10/09/2002 9:40 pm ET
A pregame stroll through the 'dome
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Before most regular-season games at the Metrodome, there are exactly four reporters on the field during batting practice. On Wednesday, before Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, there were 4,319.
OK, slight exaggeration. It only feels like that many. You pretty much can't walk anywhere without running the risk of getting stabbed by a pen. Or a microphone. Or bashed in the melon by a 750-pound TV camera.
It's a circus down there, and everyone seems to be loving it -- particularly the fans who come out early to perch atop the dugouts. Not only do they get a bird's-eye view of the proceedings, they often become part of the show.
Just ask the youngster who won Twins outfielder Bobby Kielty's impromptu contest Wednesday. Standing in front of the home dugout, Kielty took inventory of the 25 or so fans clamoring for an autograph from 10 feet overhead and decided he didn't have time, so he came up with a plan.
First, he whispered in the ear of a security guard and announced that he had just told the rent-a-cop a number between 1 and 100. Walking down the line of fans, he asked each to guess what the number was. Near the end of the line, a boy no more than 10 years old said, "Forty-four."
"Close enough," Kielty said, and handed the boy the bat with which he had just taken batting practice. The look on the kid's face was priceless. Never mind that the 45-year-old man with a sharpie and the shady look of a memorabilia dealer probably nailed the number on the nose. This was good for ball.
Can't say the same of Dan Gladden's hair, though. You remember Gladden, right? The ultimate gamer of the Twins' title teams. He was forever flying around the bases, sans helmet, with his wild blonde locks flying behind him. Well, he's still got the locks, but he also has a bald spot that makes the long hair look ridiculously out of date.
Gladden was hanging around the batting cage during BP, but with that mop, he looked like he should be hanging around backstage at a Beach Boys show, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a pukka-shell necklace while setting up amps and sipping Mai Tais.
Speaking of Mai Tais, did you know that you can get a Bacardi Breezer in the dome for $4.50? Perhaps that explains one of the signs paying homage to Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz at Game 1.
After "Go," it read "Mientkszeisx," "Mienztcczski," and "Mientkeyecixz," with each misspelling crossed out. Below that, in resignation, it just said, "Go Doug!"
The Breezers also might explain the unbelievably loud woman screaming at people to help her start The Wave. Didn't happen. Shocker. Most people love being berated into stupid human tricks.
The guy with the "Go Doug!" sign was gone Wednesday, and in his place was an ingenious young man who came up with a great autograph-seeking scheme. Above the Angels dugout, he waved a piece of binder paper that read "Alex Ochoa Fan Club," and he asked every player and coach if they'd like to join by signing up.
Worked like a champ, too. He had 16 signatures.
Gladden wasn't the only baseball celebrity on the field Wednesday. Joe Morgan was making the rounds, as were Buck Martinez and Jon Miller, all in town as talking heads. And then there was Peter Gammons, who apparently has a special pass. As Angels manager Mike Scioscia hit ground balls to second baseman Adam Kennedy, Gammons was close enough to him to know what he had for lunch.
Scioscia looked amused. You half-expected him to say, "As long as you're all the way out here, Gammons, grab a glove and do something."
Not far from Scioscia, on the other side of the batting cage, stood Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski amid a mob of reporters. This is another sight you don't see during the regular season, when the clubhouses open to the media 3 1/2 hours before the game. During the playoffs, there is no pregame clubhouse access, so the only place you can get to a player is on the field.
The Twins know this and generally stay away from the ink-stained throngs, but Pierzynski never met a notepad he couldn't fill. He talks so much that you want to hand him a glass of water. He's the anti-Troy Glaus, who's as talkative as a butter knife.
Only one player has done more interviews than Pierzynski in the first two days of this series, and it's a player who isn't even playing. Denny Hocking got stepped on while the Twins were celebrating their division series victory over the A's in Oakland, and he's out for the ALCS. But he remains as popular here as Jesse Ventura does not.
Sure, Hocking's good people. Good quote, too. As gracious as the day is long. But come on. He's going to have less impact on this series than the guys selling Homer Hankies for $1.
But hey, any port in a storm, and that's what this is. Even without The Wave.
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.