MINNEAPOLIS -- The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome hosted some of the most memorable moments and beloved players in Twins history, including both World Series championships, but the lure of outdoor baseball in Minnesota proved too strong to resist. With Target Field, the Twins truly did it justice.
From the views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline beyond the right-field plaza to the limestone motif to the selection of local foods and craft beers to the quirky overhang of seats above right field, Target Field has developed a reputation as one of the finest places in the country to take in a baseball game. (That's not to mention its small ecological footprint and countless awards for sustainability.)
Though the Twins haven't yet won a playoff game at their ballpark since it opened in 2010, there has still been plenty of unforgettable baseball played on the Target Field grass, featuring three American League Central titles in 2010, '19 and '20 and iconic players that have made their mark in Twins history. Let's look back at the five most memorable of those moments at Target Field.
1) Mauer says goodbye
Sept. 30, 2018
Officially, Joe Mauer hadn't made a decision regarding his future in baseball entering the final day of the 2018 regular season -- and the final game of his eight-year, $184 million contract extension with the Twins, the only club he'd ever known in the big leagues. But after this tear-jerking show at Target Field, you just knew.
It started with Mauer's twin daughters, Maren and Emily, running out to the field before the game to greet the longtime catcher and first baseman, the graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul only about 20 minutes away. In his final at-bat, Mauer hit a seventh-inning double -- of course -- to add to his club record total. And when Mauer emerged from the dugout in the ninth inning with his catcher's gear on for the first time since 2013 to catch one pitch from Matt Belisle before making his final exit, tears flowed around the ballpark -- including from Mauer himself.
A month and a half later, he officially announced his retirement from baseball, having played all 15 years of his career for his hometown team.
2) Thome hits Target Field's first walk-off blast
Aug. 17, 2010
It was only a regular-season game in August, but the memory of Jim Thome clubbing the first walk-off homer in Target Field history holds an outsized place in the memories of most Twins fans.
Despite his long career crushing long balls against the Twins while playing for both Cleveland and the White Sox, "Gentleman Jim" became a beloved figure in Minneapolis in two short seasons with the club, and this homer lives large in that tenure. The club were tied, 5-5, heading into extra innings with the Twins trying to build a four-game lead in the division over their rivals from the South Side. After Alexei Ramírez gave Chicago an edge in the 10th, Thome stepped to the plate against Matt Thornton and unloaded for a two-run blast past the flagpoles on the right-field plaza, sending Target Field into a frenzy.
3) Outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota
April 12, 2010
Those that regularly experience Aprils in Minnesota know how unfriendly and unpredictable the weather can be at the start of any regular season. That makes it all the more remarkable that the first day of outdoor Twins baseball in Minnesota since 1981 was accompanied by perfect 65-degree weather with a light breeze, with Mother Nature playing her part to usher in the new era.
It helped that the Twins sent the capacity crowd of 38,145 home happy, with several fan favorites from the Metrodome era playing important roles in a win over the Red Sox after Carl Pavano threw the first pitch at the new ballpark. Mauer knocked three hits, Denard Span scored the first run at Target Field and stole a pair of bases, Nick Punto also swiped a bag and Jason Kubel went deep in a 5-2 victory.
4) Perkins closes the All-Star Game
July 15, 2014
Fun fact: Long before they were teammates on the 2020 Twins, both Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz were in the starting lineup for the first All-Star Game at Target Field, when Donaldson was a member of the A's and Cruz represented the Orioles. But more significantly for the crowd of 41,048 on hand for the Midsummer Classic, a pair of Twins comprised the battery for the ninth inning, with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate and closer Glen Perkins on the mound in front of his hometown crowd. Perkins, a graduate of Stillwater Area High School and the University of Minnesota, retired Miguel Montero, Josh Harrison and Charlie Blackmon in order, securing the 5-3 win.
5) Dozier's walk-off caps seven-run ninth
July 10, 2015
Once upon a time in this game, Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings and exited after coughing up one run in the eighth. The Twins finished the contest with eight runs anyway. Poor Bruce Rondon and Joakim Soria couldn't hold a five-run lead in the ninth, when the Twins sent eight men to the plate and accounted for only one out. Eddie Rosario followed a pair of hits with an RBI single, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch brought home a second run, Danny Santana singled up the middle to plate a pair and make it a one-run game and Brian Dozier delivered the coup de grace with a three-run, walk-off blast off the facing of the upper deck to cap the improbable comeback.