Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homestand from HELL!

12 games in 11 days. Many vendors had this targeted as the toughest homestand of the year. I do remember a longer homestand at the Metrodome in the early 90’s (15 games in 16 days), but this set has a double header and no off day. I’m not sure we had any idea how bad it could get…

Thursday, July 14: It just happened to be my birthday. No big deal – There seems to be a game on my birthday every other year. Gametime temp: 85, Time of game: An unappetizingly long 3:08.

Friday, July 15: A very tolerable game except for the fact it started 20 minutes late due to late afternoon showers. As far as rain delays go, this one was hardly noticeable. Once it started the game moved along fast enough that vendors even decided to head over to our old stomping ground near the Metrodome for a post-game beer @ Maxwell’s.

Saturday, July 16: Starting to see evidence of the weather that is coming. The temperature wasn’t so bad (upper 80’s), but the dewpoint hit 80-81 degrees during the game. My clothes were embarrassingly saturated by the 5th inning. My shoes and socks were so sweat-logged that I squished tracks on the sidewalk walking back to my car.

Sunday, July 17: Here’s where the fun really began. Gametime temps were in the low 90’s, but a cloud cover made it almost tolerable. I made my 2nd appearance of the season selling water and soda. I thought it was the right decision until I found out the Twins decided to aid fans at the game by offering free water stations where people could fill their bottles for free. Not many fans knew about it, so at least they had to buy a bottle first to fill it with, but word spread throughout the stadium of this Free Water gold mine and people flocked to it. It was better than the obscene $4 I was charging, and besides most wanted an excuse out of the sun anyway. By the 4th inning, sales had ground to a halt as most everyone decided to leave their $35-65 seats for 2 innings and wait in lines 60-80 deep to save $4 on water.

Monday, July 18: Double header Game 1: This was a makeup game from earlier in the year. …and on that original April day, temps were in the mid to upper 40’s and I had chosen to sell HOT CHOCOLATE. Fast forward to today and temps are 90-95 with a heat index close to 110. Fortunately we weren’t forced to pick up the same product we had on the original game. With the free water stations around the stadium again today, I avoided Aquafina and decided to sell beer. There were probably only 20,000-25,000 in the stadium during the game, and very few people sat in the sun. Sales were scarce, but perspiration was not.

Game 2: I brought 2 of almost everything to shower and change between games. But I don’t own 2 of everything I need. This meant that after showering and changing into dry clothes, I had to put on a sopping apron and squishy knee pads. It was gross for only about 10 minutes, because by then, I was back in my drenched state from 3 hours earlier. I believe the temp @ 6 PM had risen to 98 degrees. At least the sun had gone down. By the time I left the stadium at around 10 PM, my bag containing 2 sets of waterlogged clothes felt like it weighed 30 lbs.

I got home about 11 PM, poured every wet item from the day into the washing machine and set it to the “Industrial Waste” Cycle. We are now half way done with the homestand (and past the halfway point of the season).

Tuesday, July 19: Dewpoints in Minneapolis reach record levels of 83 degrees. Gametime heat index was still around 110 degrees. It was definitely the most uncomfortable game so far. The sweat on my arms just would not go away. In fact my clothes soaked up every possible ounce of sweat on my body.

The most embarrassing point in the night was when I sat on the concrete half-wall at field level and left a butt-print made out of sweat from my shorts. I looked back at it from about 20 rows up and could still see it. It had that funny ass-shape heart to it. Had Wally the Beerman made it, people probably would have taken pictures with it, but my sweat just doesn’t carry the same clout.

Wednesday, July 20: Noon Start. Another HOT and sunny day. The squishy shoes are back. Many vendors commented how they wished today was the end of the homestand, and how nice it would be if it were over. This is the 8th game in 7 days. The humidity has dropped significantly, but temps are still in the mid 90’s. I actually passed on beer to sell Frozen Lemon Chills for the first time. They are lighter than water, and besides, there was no competition from free aid stations. Who knew that these would be such a hit? $4 apiece, and both kids and adults eat them up. (…wondering if some of the adults add a little clear liquid to them for a special treat) Unfortunately frozen products sell better in the sun than the shade, so it made for a much sweatier day.

