“There are no losers today.”
I heard someone make that statement at mid-morning Saturday at Target Field. He was talking about the thrill of playing and watching high school baseball at the Twins’ beautiful new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. And after the three state championship games wrapped up, no one will argue with those words.
I walked into the ballpark with an umpire who was there for the first time, and as I walked back to my car 11 hours later I exited the stadium with members of the Burnsville team that had lost to Eden Prairie 7-5 in the Class 3A championship game. Before stepping on the school bus, one of the Blaze players got out his camera and snapped a few final photos of the ballpark.
It was that kind of day, one filled with sweet memories, wonderful competition and smiles. It provided an exceptional ending to not only the Minnesota spring sports season but the 2009-10 prep year.
Here are some of the things I saw, heard and observed during championship Saturday …
--Troy Davis, an umpire from Fergus Falls, worked third base during the Class 1A game. Having never been inside Target Field before Saturday, he and his family were thrilled; they parked in the Twins employee lot and Troy entered the ballpark through the same door that the pro ballplayers, as well as umpires, use. He was as excited as any of the players or coaches.
--Joe Nathan, the Twins closer who is on the disabled list, was working out inside Target Field Saturday morning, running stairs while his teammates were in Philadelphia.
--The players from Class 1A Sebeka and Eden-Valley Watkins had the luxury of being on the field before anyone else, and they didn’t have to wait for a game to end before pulling out cell phones and cameras and snapping away from the field.
--The Target Field grounds crew had requested that no spikes be used on the grass until game time. So everyone wore tennis shoes for warm-ups and pregame drills. The grounds crew was the unheralded star of the day. Working like a team of surgeons, they manicured and groomed the field before each game, making it look like no one had set foot on it. That was an all-star performance.
--Eden Valley-Watkins played its first game this season in another familiar downtown Minneapolis ballpark: the Metrodome. The Eagles beat New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva way back on April 5… indoors.
--Burnsville senior Brandon Peterson made history in the bottom of the sixth inning against Eden Prairie in the 3A game. Peterson blasted a home run into the seats in left field. That was homer number one by a high school player in Target Field. Homer number two came a few minutes later, in the same inning, when Burnsville’s Tom Sherman knocked a blast into the bullpen. The Twins have hit 19 home runs in 36 home games this season; at Saturday’s rate the Blaze would hit 72 in 36 games.
--Eden Valley-Watkins assistant coach Jeff Haag was at Target Field for Wednesday night’s Twins-Rockies game. He stood in front of the third base dugout before Saturday’s game and pointed up to his Wednesday seats near the top of the stadium down the right field line. He had a much better view Saturday.
--State championship softball teams were honored before each game, including the 3A winners from Burnsville. Once the game started, the Blaze softballers were escorted to some of the best seats in the house: the Legends Club on the second level, right above the Twins dugout. The girls wore their gold medals for the occasion and had as much fun as anyone, on occasion leading cheers for the rest of the Blaze fans seated below them.
--Like all teams that come up short, the Sebeka Trojans were downcast after the 1A game. They will remember the defeat less and less as time goes on, and treasure the memories of a terrific season.
“From the beginning of the season, the goal was Target Field,” coach Jeff Lake said after Sebeka’s 7-4 loss to Eden Valley-Watkins. “Everybody knew it would be cool to play here. It would be cooler to win, but it was still cool. The field was amazing, the whole thing was amazing.”
The Trojans didn’t stick around Target Field for long after the game. They had to return home to Sebeka, jump on a float and be the stars of the annual Red Eye River Days parade.
--I have come to realize that a truly enjoyable part of my job has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with talking. In addition to speaking during the Minnesota Association of Secondary Principals Association summer workshop Friday up north at Breezy Point, during Saturday’s games I was a guest twice on WCCO radio with Steve Thomson in Minneapolis, I did an on-air inning during the 2A game with Emmett Keenan on KXSS (The Fan) in St. Cloud and taped an interview with the Twins Radio Network that will air next Thursday. I will also be on KSTP AM 1500 on Sunday morning at 10:20. Like they say, a face made for radio…
--Baseball players weren’t the only high school students having a great experience Saturday. If you watched the games on Channel 45 or saw the games being webcast on 45.grandstadium.tv, you saw the work of many students working the production end of the broadcast. Students from Eagan, New London-Spicer, Bloomington and Wayzata filled many roles, including operating the cameras that brought you all the action. Well done, everybody.
--After Eden Prairie’s victory over Burnsville, I stood in front of the Eagles dugout and snapped a photo of several Eden Prairie girls holding signs in support of their team. (That photo and others can be seen on the MSHSL Facebook page.) When I finished, one of the girls asked me, “Can you use my camera and take a picture of us?” Sure. So she tossed her camera over the dugout to me, I snapped a couple and tossed it back. The MSHSL is always ready to help in any way we can.
--After Rocori’s 3-0 victory over Delano in the 2A game, Rocori’s Eric Loxtercamp was asked about playing in Target Field. His words provided a pretty good summation of the day for all the players.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “Everybody was kind of in shock when we walked out here. This is pretty awesome. I think in the first inning or so we were probably still enjoying playing on this awesome field.”
In other words, there were no losers.
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn