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North Star Rail helps brighten gloomy day at Twins’ ballpark

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MINNEAPOLIS — Earlier this spring (or is it nuclear winter?) I decided to purchase Twins tickets from my brother’s church group.

The game date was May 14 so I thought it had a shot to be a decent day. In 2010, we went to a game the last Sunday in April, and it was sunny and 60 degrees.

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Little did I know this spring’s unpredictable weather would be much more inclement than last year’s and that the weather would stink Saturday, worse than the Twins have been playing all season.

Gray skies, first-pitch temperature of 45 degrees, a 15 mph wind and freezing drizzle greeted us as we exited the Northstar Rail at Target Field and watched the Twins eventually implode in a 9-3 loss in 11 innings to Toronto.

Being a guy who’s uneasy out of his comfort zone, hopping on the train at Big Lake seemed like too many unknowns. Where do you park? How do you buy tickets? Would we miss the train before or after the game?

Taking the train turned out to be a decision I would highly recommend that outstate fans consider, whether going to watch the Twins, or a family just wanting to spend a few hours in downtown Minneapolis.

On weekends you can purchase a Northstar round trip family pass for $20, which enables two adults and up to three children, ages 6-17 (age 5 and under ride free) to ride until midnight. With gas $4 a gallon, and parking surrounding Target Field $10 to $20, driving to Big Lake and taking the train makes economic sense.

Adding to the dismal day at Target Field was the shocking news of the death of 28-year-old former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard. “The Boogeyman” was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment Friday. A moment of silence was held in his memory before the game.

Boogaard was in Brainerd a few years ago when the Wild Road Tour came to town. In public, he certainly didn’t appear to be a player whose primary job was to drop his gloves and use his fists.

Also disheartening was the statement released Friday by Twins Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew that he’s losing his battle with cancer.

“Killer” threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers home opener in 2009. Before his visit, I had a chance to interview him by phone from his home in Arizona. Later, I had the opportunity to meet him at the Lunkers’ home-opening luncheon at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. He’s a class act.

One of my favorite Killebrew moments occurred in the late 1960s or early 70s. My family pulled our travel trailer to Met Stadium in Bloomington for Twins Camp-Ins, which basically meant you camped on the paved parking lots adjacent to the ballpark.

Camp-Ins were great events for kids like me. I went to three games each weekend and ran around outside the Met after games, trying to get autographs from as many Twins, and opposing players, as possible.

Players seemed to stay inside the Met for hours after the final out so getting autographs was easier following day games because of more daylight. Probably because of the attention he attracted, Killer was one of the most difficult autographs to get.

But I got lucky about midnight after a game.

Nobody was near a stadium exit except me and a buddy. Suddenly, a door opened and out walked the Killer.

I approached him with my autograph book and asked if he would sign. He obliged but never broke stride as he walked toward his car and into the darkness.

I still have Killer’s autograph from that memorable night, along with those of Hall of Famers like Rod Carew and Ted Williams, which I also secured at Camp-Ins.

Another Killebrew moment occurred when I was 9 or 10. Schweigert Meats ran a promotion where fans had to write a sentence about why they deserved an autographed glossy photo of their favorite player.

My profound sentence was that I wanted a photo of Killebrew because “I like to see the ball sail over the fence.” My photo arrived a few days later. You could tell it was a mass-produced signature, and unfortunately I have no idea what happened to that photo.

I do know that in the 1960s and 70s the Killer provided a number of highlights for a certain Twins fan.

Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or at 855-5861.

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