Thursday, July 21: Enough about the weather… It’s actually one of the more comfortable nights I can remember. Anything is better than the last 5 days.

Tonight, I had the rarest of all sales. I had a guy ask me, “How much for the entire case of beer?” Now fans ask me that all the time, and I always tell them its $174 (that really is my case price; hard to believe when you can get it at the liquor store for 15-20 bucks). He remarked, “Don’t I get a deal if I buy the entire case?” My ears perked up.

This guy might be serious.

I said, “I’ll knock off $10 if you buy the whole case.” (Hoping he might tip enough to make up for it.) He told me to come back next inning with a full case of Bud Light.

I came back with a full case of Bud Light, and sure enough, he bought it. …Gave me $180 and said keep it. Not sure if that’s a $6 tip or a $16 tip, but it didn’t matter. It was only the second time in 23 years that has happened. The previous time, the case sold for $144.

Friday, July 22: I’m absolutely beat! … but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I got about 4 1/2 hours sleep last night after getting home @ 11:15 and beginning my daily laundry routine then getting up at 5:30 AM for my “real job”. Gotta make it through today, then it is all downhill through the weekend.

Tonight was the night I hit the wall. Maybe not physically, but mentally and emotionally. It was humid (again), Duensing pitched horribly, the Twins lost big, and the game went LONG (3 hours 20 min). …and it wasn’t just me. You could tell lots of vendors were cranky. There was lots of foul language and tensions were high. It was strange too, because business was actually pretty good. I think we all just need a break. Only 2 more weekend games to go. Both 3 PM starts. Hopefully the weather cooperates.

Saturday, July 23: It is beginning to get to all of us. No one is in a good mood. We just want this thing to be over with. Temps are in the 90’s, but a cloud cover makes it tolerable for the 3:!0 start. Tomorrow is the final day! In 24 hours this will be over with and life can go back to normal. Another vendor even commented, “I feel like I have been in battle.” We are tired of seeing each other and need a break.

Sunday, July 24: Last Game. We can get through anything at this point. Just let it be a fast game… Liriano STUNK today! His worst outing of the year. Slow game. (3 hours and 17 minutes). The first 3 innings took 1 hour and 55 minutes. Not what anyone wanted. Weather was fantastic. A perfect summer game. I’ve got nothing left to write or say. Except:

I’m so glad it is over and life can get back to normal for 11 days.

Here are the totals:

2004 Beers sold (83 ½ cases)

287 Lemon Chills

256 Bottles of Water

16 Sodas (hardly worth mentioning)

$16,777 in sales over 12 games (that’s not my take)

11 – 5-hour energy drinks consumed

9 – Power Bars

10 loads of laundry

1 nasty heat/sweat rash (I Spared everyone the details of this part)

Several cut up knuckles from sharp ice

NOW, 11 days off.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Marathon

Last night was a LONG night. Fortunately the Brewers were at Target Field, and the sales are always good in any sport when Cheeseheads come to town.

It was 99 degrees and muggy when I got to the ballpark. I was already sopping wet just from walking over from my car. It wasn’t even sunny because the clouds were starting to really build. It was going to storm sometime tonight. Some sort of delay was imminent.

I came upstairs to a light rain after our pre-game meeting and the tarp was out. We all had hoped that this would be just a quick storm and we would get the game underway soon.

The rain actually stopped about 6:45 and we had hoped we would get rolling. But first pitch at 7:10 came and went, and nothing happened. There was still no rain at about 7:30, but real dark clouds remained. The “Rain Delay” message was on the scoreboard.

For about an hour there was very little rain and fans were starting to wonder why officials weren’t getting the game underway. The official word was “lightning in the area”.

Great… We are holding up because of the potential of lightning. Most people were even in their seats.

But it was one of those Minnesota nights when you felt it coming.

It was kindof like that feeling you get when you know you are going to throw up. Your stomach starts to ache and you know what is next. You put it off as long as you can, but then you finally move to the bathroom and wait for it to happen. Then... BAM!

That’s what the delay was like. There were really dark clouds everywhere around the stadium for at least an hour. It was so hot and humid, the atmosphere was just ready to explode.

Then there was a new message on the scoreboard about 8 o’clock and an announcement was made.

“Due to impending Severe Storms, please move to the Concourse or an area of safety” OK, finally here it comes.

