MINNEAPOLIS -- It was easy to spot Jill Arens in the crowd at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon. She was the only one wearing jersey No. 3,030,673. That's a special number to the Twins and, now, to Arens, who unassumingly entered Gate 6 at 11:30 a.m. CT, ready to take in the Twins' afternoon tilt with the Tribe, only to learn she had been selected to represent the 3,030,673rd fan to pass through the Target Field turnstiles this season.
It's a new single-season attendance record for the Twins, egged on by their beautiful new outdoor ballpark and a team that clinched its sixth American League Central championship in the past nine years. The previous attendance record of 3,030,672 was set in 1988 at the Metrodome. Twins CEO Jim Pohlad and club president Dave St. Peter were waiting at Gate 6, ready to celebrate that milestone, while Jill, who made the 30-mile trip from Elk River, Minn., with her husband Kevin, came here to celebrate her birthday. They soon found themselves celebrating together. "I'm just so excited," Arens said. "This is surreal." Though perhaps to not as "surreal" a degree, her excitement has been shared by many fellow Twins fans this season, in which outdoor baseball finally came back to the Twin Cities, with a championship team, to boot. With the Twins having locked up the AL Central title the previous night, Pohlad said that excitement was palpable, and a bit overwhelming. "In the first year of ballparks, almost universally, good things happen," Pohlad said. "We're glad it's happened here. Sometimes you feel you can't breathe. There's just so much excitement in so many aspects. But you take it when you can get it." Being No. 3,030,673 has its privileges, as Jill quickly learned. For starters, there was the home jersey, which Jill can now wear proudly, representing the millions who have taken in a Twins home game this year. She put it on as soon as it was handed to her. Then there was the framed print of the F-16 flyover on Opening Day, signed by Joe Mauer and Ron Gardenhire. It can now hang on the Arens' wall, right alongside that 2010 autographed team bat Jill also received. Jill will have four Commissioner's Box seats at her disposal for a game during the 2011 regular season, and $100 in fun money from Delaware North SportService, the Target Field concessionaire. Those are the tangible tokens of that fated trip through the turnstiles. But Jill will also have plenty of memories to share with friends and family after she tosses the ceremonial first pitch before the Twins' final Saturday game of the regular season on Oct. 2 and meets manager Ron Gardenhire after said pitch. "I'll be there!" she said. "I haven't pitched before. I'll have to go home and practice." With four more home games left in the 2010 regular season, the Twins will shatter their previous attendance mark, and they have Target Field and the fans to thank. "It's such a totally different experience for the baseball fans of Minnesota," Pohlad said. "It's so different than the Metrodome. And for the overall sports fans of Minnesota, it shows what a state-of-the-art sports venue can do for the area."