Saturday, April 09, 2011

Twins' Home Opener

I was stuck on a train trying to get through flood waters near Fargo when the Twins played the home opener, so I have to go exclusively by the highlights that I can find and the StarTribune's extensive coverage of the game. But it sounds like it was one for the ages. A movie director might complain that there is just too much going on.
  • Bert Blyleven Hall of Fame induction countdown started.
  • Gardenhire received 2010 Manager of the Year award in pre-game ceremony.
  • Morneau's return.
  • Morneau proceeded to get his 1,000th career hit, and the ball is ceremoniously removed.
  • Pavano struggled a bit early but steadied the ship.
  • The Twins couldn't hit anything for 7.5 innings, facing a pitcher having a very good day.
  • Bottom of the 8th, Twins down 1-0. They start a piranha attack of seeing eye singles, score a run to make it 1-1, and Joe Mauer comes to the plate. The place is raucous. The man who has amazing hand/eye coordination, picks his spot on the third base line and nails it, 2-1. Good stuff. (Video link.)
  • The best was yet to come. Joe Nathan's return after missing the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery. He comes out of the bullpen to preserve the win, his job and one that he is very good at. Target Field turned up the volume.

"Stand Up and Shout" already was pumping when the bullpen door swung open to start the ninth inning, but the Target Field crowd didn't need Steel Dragon's cue to erupt.

"The place kind of started shaking," said the object of that clamor. "It's the loudest I've ever heard a crowd in this city."

That's saying something, considering the decibels that once reverberated around the Metrodome. But of course the Opening Day crowd went jet-engine raucous -- it's as if Twins fans collectively remembered all at once: "Hey, Joe Nathan is on this team!"

It had been 18 months, an elbow surgery and one ballpark ago since Nathan last threw a pitch in Minnesota, an out-of-sight-out-of-mind eternity so lengthy, Nathan's name doesn't even appear in the scorecard the Twins sold on the concourse. But as he stood on the Target Field mound, he looked as though he had never been away.

"It picks you up to see him run out of that bullpen," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "We've been missing that."

Everyone had. Starting pitcher Carl Pavano turned to manager Ron Gardenhire during the clamor and said, "If that don't make you get the jitters, nothing will."

Nathan got them, too -- and that's a problem for a closer. The score was 2-1, after all, and it's his job to make sure it stayed that way.

We have tickets for tomorrow, 1st date of our limited game season ticket plan.