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In our own backyard...Take me out to the ballgame

There are few things more wonderful than attending your first major league baseball game - except taking your grandchildren to one. Last Friday night Ken and I had made a date with two of ours, Ethan, 8, and Evie, 5, at Target Field. We had gotte...

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There are few things more wonderful than attending your first major league baseball game - except taking your grandchildren to one.

Last Friday night Ken and I had made a date with two of ours, Ethan, 8, and Evie, 5, at Target Field. We had gotten the tickets from a business associate, so they were far better seats than we would have been willing to spring for ourselves. In fact, they were down toward the front and right along the first base line, where Twins' catcher Joe Mauer happened to be playing first base that night.

You have to understand the relationship of our grandkids with Joe Mauer. Even though they'd never been to a Twins game before, and had only watched a few of their games on TV, somehow they had both determined that they were big fans of Joe Mauer, and both of them are the proud owners of Joe Mauer jerseys.

And of course, it made a big difference that both children had played on their first Little League baseball teams this summer (Evie was the youngest one on her team, and the only girl!). Out of all the positions each of them had the chance to play, both of them liked catcher - because they wanted to be just like Joe Mauer! It made no difference that they had to spend most of their time crouched on their knees, wearing chest protectors and face masks in 100-degree heat. It was what Joe does, and so that's what they wanted to do, too.

Ken and I drove to the Twin Cities from Duluth on Friday afternoon and had planned to meet the grandchildren at the game. We arrived far earlier than their mother was able to get them there, so we decided to go in, locate our seats and have something to eat. As we went through security, we asked if we were able to get some sort of pass to go out again. I explained proudly that we were taking our grandkids to the ball game and that we were meeting them later at the main gate. The guard said it was impossible for us to leave again once we passed through security, but he suggested we arrange to meet them at a certain time and then simply slide the tickets to them through the iron bars of the security fence. Though it sounded a bit subversive we decided it was all above board, so we went through the gate and into the stadium.

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My first order of business at a ball game is always to eat, so we went straight to one of the concession stands and ordered a "Big Dog," chips and a drink. As we sank into our seats, I realized all over again how tricky - and messy - it is to juggle a hot dog dripping with ketchup and mustard, a bag of chips and a plastic drink glass all in your lap at the same time - especially while trying to snap photos of Joe Mauer during warm ups for the grandkids! I loved every minute of it, though, and I could hardly wait for them to get there.

At the prescribed time, Ken headed out for the main gate, met the kids with their mom and slid the tickets through the fence to them. When he arrived back at our seats with them, they looked a bit dazed and overwhelmed at all of the activity on the field and all of the sounds and music coming over the speaker system, which was right up behind us. After exchanging hugs and juggling around our seats so neither of them had to sit behind the big guy in the row in front of us, we settled in for the first inning, which was just about to begin.

"See that?" I shouted to Ethan and Evie over the roar of the loud speaker as I pointed to first base. "That's Joe Mauer - he's playing first tonight!"

Again, they stared wide-eyed as though they were seeing a ghost, but when he turned toward the stands a bit, they realized that it really was Joe.

"C'mon, Mauer!" Ethan yelled.

"C'mon, Mauer!" Evie yelled.

It was time to play ball.

Both of them asked a million questions during the game, about why there were numbers on the back fence (the retired jerseys of famous players), how someone as short as Ben Revere could hit a ball over the fence, and why there were only three men in the outfield (on their Little League teams they play with four).

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When pitcher Nick Blackburn was struggling and I suggested it might be time to change pitchers, Evie said, "Why don't they let Mauer pitch?"

During the course of the game, each of the kids managed to pack away an entire cone of cotton candy - "Sugar!" their mother shuddered - as well as an ice cream sandwich made out chocolate chip cookies - "More sugar!" she moaned.

If any of you happen to remember anything about that particular game, you will doubtless recall that the Twins lost to the White Sox by a score of 4-3. But our grandkids will only remember that Joe Mauer hit an RBI single in the first inning, followed by a two-run blast by Jason Kubel that had all of us leaping in the air and whooping and hollering as fireworks blasted over the top of the scoreboard. And maybe that's the way it should be....

It was in the closing inning of the game, as the Twins were making their final stand, that Evie turned innocently to Ken and said, "Do you s'pose Joe Mauer is wearin' a nut cup?"

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