This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.
The 2016 Minnesota Twins season concludes this weekend. All season long we searched, and on the last unofficial day of summer, Labor Day, the Only One finally located a Black family at a Twins home game.
Keep in mind that in the downtown Minneapolis ballpark, on the team that most resembles a pre-Jackie Robinson-era squad, to find Black fans is rare. It’s even rarer to see them stay from first pitch to final out, regardless of the score.
LaSaundra Dagenais, her seven-year-old daughter Maddison Dagenais and son Colton, age five and Ronisha Williams and her 12-year-old daughter Amaria were among the 22,000-plus crowd at the 13-11 afternoon slugfest. We saw them sitting in the second deck section located under the Twins press box. Afterwards they graciously spent a few post-game moments talking with the MSR.
“It was fun, and there were balls coming up to where we were sitting, a whole lot of them. And I have one,” exclaimed Amaria, who snagged one of those foul balls from a sportswriter after one landed in the press box.
“I really enjoyed it,” added her mother Ronisha.
The Williamses were guests of Dagenais, who got tickets through her husband’s job. “It was our first experience for all of us to go to a Twins game,” she explained. “We didn’t know what seats we’d get until we got here. We [were] so close to the field!”
However, also noticeable were how the five served as their section’s entire diversity quotient that afternoon. “We noticed when we got to Target Field that we were outnumbered,” continued Dagenais. “We saw a lot of Caucasians in the stands. We were the only Black people in our section. And we were loud.”
“I did noticed [the lack of diversity]” as well, observed Ronisha.
Perhaps the Twins’ marketing wizards over the off season will look seriously into more than token outreach efforts to lure more Blacks to their games, attracting more folk like the aforementioned five who enjoyed their first time there, rather than falling back on the typical “Blacks like basketball and football more” excuse.
“I didn’t know about [baseball], but I learned” about the game as it progressed, admitted Ronisha. “I’m glad my daughter got to experience it as well.”
Blacks do like baseball if given the chance. Perhaps one day we can use a calculator rather our fingers to count the Blacks at Twins games.
Asked if she’d come to another Twins game, perhaps as soon as next season, Amaria said, “I would love to come to another game.” Said LaSaundra, “It was a lifetime experience and we cherished the moment.”
Could this be the start of an expanded Twins Black fan base?
Batboy Frost leaves with good memories
Dominic Frost last weekend finished his six-year stint as the Twins batboy. The soon-to-be 23-year-old was the only Black non-player or coach in the home team dugout.
“They treated me like I’m part of this team,” said Frost to the MSR last week. “It’s been a good six years working for this organization. I loved all the fans that have shown me love during the games like I’m one of these players. It helped me to do the job a lot easier.
His first game in the spring of 2011 still ranks as his fondest memory, recalled Frost. “Being out there and looking around [the ballpark]… There’s 30,000 people here.”
Frost’s up-and-down, in-and-out role during games mainly consisted of retrieving players’ equipment and replenishing baseballs for the plate umpire. Asked how many times he’s been out of the dugout, he estimated, “I would say at least a hundred times.” The longest game he worked was 15 innings.
This season Frost wasn’t at his usual post during four home stands. “It’s a little different being the clubhouse guy when [Minnesota Pitching Coach] Neil Allen’s son came up to be batboy” noted the young man. “I was in here helping out with laundry during the game.”
Now a father of a seven-month-old daughter, Frost’s youthful appearance hides his real age. “I look 12 [years old],” he said smiling.
His future plans include a possible tryout next year with the St. Paul Saints. “If not, I will go to firefighters’ academy and try to become a firefighter,” said Frost.
He said he will miss the Twins. “It’s been a pleasure being here. I just hope the best for next year.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.