MINNEAPOLIS -- It's fair to say that the Twins were the obvious choice to host the 2014 Major League All-Star Game. That doesn't mean they're anything less than the perfect choice.
Target Field and Tropicana Field are the only ballparks in the American League that have yet to host the Midsummer Classic. It's been 29 years since the game was played in the Twin Cities. By the simple measure of "it's-about-time," Major League Baseball got this one right.
But it was the right call regardless, because it's hard to imagine a better setting for the All-Star Game than the new park in downtown Minneapolis. It is just about universally acclaimed (and correctly so) as one of the finest of the new ballparks around baseball. And it's seated in a city that loves its Twins and loves baseball.
"Given everything and what's happened here with the ballpark and everything else, it was really pretty easy," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "I just don't like to do this too soon, but I've known for a long time where the 2014 All-Star Game was going. And it's coming here because it's the right thing to do. This is the right place to be."
The Twins' past couple of seasons haven't been what fans here expect. There's no getting around that. And yet, the Twins are still averaging more than 35,000 fans per game, 11th-best in the Major Leagues. Last year, they drew over 3 million, topped only by the Phillies, Yankees and Giants. That's for teams that have gone a combined 61 games under .500.
Now just imagine the buzz in two summers if the hometown nine can get back to the expected level of success.
"This ballpark and our fans deserve it," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "I know that. This is as good a baseball area as you'll get. People come out and fill this ballpark up without All-Star Games, every night. Rewarding this organization and Twins territory, that's what it's all about. Get an opportunity to see the best players come in here and have a lot of fun."
It's a perfect setup in just about every way, even logistically. Target Field is not only beautiful -- and it is, in fact, beautiful -- but it's also convenient. Downtown Minneapolis is thriving, filled with good food, good drink and good places to stay. And you never know, the weather might even be mild, at least compared to some recent All-Star sites.
Really, though, this is mostly about the cities, and about the excitement when the All-Star Game comes to a place like this. Sure, it's great when the Midsummer Classic is played under the bright lights in a place like New York or Chicago. But there's a different kind of buzz when it comes to a community where it's sure to be the biggest news in town for a full week.
Not that Minneapolis and St. Paul are Mayberry. Far from it. But in the recent tradition of places like St. Louis and Kansas City, there's just a special feeling around an All-Star Game in a somewhat smaller market.
"I think that'd be great, not just the baseball stadium, but the city," said hometown hero Joe Mauer. "I think when an All-Star Game goes to a city, the whole city is in a buzz. I'm definitely happy for this city and this state to get an All-Star Game and showcase the stadium. It's going to be awesome."
Matthew Leach is an editor and reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.