June 13, 2019. My brother Dick and I are taking ourselves out to the ball game. To watch the Twins, at Target Field, where they're playing against the Seattle Mariners.
We leave for the Cities at 8 a.m. It's a flawless summer day, one of those beauties with a limitless blue sky, almost no clouds and a forecast high of 72 degrees. The miles roll by as we talk together, catching up on recent events, sharing memories of things gone by.
For a time we talk about boyhood days and the joy and heartache we shared growing up in the great state of Illinois as Cubs fans.
But that was then and this is now, and before we know it we're pulling into the parking lot of the Northstar train station in Big Lake. We've learned on previous trips how trouble free it is to take the train right in to the ballfield, thus avoiding traffic jams and road construction headaches.
The cost of a round-trip ticket offsets the cost of downtown parking, and the train comes to a stop right at the base of Target Field. And today good fortune shines upon us as a total stranger hands Dick a paid-for round-trip ticket and says, "Here. Enjoy. My buddy's not up to traveling today!"
An hour later we're at the park. We join the jabbering throng of fans working their way to the gates and through the turnstiles into the darkened mezzanine. Then it's down the aisle toward our seats, which today are seven rows behind the Twins dugout.
Previous trips have taught us another lesson about enjoying the game: the closer you get to the action, the better. When we were cash-strapped kids, a perch in the bleachers was adequate. Now that our aging eyes aren't eagle sharp, it makes sense to compensate.
Michael Pineda takes the mound and delivers the first pitch - a strike. The crowd roars approval. I feel the warmth of the sun upon my neck and inhale the smell of hot dogs and cotton candy and peanuts and beer and realize how fortunate I am to be living here in the land of the free on a Thursday afternoon in June watching a Major League Baseball game with my beloved brother, surrounded by thousands of like-minded fans, confident that this year's Twins are definitely contenders.
Inning by inning the game evolves. The Mariners score first, but their lead doesn't last forever. In the sixth we bust loose with six runs and add three more in the seventh. This 2019 team is just plain powerful! And watching them interact you realize they really get along and that they're having fun.
Somehow, despite the gloomy pronouncements made about how money has all but ruined professional sports, you see evidence to the contrary right before you on the field.
An hour later the game is over, and once again the Twins have won, this time 10-5. We work our way up the concrete steps to the mezzanine and out toward the train. Twenty minutes after that we're rolling back north toward home, our faces reddened and warmed from the sun, our hearts gladdened by the joy of watching a good game that ended in victory and by the fun of being together.
We're nearly back to Big Lake when Dick looks out the window at the cloudless sky, smiles and puts the whole day into words. "Perfect," he says. "It's been a perfect day."
I couldn't agree more.