Yet another effect of the new stadium: Tour guides

Twins have hired a small army of guides to meet the demand for behind-the-scenes looks

“He said, ‘I’m looking for guys who like baseball and are good bullsh**ers,’ and I raised my hand twice.”

Meet Bob L., Target Field tour guide and Southwest resident.

Like the boost in Downtown hotel profits or the two-for-one, game-day drink special at McKenzie’s, Bob is one of those pleasantly unexpected results of the new stadium. For the first time since almost anyone can remember, the public is enthusiastically curious about the facility where the Twins play — so much so that the team has hired an army of tour guides to accommodate the demand for behind-the-scenes peeks.

Along with 30 or so exceptionally well informed Twins fans, Bob L. spent his summer leading strangers through the facility, watching them gawk at seldom-seen areas like the press box and the dugouts. Visitors even got to step out on the warning track. When there wasn’t a home game, the tours happened four times a day.

The Metrodome offered tours, too, which the Metropolitan Sports Commission organized. But, according to Target Field Tour Coordinator Rick Olson, whose position was created just this year, “It was a pretty limited tour program over there, because it obviously wasn’t as popular.”

Such is not the case at Target Field. Just prior to the playoffs, Olson estimated that 70 percent of the time slots had sold out.

The guides Olson hires are paid employees, schooled thoroughly in the details of the stadium. And a good deal of them he recruited from his Senior Softball games, a 15-week intramural league reserved for players over 50.  

“A lot of cases, these guys are college professors or radio broadcasters,” Olson said. “Guys that are used to standing up in front of a crowd and giving a presentation.”

Take Bob L. If his rascally irreverence sounds familiar, it’s probably because you used to read it regularly in the newspaper. His last name is Lundegaard. For nearly 20 years, in the 1970s and 1980s, he was the film critic for the Star Tribune. He’s spent the same amount of time in Senior Softball, where he claims he dazzles as an outfielder and bats left-handed. (“Very beneficial in the 75 and over games, because I get a good start going to first. I beat out a lot of grounders.”)

Lundegaard’s met Dustin Hoffman. He’s interviewed humorist S. J. Perelman, who wrote comedy scripts for the Marx Brothers. He was once called “a scumbag” on national television by sports broadcaster Al Michaels, who objected to an unfavorable review Lundegaard, a Southwest resident, wrote about the TV presentation of the 1987 World Series. The Coen Brothers were so smitten with him — or so upset by him, no one’s really sure — that they named the cowardly villain played by William H. Macy in Fargo after him.

Nowadays, though, Lundegaard’s commentary is wholeheartedly positive. In regard to the stadium, he says, “I don’t have any trouble praising what they’ve done.”

He says it’s the small bits of trivia that particularly impress. Like the fact that the stadium has only an 8-acre “footprint,” but that it blooms out to 12-acres near its crown.

The most impressive detail?

“The topiaries on the [Target] Plaza,” Lundegaard says. “There are nine of them, 40-feet high each. They’re in the shape of inverted baseball bats. And each one is lit per inning for home games at night. So the people passing the stadium can tell what stage the game is in. Isn’t that nice?”