The Back Door

Jim Schortemeyer

Looks aren’t everything.
Take a Minnesota Twins game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for instance. With student tickets costing $1 on selected dates, some University students have caught a Twins game.
All a fan sees is a carnival, a cavalcade of pop music on the speakers and images on the “Jumbotron.” A myriad of images and sounds followed by a crack of a bat and a diving catch.
But behind the seemingly seamless show is a platoon of workers whose jobs make up the atmosphere of a ballgame. There’s one worker whose sole job is to decide which camera shots to show on the Jumbotron screens.
An organist cranks out music to the entire Metrodome, like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and all the other ballpark standards.
Beer vendors roam the stands in search of buyers, while sweaty employees work a rush at the concession stand.
A small squad from a local television station operates the cameras and the television truck outside the stadium brings the game outside the teflon roof.
During a game, everybody who isn’t a fan is doing something.
Amid all the craziness, the Metrodome is like just like any other place of business. There’s someone who hates their job, someone who loves it and someone who’s just working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They don’t all watch the game and many of them don’t know which team won at the end of the night. They’re just trying to focus on their job, to make the production run smoothly.
The games are part work and part show. Out in the stadium, entertainers like “Fanatic” and “Funatic” roam the crowd to keep spirits up during a Twins losing streak. Wally “The Beerman” tosses out one-liners and brews at an equally rapid-fire pace to keep fans happy and in their seats.
Back inside the inner framework of the Metrodome, Wally wipes the smile off his face and splashes his face with water from a sink in a men’s bathroom. Not far away, a roomful of stadium employees are only concerned with keeping the roof up, and hardly notice when the opposing team hits a home run.
Tucked in a corner between the lower and upper decks of the stadium behind home plate is the press box. Believe it or not, the writers are working too. Sportswriters get a chance to spread out in the now underused Metrodome press box, thanks to the Twins’ string of sub-.500 seasons.
What goes on behind the veiled curtain of a ballgame is an interesting and often unseen world, and for one recent home game the Twins let staff photographer Jonathan Chapman behind the scenes to see what — and who — makes a sporting event happen.