7 Minute Miles

A Return to Baseball

Posted Sunday, April 11th, 2021 01:45 pm GMT -5 in Baseball, Food, Longform, Technology, Work

Looking back through the archives, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written about our baseball ticket group. State Farm Insurance Agent Kirk Detlefsen (and his family) have been running a Twins season ticket group for quite some time. I was introduced to them through my Northwest Airlines mentor six years ago and have been hooked ever since.

Each season, Kirk buys up a bunch of season tickets in different sections, then divides them into shares at various price points. A ticket “draft” is held every year and each shareholder picks the games they want to attend. Usually this is held in February in the Delta Club with snow on the field, guest speakers from the Twins and an assortment of ballpark food available for purchase. We didn’t have one at all in 2020 and the 2021 version was held via Zoom (of course). Kudos to all the Detlefsens for pulling that off (and managing 100% digital tickets for the first time ever).

The smallest share in the group is two tickets to two games in the Champions Club. Since these seats are super expensive (and generally not available to the general public via single game sales), this was a nice way to splurge once a year (I split the share with my uncle). After a few years of that, we switched to a share with two seats for ten games in the Delta Club. That’s what we currently have, although it appears that our actual seats may be all over this season because of capacity restrictions.

So what was the return of fans like?

To be honest, the thing I was looking forward to most were the new Andrew Zimmern KFC wings that Stephanie March wrote about for Mpls/StPaul magazine. They are available in Bat & Barrel (which will now be called Truly On Deck, but none of the signage has changed yet), so we headed there first. They still apparently take advanced reservations, as most tables had reserved signs on them and you couldn’t order food from the counter (just drinks at the bar). I asked the person standing at the podium if I had to order through the app, but she wasn’t sure. The tables had QR codes on them, so I scanned that, which took me to a menu page, but no link to order online. Hmm…

So let’s talk about apps for a minute. MLB offers several, but these are the two primary ones I’ve used (and had on my phone): MLB and MLB Ballpark. I could’ve sworn the first one used to be called At Bat, but maybe I’m making that up. The MLB app lets you follow games around the league, while the Ballpark app is supposed to handle all the stuff you need at an actual game – tickets, mobile ordering, Twingo. I opened the wrong app so many times – maybe I need to move them to different screens. I also added the ParkWhiz app to my phone today to park in Ramp A, but more on that later.

There were multiple reports across the league of issues with mobile ordering on opening day, so I was interested to see how the process worked. I was also under the impression that all food needed to be ordered from the app, but that was not the case at all. With limited stands open, lines were long all around the main concourse, but you could place an order at a stand and pay with a credit card (no cash accepted – Apple Pay did work fine, which has been an issue for me there in the past). Here’s what the Ballpark app screens looked like to order my KFC wings:

The first disclaimer screen comes up every single time you try to order. The app doesn’t automatically try to figure out where you are located, so you have to select from the drop-down menu, which has what seems like a million options to scroll through. When I selected Bat & Barrel, there was a limited selection of items – I could order the wings, but no drinks or sides. The app was not integrated with Apple Pay, so I had to manually enter my credit card information. My card got billed right away and the screen said I would receive a text message when my order was ready. The app didn’t ask for my number, though, so I never received a text. Also, once you closed the confirmation window, it was not obvious how to pull up your order info (with the important order number) and I did not receive any email receipts of the transaction. Later I found that you can access a “My Orders” section, but that is only available by starting a new transaction:

There was signage at the front serving area for mobile order pickup, but there was no one working there. After a few minutes of standing around, someone came and asked me if I was waiting for an order, then went back to the kitchen to get it. By this time, there were a few other people waiting too. When they brought out my food, it was in a stapled shut brown grocery bag that just contained the food in a container – there were no utensils or napkins. This was only the second game back after a year of no fans, so hopefully these issues will get worked out as operations get back into the grove. The quality of the wings was really good, but a cheese brat I bought later from the Kramarczuk’s stand was small and overcooked.

While it was great to be back at a game, we had a few other negative experiences. The digital tickets in the app say you must enter at the gate indicated, so we headed to gate 34 when we arrived. Since we were early, there was no one in line at all, but a guest service staffer immediately confronted us. She said this was an ADA entrance and wanted to see our “Sweet Spot” card on the app before letting us proceed (?). That part of the app was not working and she eventually just let us proceed to the empty security screening line. Guessing this process will also get better as the season progresses.

The announced attendance for the game was 9,817 and the concourses never felt overcrowded. People in general followed the mask and distancing rules while moving around, but the concession lines were tight and the group of “bros” behind us decided that since they were drinking all game long, they didn’t need to wear their masks. At all. Seat spacing was similar to the Saints last season, alternating rows with four-seat blocks on both ends in one row with two-seats blocks in the middle of the next. Blocked seats were zip tied shut, but one group asked an usher if they were supposed to cut them to sit (they were in the wrong section). We didn’t see any ushers trying to enforce mask rules, the scoreboard and PA announcements were minimal and it would be nice if the fancam operators would only show people following the rules.

With state regulations capping attendance at 10,000 right now, I don’t envy the task of the ticket office managers. We really like our experience in Delta Club and hope that we can have seats back in there later in the season. It was rather frustrating to see entire empty sections up there the whole game, but I’m guessing that’s because most people wanted to stay inside the warm part of the club (which we would have traded our 12th row seats for in a heartbeat – it never got above 47F). Target Field’s current published capacity is only 38,544, so jumping up to 50% shouldn’t be a huge change. It will also be nice to see the menus expand back to normal – Red Cow, for example, was not offering turkey burgers yet.

The final issue we had (aside from the dumb start-a-runner-on-second rule and Twins loss) was leaving the parking ramp. I drove up to the exit kiosk and opened the ParkWhiz app, only to find my barcode gone and a prompt to login. When I bought the parking pass earlier in the day, they sent me an email with a link to the barcode, but never asked me to set up a login ID and password. With people waiting behind me (and no staff at the exit), I had to pull my car over to the side, find the email, then get back in line. I will now know to have this ready before I start driving, but I wasn’t the only car that had to do this. If there was a regular-sized crowd exiting at the same time, this would be a disaster.

A return to hockey is up next for me tomorrow night (with another Twins game on 4/23). Stay tuned for more reports…

Originally published by DK on April 11, 2021 at 1:45 pm