On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a
On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using #OpeningDayAtHome, fans could connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. Twins fans relived the thrills of the Game 163 tiebreaker from 2009, when Alexi Casilla's walk-off single in the 12th inning gave the Twins the win -- and the American League Central title -- over the Tigers.
“Opening Day at Home” also was an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
The morning of Sept. 13, 2009, the Twins woke up with a 70-72 record and a 5 1/2-game deficit in the AL Central. But they dug deep for one last surge of "Metrodome Magic" to finish off their final season at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before they moved across Downtown Minneapolis to their new home at Target Field.
A home victory over the A's that September afternoon marked the first win in a 16-4 stretch to close out the regular season, including a 9-1 record in the Dome. Though the Twins only won four of their seven games against the Tigers in that stretch, they still managed to close the gap all the way on Oct. 3, when Michael Cuddyer's tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning and Joe Nathan's 47th save of the season gave the Twins a win over the Royals and a share of the division lead.
Another win to finish the year set up a winner-take-all Game 163 tiebreaker for the AL Central title on Oct. 6, marking the second straight year that the Twins needed an extra game to determine a division champion. Scott Baker started for Minnesota against Rick Porcello in, possibly, the final Twins game at the Metrodome. The back-and-forth affair that ensued marked one of the most indelible memories in club history.
"This was not just the greatest game that I ever played, but that I've ever seen," Twins outfielder Denard Span said to USA Today after the game. "This game had absolutely everything. We went toe to toe. Back and forth. It's everything you could ask for."
How nuts? After a Miguel Cabrera homer sparked a three-run Tigers rally in the third inning, the Twins clawed back and took a 4-3 lead in the seventh on a two-run blast by Orlando Cabrera, only to see the Tigers equalize with a long ball from Magglio Ordóñez to lead off the eighth.
The Tigers took the lead in extra innings with a two-out RBI double from Brandon Inge in the 10th, but Cuddyer led off the bottom of the frame with a flare to left field that Ryan Raburn missed on a dive, resulting in a triple. Matt Tolbert drove him home to extend the game, and two innings later, after Bobby Keppel wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 12th, Casilla drove home Carlos Gómez with a bouncer through the right side, sending the crowd into pandemonium.
Though the Twins went on to lose the AL Division Series in a three-game sweep to -- who else? -- the Yankees, this game lives on in the memories of fans and players alike. That's not only because of the dramatic twists and turns of the match itself; it's also due to the nostalgia of the Metrodome and the familiar names that defined this era of Twins baseball for fans around the Upper Midwest -- Nathan, Cuddyer, Span, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Baker, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, among others.
"No doubt, always Game 163 in 2009 against the Tigers," Nathan said when asked about his most memorable game before his induction into the Twins Hall of Fame last August. "One of, for me, the best games I’ve ever been a part of, ever played in. From inning 1 to inning 12, it was nuts. A game I’ll never forget, for sure."
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and '19 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube, including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.