at the Bud deck from the many sections I’ve occupied during more than 200 games at Target Field. It appeared to be a bad place to watch a ballgame. Also, Budweiser is at the bottom of my list of the world’s most overrated beverage: beer.
To demonstrate my low opinion of Budweiser — and it might alarm some of you to learn it is no longer owned by an American company — I offer into evidence a fairly nice photo I took of Jim Thome batting at Target Field. The photo was taken behind the first base dugout looking toward left field. The Budweiser sign looms.
I used that photo as a computer screen saver for a while. I Photoshopped the Budweiser sign out of it. That’s Exhibit A. I further offer into evidence Exhibit B: Bud isn’t even good if it’s free.
Before Game 3 of the 1987 World Series in St. Louis — when both the Cardinals and Budweiser were owned by the Busch family — sportswriters could help themselves to free Bud in the press area. Free alcohol and food before games was on its way out for baseball writers by that time. I’m sure the Cardinals were the last organization clinging to the practice.
I passed on the Bud before that game. It was a cool, wet, October night. And it was Bud.
It was a sunny, warm afternoon on the Bud deck last Sunday.
After we cleared security and entered the special elevator that lifts you Icarus-like to a second security station, we received our Budweiser logo wrist bands. I assumed it wasn’t going to be packed when we were told we could sit in any of the 100 or so seats, if vacant. Attending baseball games at Target Field is a genteel experience.
The night before, I had visited the Internet, where you can find Daffy Duck videos. Bud roof deck reviews were scarce. One person raved about the experience and loved Target Field. He wrote the Bud deck wasn’t a great place to watch a ball game, but he didn’t seem to care.
And that’s true of many people who go to ballgames now. Which is why major league ballparks have a lot of bars. Big league ballparks also followed the lead of minor league teams like the St. Paul Saints and provided bean bag tosses, face painting and other diversions for children who don’t want to sit in a seat after washing down a ballpark frank and cotton candy with pop, as we call it in the Midwest.
The Bud deck is the bean bag toss for adults. It’s like sitting in a bar just outside the ballpark. Except it’s located inside the ballpark. Watching the game is a true pantomime.
Over the speakers you can hear who’s coming to bat. You can hear music between pitches and between innings. You can hear the cute little kid pulled from the stands to announce each batter during that special half inning.
You don’t hear the ball hit the glove. Infielders turn double plays without a baseball. You can’t see the ball. You stand by one railing if you want to see all three outfielders. But you can’t see the infield. You stand by another rail if you want to see the batter. But you can’t see the outfielders.
The Twins played in Minnesota for nearly five decades before they had a ballpark built for them. Metropolitan Stadium was a minor league ballpark gerrymandered for a big-league franchise. The Metrodome was a football stadium.
Target Field is tucked into a tiny footprint on the west edge of downtown Minneapolis. The original plan was to place it on the shores of the Mississippi River, overlooking the Stone Arch Bridge. The riverfront location was occupied by a new Guthrie Theater by the time Twins’ officials sold politicians on the idea of getting a real ballpark.
That left the guys smarter than me to confront a portion of ballpark real estate that seemingly could house nothing better than cheap seats. The seats would sit high and hundreds of feet away from home plate. Tickets would cost six bucks. Instead, someone with dollar signs in their eyes came up with the idea of a party deck.
Market that space as special. Not just anyone can get a ticket.
Reserved mainly for functions with a price tag geared for corporations and wedding parties, those special people anointed with wrist bands could drink, eat, socialize and glance at the field now and then. There were plenty of flat screen TVs over the bar if you cared about the game. You’d have a private elevator, those important wrist bands, the aura of a penthouse view, a large bar, toilets just for your group, and a story to tell the next day.
Long before it opened, some visionary looked at the worst place to watch a ballgame in a ballpark that otherwise doesn’t seem to have a bad seat, predicted there would be people who would pay to attend a ballgame they don’t want to watch and suggested creating a special space for them.
Doc, that is Bugs Bunny Genius.