O: Outings and U: The Unknown
Somehow my 6-yr-old son, Calvin had the impression that every ball player for the Saint Paul Saints was a Twins wanna be. Our first family outing there was August 11 and it was a constant comparison between what Calvin had known as a Twins fan in numerous visits to the stadium and tuning in at home to the unknown Saints. My 8-yr-old daughter, Ava, was less enthused, but nonetheless pleased to be heading to a new venue with the anticipation of all the things baseball surrounding the actual game.
The ballpark has a small-town feel. It might have been good to arrive a bit early for parking purposes and pre-game, but even arriving at 6:55 for a 7:05 game was manageable. The kids and I got dropped off right at the door, while my husband parked the car. There was free parking on the street. Many seasoned Saints fans biked to the ballpark. No lines when we arrived at 7:02. The kids got wooden airplanes to make and a mystery amount (either $1 or $100) gift card from Old Chicago. Calvin wanted to leave and head there immediately to find out how much pizza that could buy us.
Luckily, the stadium held plenty of food, beverages and treats in store for us – some local and interesting. When could we get food? the kids wondered. We found our seats to watch a few innings first before diving into that question (to avoid the eat all your movie popcorn before the show even starts type scenario). The ballpark’s personalities – Elvis, the Coach and Gert the Flirt – to name a few, captured my kids’ attention. Was it okay to behave like this at a game? …boy, they are really making fools of themselves, as Gert planted a red-lipsticked kiss on a fan.
The seats kept filling up, groups leisurely rolling in from the Landshark deck and environs with a cold one. Vendors walking by with caramel apples, popcorn and cotton candy. We wouldn’t be holding out much longer. A couple and their small children – ages 2 and 4 – maybe, sit down in front of us. The stands are maybe two-thirds full at this point. Let’s turn our attention to baseball.
The train chugs by in the background, the between-innings antics begin. Three girls make paper airplanes and launch them to see whose will go farthest and win a trip from Sun Country. Okay, now for some baseball. The Saints crack a few foul balls in our direction this inning. You can bet Ava is paying attention to that. Calvin is following more of what’s going on, having just come off a season of t-ball. How does the bat boy get that job? Also observing, the pitches look the same, the players have cool uniforms, they are really fast runners. What’s the difference between Saints and Twins?
Ava needs a hotdog. Her and I head out in search. Bit of a line at concessions around the fourth inning and a few other pit stops put us back in our seats 20 minutes later. Next up cotton candy. They inhale the stuff and are the envy of the 2-yr-old in front of us that is near breakdown. That family decides it’s time to head out. They calmly do so, knowing they enjoyed about as much of the ballgame as they would be able to. I am glad to be past those days in this respect.
Saints are up. Ava has had her sights on the caricaturist since arrival. For $10 she chooses a back-drop – a muscular version of a player pitching from the mound. She sits contently for it and it pretty pleased with the result. We return to our seats. Oh wait, where’s my thing that I get, asks Calvin. Only fair, answers Dad. They set off and return with a Saints baseball bat, rootbeer and peanuts. Happy.
It’s nearing 9:30 and past their bedtime. We decide to leave at the top of the eighth. Calvin does not like this plan. Wow, is he crabby. He doesn’t like to leave things unfinished. He’s whiny in the car. But, a-ha, the Saints are on 1330am radio. We listen as they pull out the win against the Winnipeg Wingnuts 8 to 7. Now, Calvin will sleep well.
The Saints have have a good thing going in St. Paul, except that the park is sinking, there are not adequate locker rooms and it’s not designed for people with disabilities. If you’re a Saint, you might not wanna be a Twins player, but you sure have stadium envy, thinking about what this team could do and how the spectator experience would be heightened in a new ballpark. The Saints have created a culture for casual, affordable, family-friendly outings, unique in comparison to the Twins and worth a visit to experience all things baseball.