98% percent of fans moved from their seats. The other 2% figured their umbrellas and $7 ponchos would cover them and besides… they were here for the full experience of outdoor baseball.

Then it happened…

The clouds EXPLODED!

This was not the light rain first and then the heavy stuff. There was no warning. The faucet turned on to FULL and it poured as heavy as a monsoon. It looked like a blizzard in the stadium lights.

The remaining 2% of the fans in their seats went instantly scrambling for cover, but after about 6 seconds, they must have been soaked.

It rained so hard that you could barely see the fully lit scoreboard from the other side of the field where I was set up.

It downpoured like this for about 35 minutes. Probably 2-3 inches of rain in that short period of time.

40,0000 fans were packed into the concourse. It was so crowded, I stood on top of my beer case so people could find me. They could see me just fine, but in our stockyard like atmosphere, there was very little chance they could get to me any time soon.

So we waited for the duration of the storm. Very few fans left the stadium. The crowd seemed to know that we would get going as soon as it was over. Then the announcement everyone was waiting for was finally heard…

The game would start about 9:10 PM.

Now 9:10 is about the time that I usually am able to leave after the bottom of the 7th inning, and I was just getting started. Wow, this is getting to be a long night.

On the bright side, the temperature had dropped 25 degrees and it was actually a perfect night for baseball after the rain passed.

The game started at 9:11, and ended @ 11:41PM. I was home by midnight; put my clothes in the washer, had 2 Newcastles and a little something to eat. I was in bed by 1:30.

Do I wish we were still in the Metrodome…? No way!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

... The number you have reached...

If you have worked in a large company or building, you know that many of the telephone numbers of different employees are similar. With a little temporary dyslexia, it would be pretty easy to dial up the president of the company when you may be trying to get ahold of someone in the HR department.

Well, Target Field is a large building that is home to several large companies that all have similar telephone numbers. After the (612) area code, the first 5 digits are the same for many people in the ballpark.

One of my fellow vendors didn’t quite reach the right person last week. He picked up the phone to call our vending manager to check on the weather and heard a surprising voice on the other end. Here’s a little of how the conversation went:

Jeff: “Hello, Chris”

Manager: “This isn’t Chris”

(I need to explain that our manager has a good sense of humor, so with Jeff thinking he had dialed the correct number, the boss must be putting him on a bit…)

Jeff: “Right Chris, this is Jeff”

Manager: “No, this isn’t Chris”

Jeff: “Who is this?”

Manager: “This is Ron Gardenhire.”

(Now Jeff really felt like Chris was putting him on)

Jeff: “No c’mon Chris, quit joking around”

Manager (more sternly): “This isn’t Chris, this is Ron Gardenhire”

Jeff; “Seriously... Well how’d I get you?”

Manager (Gardenhire): “I don’t know… The switchboard must have put you through.”

Jeff: “Well what are you doing?”

Gardy: “Just sitting here watching the rain.”

Jeff: “OK, well sorry to bother you.”

Gardy: “No problem.”

Jeff hung up the phone looked at his call record and figured out the 2 digit mistake that crossed up the Target Field Vending Manager with the Minnesota Twins Manager.

The story was a big hit in the locker room that night, and we of course passed around the direct line number for kicks and to all program into our cell phones.

So next time you aren’t happy with the way the Twins are playing and have a suggestion for improvements on the field. Let me know.

Maybe for the right price, I can give you Gardy’s phone number and you can give him a call.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cold Beer - Guaranteed

I’ve sold beer on Christmas and New Years Eve before. I’ve driven through a blizzard to get to the Dome for a football game, but tonight was a first…

Vending while it snowed…

It was definitely the coldest game in Target Field’s brief history; 40 degrees at game time and a 17 mph breeze blowing in from left field. It was cold at first, but once I got moving it wasn’t so bad. I also wore additional clothing tonight. I had 2 long sleeve shirts on, a pair of thermal socks and 1 glove. (Yes, 1 glove... It is impossible to open a plastic bottle of beer with cotton gloves on, so I only used it on my “money hand”.) It started snowing in the 2nd inning and continued throughout the rest of the game. Not hard, but it was noticeable.

