Diamond Devils at MetroDome


Written By: Banks Faulkner – June 8-12, 2009

This past Monday our, 18u Diamond Devils team traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a showcase tournament hosted by Perfect Game featuring some of the top teams and talent in the nation. The highlight of our trip was the opportunity to play four games at the MetroDome, home of the Minnesota Twins. I have been very fortunate to play and coach on some outstanding teams and travel to some fantastic places but nothing in my baseball life so far compared to having the experience of stepping onto a major league baseball field that had played host to some of baseball history’s most famous moments and games.

Our trip began early Monday morning with a flight out of Charlotte. I traveled with one of our players, Brandon Beans, and we met the remainder of our team at the Minneapolis airport. We quickly realized we had left the warm temperatures and sunshine back with us in South Carolina. When we touched down, we were greeted by a high of 63 degrees with clouds that didn’t allow the sun to break through until Wednesday. Coach John Rhodes was waiting for us with vans to make the short trip to our hotel, right across the street from the Mall of America. We got checked in and settled for the week. I had the good fortune of rooming with Coach Danny West for the week.

After getting checked in, we walked across the street to the Mall of America. I had heard stories about how big it was but you really had to see it to appreciate it. Although I am not much of an expert on shopping malls, I doubt there is anything that can compare to this. Imagine walking in and seeing an amusement park with four roller coasters, a log ride, and about twenty other rides as well. To top it off the mall had an 18-hole putt-putt course and more stores that I care to think about. We became very familiar with the mall as we would eat lunch in it every day and dinner as well. The choices were pretty much endless.

After eating lunch, we met in the lobby of the hotel to go over the afternoon’s plans. We took our first of many adventurous rides together for the week. People in Minnesota do not understand the idea of a "right of way" and will not hesitate to pull out in front of you at a moment’s notice. As we pulled up to the MetroDome, the task became finding out where we were supposed to park the vans. After a few trips around the Dome, the third time proved to be the charm and after a close call on a left turn we arrived safely in one of the Dome’s many adjacent lots. From the outside, the Dome showed her age and was nothing very fancy. As we walked inside, you started to get the sense that you were walking into a major league venue.

minnesota-dd09.jpgAfter a thorough bag check (one of many on the trip) we walked around the concourse and into the Dome’s interior. The first thought that went through my mind was how COLD the Metro Dome was. I have to admit that I am cold-natured but I do not see any way the temperature was above 60 degrees inside the building. Thankfully I had worn a long sleeved shirt for the game. As we looked around the Dome, I realized this would be the first time I had played, coached, or watched a baseball game indoors. The Dome seemed larger than it actually was without a large crowd inside, it was so quiet. As I looked upwards to the white roof I wondered how our players would be able to handle pop flys. As it turns out, we’d handle them without incident although the roof did come into play on a couple balls that we hit.

Our first game set the tone for the entire week as we received quality pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting. We saw the first of many 90 MPH arms but our players did a great job of adjusting and found a way to win 3-0 against the Midwest Blazers. One thing that stands out in my mind was a comment Drew Cisco made to me when I asked him about the mound. He just said it was "perfect".

We had to be up early the next morning for a 9 AM game against the Illinois Sparks and we won again, this time 5-0. I saw one of the best prep arms I have seen in person in the next game against the Orlando Scorpions. AJ Cole threw his first pitch of the game at 95 MPH and didn’t move off of this velocity in his two innings of work. I was told he is projected to be a top pick in next year’s draft. Our players rallied from a 1-0 deficit to win a tight 2-1 game. Ryan Connolly did a great job in the 7th for us, working around a lead-off triple to strikeout two and the game ended with the Scorpions trying to steal home on the throw back to him.

Another 9 AM start took us back to the Dome Wednesday morning and we stranded a lot of baserunners and wound up tying a talented team from Florida 1-1. We defeated a team from Minnesota later in the day 8-1, tied the same team again the next day 2-2 with a rally in the 7th inning, and finished with a 3-0 victory over the very talented East Cobb Astros.

The trip was a rewarding one for our team as we were the only team to go undefeated on the week. More importantly, I think our players grew more comfortable playing together and this experience should serve us well the remainder of the summer.

On a personal level, this was one of the most enjoyable weeks I have had in baseball. To have the opportunity to coach four games in a major league stadium that was the site of one of the most historic Game 7’s in World Series history and to see the only yellow seat in the building that was the place Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 homerun in the 1991 World Series landed was a dream come true. This trip is one I will always remember and I’m sure our Diamond Devils and coaches feel the same way.