I hear a symphony

Growing up as a baseball-loving kid in this neighborhood in the 1970s, I liked to imagine I could hear the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat and the pop of the ball in a mitt coming from Metropolitan Stadium. It wasn’t true, of course, but the budding audiophile in me made a connection, probably for the first time, between sound and community and discovered how you can be part of something even if you’re not there.

I liked the idea that I wasn’t the only one who could hear all these sounds, that we were all joined by them: The hum of chatter about lineups, scorecards and beer melded with the announcer’s calls and the game itself. A symphony was born (The Twins are in town!), and it all wafted out in little airships to my neighborhood and yours. All that died for me when they put a roof on it, but it was reborn April 12.

I didn’t have tickets to the home opener, but something drew me to Target Field anyway. After work and daughter duty, I hopped on the 4A, headed downtown in my South Minneapolis T-shirt, got off on 7th and Hennepin and started listening. As I walked past First Avenue and darted over to Kieran’s Irish Pub where I was meeting my brothers and some buddies, I strained to note if I could hear anything. But traffic was too loud, so I kept moving.

Kieran’s was on fire. A movie screen-size TV and another half-dozen or so flat-screens crackled with the game, and the packed house was enjoying pints and late lunches. The owner, Kieran Folliard, worked the room like a pro, shaking hands and beaming at what great good fortune has befallen his Irish pub empire. I hung out for a bit, then headed over to the ballpark for the first time.

I passed the Rod Carew statue, and still hadn’t heard a sound. When I reached the stadium’s main gate, the muffled noises from the field didn’t make for much different an experience than standing outside the Metrodome. I grabbed a hot dog and a soda and moseyed over to the right field gate, where a few dozen other ticketless romantics loitered.

As I polished off my hot dog, a woman regaled me with stories of her Minnesota Wild hockey heroes, three of whom stood before us inside the gate, taking in the game. That’s when I first heard the roar. It hit me with surprising force, so much so that the last bit of my hotdog almost lodged in my throat, like the bleacher-tumbling kid in “Field of Dreams.” The truth is, the sound whipsawed my neck, and I actually looked up to the sky past the warehouses and wondered how long it would take for the sound to reach North Minneapolis.  

Simultaneously sated and salivating, I headed back over to Kieran’s and quaffed the best beers in the history of beer with my brothers and some of my oldest friends. We watched the game and talked about music and marriage and jobs, sure. But our most impassioned conversation revolved around our history with this team; how our grandmother, who worked at the Nicollet Hotel not 100 yards from here, used to listen to the Twins on her transistor radio after a hard day’s work, and how the stars seem to be aligning for this tough little team we have on the prairie this year.

Yes, win or lose, outdoor baseball inspires something mythical and magical. Watching a game is a Zenlike experience that stills the mind, brings order to a chaotic world and makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. No worries if you can’t get a ticket; just cock your ear toward downtown on a warm summer afternoon or evening and you’re in.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.