By Ben Lewis
It is April 1st and the Minneapolis skyline sits against an angry backdrop of dark clouds. However, this April day feels like summer. Why? It’s opening day. The Minnesota Twins are playing their first game of the year against the Kansas City Royals. I saw an opportunity to grab a ticket, and I had to go to experience the spectacle of Opening Day in America. I ended up taking the light-rail downtown to Target Field with a few friends. As I sat in those seats on the train, I could feel the excitement. Fans began to pile in, eager for a new season for their Twins. You could tell many of them were quite optimistic about a team that, quite frankly, looks abysmal on paper, but they were optimistic all the same.
After a ride on the light-rail, the fans poured out of their respective train cars and flooded the stadium. The minute I left the cab it all hit me at once. “Baseball is back,” I said to myself. The smell of kettle corn wafted throughout the air, and I could hear stadium workers screaming at the top of their lungs, advertising programs, scorebooks and other forms of baseball merchandise. We approached the stadium gate, passed through the metal detectors and finally entered the stadium. We were finally hit with the full aroma of Opening Day.
We looked out, and directly ahead of us, we were able to glimpse the field. The outfield grass had been groomed so that it looked as if there were lanes running out from the infield to the outfield wall. You could feel it in the air; it was finally time to play baseball.
Both lineups were introduced over the stadium loudspeaker. As their names were called, every player ran out of the dugout as red, white and blue fireworks shot out into the air. Former Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who was welcomed with thunderous applause, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. After this, we were ready to finally play baseball in Minnesota. The Twins players took the field to warm up before the first inning, all of them sporting patches that had the initials “YL” on them, as tribute to the pitcher Yorman Landa, who passed away in December. The Royals were also sporting patches that said “ACE 30” as a tribute to the pitcher Yordano Ventura, who passed away during the summer.
The game itself was a pitching duel as the aces for both teams (Ervin Santana of the Twins and Danny Duffy for the Royals) were on the hill. Santana went seven innings, giving up two hits and one earned run, while Duffy went six innings and gave up one earned run on three hits. However, things unraveled for the Royals after they pulled Duffy at the end of the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Royals brought in Matt Strahm. The young pitcher gave up singles to Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler. Kepler and Polanco both advanced on a sacrifice by Eddie Rosario. Then, star player Brian Dozier came up to the plate. The Royals chose to walk him and load the bases. At this point, the Royals brought in Peter Moylan, who struck out Byron Buxton. With two outs, the Royals chose to change pitchers again, bringing in Travis Wood, who walked the next two batters he saw, driving in two runs. The next two batters for the Twins, Jason Castro and Polanco both singled, driving in two more runs each before Wood got out of the inning. The Twins bullpen was able to finish the game without giving up any more runs, resulting in the game ending with an impressive 7-1 Twins victory over the Royals.