Gopher baseball kicks off indoors at the Vikings stadium

It was a cloudy, cold evening in February as the Minnesota Golden Gophers baseball team opened its 2017 home season under the lights, inside. They made history, February 24, as the first Division I baseball game played at the Minnesota Vikings stadium. (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

It also was the MSR’s first college baseball game we covered indoors. Not since the old Metrodome, where both the Twins and Gophers, who played there during the late winter portion of their season, have we watched baseball under a roof in downtown Minneapolis.

Other than the improved spacious press box and better sight lines, the new Vikings stadium didn’t look that much different than the old Dome. It had a purple ‘baggie’ covering the right field seats as well, but the newer version had a yellow line to indicate that a ball hit above it indicates a home run.

However, the only home run in a nearly five-hour contest, a nine-inning affair that Minnesota used a four run, fifth inning to defeat visiting Seattle was hit off the temporary left field foul pole by a Gopher player.

But before that first, senior outfielder Jordan Smith, the only Black player on both rosters, also made history as his fifth-inning double was the Gophers’ first extra base hit at the new stadium.

(Charles Hallman/MSR News)

“I did not know that until you told me,” he admitted to the Only One afterwards as we spoke on the converted field in front of the temporary “dugout,” a cage brought in specifically for the occasion. The player also offered his take on playing indoors at the new edifice.

Minnesota formerly played in the old Metrodome during the early portion of the season due to the time of year. They returned to the site for the first time since the dome was torn down a couple of years ago.

Smith assessed that “the football lights…weren’t too bad of a deal and we adjusted well.”  He described the turf as “a little bouncy. It’s a football turf, not like a baseball turf. You have to be very careful in the outfield that the ball doesn’t bounce over your head,” he advised.

Minnesota is scheduled to play 10 more games at the new stadium, beginning February 28 against North Dakota State, 6 pm CST.  The team will hopefully return to outdoor home games in April at Siebert Field weather permitting.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.