Twins fan ready for outdoor games
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 3:37 AM
One of the high profile actions of the Legislature last spring was the approval of a bill to pave the way for a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins. Public financing of stadiums is a controversial subject with strong feelings on both sides. Like abortion, there is little middle ground, and few people are swayed by rhetoric against their position.
That is one reason I have never written about the stadium issue. Another is that I have a strong bias. Usually I can overcome a bias and write objectively, but the Twins are so much a part of my life that it is hard to step back and judge the Major League baseball team and its desire for a new stadium on its own merits.
I do feel a little guilty in that I am elated a new stadium is in the works. I know there are more important issues, such as education funding, that should have been addressed by our legislators, but I have been a baseball fan most of my life and a Twins fan for all but 10 of those years.
I remember exactly when I became a die-hard Twins fan. It was in the mid-1960s when I was an elementary school aged child living in Milwaukee. The Braves announced they were leaving my city for Atlanta. The last Milwaukee Braves games I ever saw at old County Stadium were in 1965.
I was only 10 years old during their last season in Milwaukee and didn’t understand all the reasons for leaving, and I still don’t entirely understand them today. However, I knew I was never going to like the Braves again, even if at that time they still did have Hank Aaron and other stars I had grown up with and grown to love.
It was then I made a decision to become a Minnesota Twins fan. I stayed a fan no matter where I was living, whether it was out East or down South. Since I have been in Minnesota, it has been a treat to see them in person.
I would keep seeing them in the Metrodome forever, even while realizing it is not a baseball park with the seats aligned for football, meaning you have to crane your neck when sitting in seats along the first or third base lines. However, a new stadium designed for baseball will be a big improvement, and, most importantly, it will keep the Twins in Minnesota.
I’ve always enjoyed watching baseball more than any other sport. For one thing, it is an affordable family sport. The stadium would be used a minimum of 81 days a year, in contrast to the eight home games for football, and ticket prices allow families to actually attend games as a family.
The stadium deal approved by the Legislature doesn’t take state money that could be diverted to other uses. Most of the funding will come from a new sales tax on purchases made in Hennepin County. Consumers will pay an extra 3 cents on every $20 purchase. Twins owner Carl Pohlad will also contribute more money than most owners do in other Major League cities with new stadiums.
The biggest controversy centered on whether Hennepin County residents should vote on the sales tax option. Some people want to make every issue a referendum, but I have the old-fashioned view that leaders should lead, and, if we don’t like the way they are leading, we should vote them out of office.
Republican Rep. Neil Peterson of Bloomington, which is located in Hennepin County, feels the same way. He says lawmakers were elected to lead on controversial issues like this one. “Had we had a referendum on the Mall of America, it would never have been built,” he was quoted as saying.
I know a lot of people rail against helping a billionaire owner employing millionaire players.
However, if a rich owner wanted to locate or keep a business in our area, I’m sure economic development leaders would be looking at all the incentives possible to lure or keep the business here.
Baseball may not have as many advantages as traditional businesses, but it does have many intangibles, such as Minnesota being a big league market, and, for state leaders, the income tax on the players brings a lot of money to the state coffers.
However, the direct economic benefits aren’t clear-cut. For one thing, there are few people like catcher Joe Mauer — Minnesota residents who make the jump to professional baseball to become employees of this business.
Instead, most Major League players are not natives of the cities in which their teams are based. Increasingly they are coming from very far away, such as Asia and South America. The Twins’ current roster has players from Venezuela, Canada, Mexico, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and, of course, the United States.
These immigrants are finding the American Dream through baseball. Baseball is the one major professional sport that most reflects our country with its diversity of nationalities. In baseball, at least, it all seems to be working.
One reason is because the system is based on merit. I have no problem with pitcher Carlos Silva because he is Venezuelan. The problem is he can’t keep runners from scoring. The same is true of Kyle Lohse, an American Indian. Johan Santana is from Venezuela, too, and Francisco Liriano is from the Dominican Republic. Fans want those two pitchers throwing to St. Paul native Mauer because they are getting people out.
Sometimes baseball can be so simple. Always, stadium issues aren’t.
As has been the case for most of my life, all I can say is, “Go Minnesota Twins!”