While the Twins have won a division championship more recently than 2010, they have not had the chance to celebrate the moment with their hometown fans in over a decade. In 2019, the Twins were in Detroit when they clinched the division title. In 2020, the Twins were in Chicago, and fans were all on their couches, too.
Twins fans were more than aware of the implications of Friday night's game, and the playoff-like atmosphere at the ballpark was rocking from before the game started until after the last out.
Twins fan Megan Knops has a 20-game ticket plan and even traveled to see the team play in Baltimore, but the atmosphere she noticed at Friday’s game was unlike anything she had seen all year.
“Everyone was all in from the start,” Knops said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen everyone stand for the lineup announcements outside of the home opener. It was an incredible atmosphere,” she said.
Twins fan Kristy Tonderum works for Delaware North in the nonprofit program that runs the concession stands during the games, so she is at every Twins game. But because her job mainly takes place pregame, she was able to catch the game from the stands with friends.
"Even pregame, people were excited. Most seem cautiously optimistic," Tonderum said. "The atmosphere was electric. The vibes are so good."
Fans' eyes were glued to the out of town scoreboard because the Twins were able to clinch on Friday with two scenarios: 1. The Twins win, or 2. Detroit and Cleveland both lose. Once the Guardians won their game in walk off fashion, fans knew the Twins had to get the job done themselves.
Twins fan Kenny Devine has been to 37 games so far this season, and he, too, thought Friday’s game was decidedly different.
“I think there is a certain weight that comes with playoff baseball. Each pitch means a little bit more and feels that way. The ballpark had that feel tonight. It was electric,” he said.
Devine remembers watching the Twins win their run of division championships as a kid in the early 2000s, and he now has an even greater appreciation on how special of a feat winning a division championship is. He was not going to miss a chance to see Twins wave the championship banner in person.
“I’m a big baseball history fan, especially when it comes to the Twins. Tonight was a night you don’t take for granted," Devine said.
“Growing up with the Twins in the 2000s, I think I took it for granted that we would win the Central. I don’t have that mindset anymore and was very happy to be able to celebrate this team winning the division," he said.
During the game, the park’s lower level was almost full, and fans in the upper sections filled many of the seats until the last row. Fans stood on their feet for the entire top of the ninth 9th inning and did a slow clap before potential Jhoan Durán strikeouts.
Once the Twins got the final out in the ninth inning, the party was on.
Fans in the crowd wrapped each other up in big hugs. The Twins players mobbed each other on the infield, passed out division championship shirts and hats, and waved around a giant championship banner. Manager Rocco Baldelli and other Twins players like Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober ran along the field sidelines to high-five the crowd. Ushers were giving out high fives to fans. Twins players chased after their young children on the infield and took pictures with their families, and all Target Field screens displayed “AL Central Division Champions 2023.”
“We’re going to get that first win since 2004, I promise you that,” Kyle Farmer assured the crowd in his postgame interview on the big screen while holding his young son, sparking huge cheers from the fans.
Many fans stayed in the stands for about 20 minutes after the game until Twins players exited the field to begin the team’s champagne-soaked celebration in the clubhouse. Fans took pictures and lingered in the seats, soaking in the night's joy. Others outside the ballpark crowded around the giant screen near the transit station, where the Twins were broadcasting Bally Sports North's coverage of the clubhouse celebration.
While everyone was celebrating, the Twins announced on the big screen that 2023 AL Central Division championship merchandise was now on sale in the team stores. The much-coveted Homer Hankies would be on sale at 10 a.m. the next day, September 23.
While Twins fans in attendance allowed themselves to bask in the glow of the team’s first division championship since 2020, they also knew that the job is not finished: playoffs lay ahead. And fans are feeling optimistic that this is the year and lineup to finally break "the streak."
“I truly believe this is the team that will end the streak and bring a huge party to Target Field,” Knops said. “They are so well-rounded and are hitting their stride at the right time,” Knops said.
It probably is not necessary to remind the reader that the Twins have lost a practically-statistically-impossible 18 playoff games in a row. But this year is different, said fans on Friday.
“The streak will end. And I can’t wait,” Tonderum said.
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Were you at the ballpark to witness the Twins clinch their 2023 playoff berth? What did you think of the atmosphere? Or, if you were watching the game from elsewhere, how did you celebrate? Let us know with a COMMENT below.