There's an unwritten rule in sports: no cheering in the press box. My first night covering the Twins as a media member, they clinched the division. That rule suddenly became hard to follow.
In the midst of a heated division race with the Chicago White Sox, Target Field was packed with fans hoping to witness the highlight of the 2010 season. The magic number was set at two -- the Twins needed to beat Cleveland and the White Sox needed to lose to the Athletics out in Oakland. After seven innings, it didn't look too good for the Twins, who were trailing the Tribe 2-4 while the Athletics had held onto their part of the deal by holding off Chicago 5-0 through four innings.
But then the eighth inning happened. Single. Double. Single. Sacrifice fly. Another sac fly. Single. Double. The third out, a pop-up by Jason Kubel. The Twins had managed to score four runs in the bottom of the 8th, giving them the lead and a chance at becoming the first team to clinch a trip to the Postseason. Reporters around me grumbled about ruined stories or late deadlines while all I could think was, Oh, my gosh! This is really happening right now.
Capps closed out the game in three batters, the fireworks exploded over Target Field and the team headed into the clubhouse to wait out their Postseason fate. I got in line with the rest of the press box to take the elevator down to do post-game interviews. We would have time to interview Ron Gardenhire and the players we needed but then the clubhouse would be closed off so the Twins staff could get it ready for any potential celebrations. I followed behind some of the reporters I knew, trying to stay out of the way as clubhouse attendants covered the entire room in plastic.
Once the clubhouse was closed down, we all retreated to the press box to write up some quotes and change our game stories. A Twins staffer handed out garbage bags and we wrapped up everything important as we headed back down to the lower concourse. Waiting right outside a curtain of plastic sheeting, we could hear the team react to every pitch, every swing that was happening on the game in front of them. Two outs, the bases loaded with the tying run on deck. Paul Konerko came in to pinch hit for the Sox and a collective groan escaped into the hallway. Strike. Ball. Strike. With a 1-2 count, Konerko grounded out to second baseman Mark Ellis to end the game and give the Twins their sixth division title in nine years.
The celebration lasted forever. Whenever it seemed like they were running low on champagne bottles or cans of beer, a clubhouse attendant would come running in with another case for them to open and spray across the room.
If I had any doubts about what I wanted to do with my life, they were erased -- or washed away -- that night as I watched my favorite team celebrate in the clubhouse of their brand-new stadium. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, kind of like the MLB Fan Cave, and I can only hope I'm back at Target Field the next time the Twins head to the Postseason.