Fans tolerated the weather much better than they tolerated Liriano’s pitching performance in the first 3 innings. In between the 4th and 5th innings the musical selection was Jingle Bell Rock. There were other holiday selections played during the game, and most everyone sang along. It was a bit odd listening to thousands of people singing Christmas Carols on April 27th, but it is outdoor baseball and fans seemed to be enjoying the novelty of the weather.

Santa Claus was there, he was actually sitting next to a guy in a gorilla suit. They looked like Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi from the set of “Trading Places”. I’m sure they were a lot warmer than the 3 guys without shirts by the dugout on the third base side.

I guess it could’ve been worse. Talking to Ron Coomer down by the dugout in the 3rd inning, I asked him what the coldest game he ever played in was. He told me about an April game in Detroit where the entire warning track around the field was completely frozen solid and covered in ice. They played through it.

Tonight, more people were standing up in the concourse by the overhead heaters than in their seats. Actually, at one point in the seventh inning I counted exactly 5 fans in section 332. (Glad I wasn’t assigned there.)

Twins fans bought less than they normally would, and hot chocolate was in high demand. I heard one soda vendor shout, “Ice Cold Killebrew Root Beer HERE!” and thought to myself, someone in his advertising department should be fired.

I even left out the words “Ice” and “Cold” when advertising beer tonight. The temperature of my product was really irrelevant, and people didn’t need to be reminded of anything cold.

Tomorrow is a double header to make up for last night’s rainout. Weather conditions look to improve throughout the day.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hot Chocolate and the Rainout

First rainout of the season in only the 6th game. I’m disappointed because I chose Hot Chocolate to sell over beer. Temps were in the low 40’s and there was a steady drizzle. Tips wouldn’t be the same, but I figured I could make up for it in volume. 3 guys ahead of me in seniority took it, so I wasn’t the only one thinking it could be a good money maker for the night.

Cocoa is $6.75 and it comes in a souvenir cup. Besides that, I don’t have to card anyone tonight.

Then it happens. Notice on the scoreboard… “Tonight’s game has been postponed”. 30 minutes in and I had already sold 38 cups. Fans were even buying on the way out the gate

It was hardly worth the drive down here and the evening wasted for that… I’m sure many fans felt the same way.

Weather looks better for tomorrow and maybe we have turned the corner on the winter that just won’t end. Next stop 90 degrees and bottled water in June. Let’s hope so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Opening Day – Season 2

3 ½ weeks ago we stood in Target Field for orientation and it was 25 degrees and the wind was making it feel like the low teens. There was still ice on the field and 3’ piles of snow in the seats. Every vendor wondered how it was going to be possible to climb stairs for the start of the season. In 2010, the weather was perfect for outdoor baseball. There was only 1 rainout and 1 delay. We figured 2011 was likely to be payback?

Fast forward to today, April 8… and there couldn’t be a nicer forecast for a Friday Spring day. The weather keeps looking better and better for the Twins Home Opener today at 3:10. Latest I heard was 65 and sunny. I even packed the work shorts at the last minute, just in case.

Everyone has probably heard that Wally won’t be back for 2011. Neither will Ed. I have reread my blog entry about “The Sting” and still can’t believe it happened.

We lost 2 other guys to retirement, so I moved up 4 spots in seniority since 2010 from 24 to 20. I’ve been doing this since 1989 and finally cracked the top 20. Moving 4 spots is a big jump… I don’t think I’ve moved 2 spots in a season in the last 10 years.

Beer will be $7.25 this year… up a quarter. That is both good and bad. The jingle jangle of coins makes people think of tipping more, but $14.50 for 2 beers makes for a small tip if the customer gives you 15 bucks. $29 for 4 beers (criminal, I know) leaves only a buck leftover. Guess I will just have to “work it” more this year.

There is a new beer available from vendors this year. We finally have Coors Light. It is the most common beer people have asked for over the past few years. I think I might even give it a shot today (selling, not drinking) with Grain Belt.

There is just “something” about Opening Day. As the ESPN commercial says, “It’s not just Flag Day… It’s the world’s biggest flag Day.” There will be a flyover after the anthem. There is nothing comparable to having five F-16’s roar about 500 feet above the Target Field.

It’s also the start of another long summer. 81+ games to work, and a long way to go to the finish line.

Let’s play ball.