Featured Stories, Lutherans in Minnesota

Hot dogs, popcorn, and the Small Catechism

Lutheran Night at the Twins is becoming a sports institution

On July 30 or 31, if you find yourself in great need of a Lutheran for some reason, let me suggest that you try Target Field. Those are the 2012 dates for Lutheran Night at the Twins.

During Lutheran Night at the Twins at the Metrodome in 1994, Kirby Puckett (34) was honored with the Luther Award. Here, the Rev. Wilson Lugakingira, from Bukoba, Tanzania, shakes hands with Puckett while the St. Paul Area Synod’s then-current and former bishops, Mark Hanson and Lowell Erdahl, looked on. Photo provided by Mel Ott

“We started Lutheran Night at the Twins 19 years ago as a way of bringing a wide variety of Lutherans together with the intention of having fun,” explained Mel Ott, the pseudonym of the events’ organizer. “At the game, I got to introduce both Bishop Lowell Erdahl and Bishop Mark Hanson [both former St. Paul Area Synod (ELCA) leaders] to President Lane Seitz [Minnesota South District (LCMS) leader]. It took baseball to bring them together.

Ott loves the nation’s pasttime, and so do a lot of other Lutherans it appears. He is expecting 10,000-20,000 Lutherans in the stands each of the two nights of Lutheran Night at the Twins 2012.

‘Sportliness’ is next to Godliness

When the Twins were playing at the Metrodome — and sometimes not playing so well — tickets were fairly cheap. “We decided that we could easily add another dollar to the ticket price and raise a little money for a charitable mission,” Ott told Metro Lutheran. “Originally, the proceeds went most often to Lutheran Social Service (LSS), I believe.”

Now LSS has a different baseball fundraising experience. Lutheran Night at the Twins eventually established a relationship with Thrivent Builds, the cooperative effort of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity.

“Since moving to Target Field, we have been more hesitant to ask the fans attending the game to pay more, so we have tended to raise money through other means before the game,” Ott said. “We just present the check the night of the game.”

“In addition to the charitable aspect, I appreciate the recreational part,” Ott said. “We celebrate recreation and sportsmanship by spending this time together. And we too often minimize the power of recreation to draw people together.”

Ott added, “Isn’t God just as interested in recreation — re-creation — as in singing?”

With Lutherans, it’s always the music

Speaking of singing, Lutheran Night at the Twins has led to some new, creative, and humorous experiences. The Twins probably wonder just what kind of people these Lutherans are.

The first time ever that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was sung in Spanish at a Twins game was when the Rev. Tony Machado joined Ott for the classic.

“Isn’t God just as interested in recreation — re-creation — as in singing?”

Another time, a Concordia University, St. Paul, music professor accompanied the choir singing out that familiar tune with a jazz solo on his alto sax.

When the National Lutheran Choir offered both the national anthem and the baseball classic, conductor David Cherwien decided to make the song unique to Lutherans. He wrote, for the occasion, a descant part to “Take Me Out” based on “A Mighty Fortress.” The Twins publicity staff was a little nervous about such a change, but it came off without a hitch.

This year a group of Thrivent staff members will serve as the stadium choir.

“I like that we can have a public voice in front of a fun event,” said the Rev. Erik Strand, Edina Community Lutheran Church (ELCA), Edina. “Our folks really enjoy it.”

Lauren Morse-Wendt, also of Edina Community, said congregants especially liked having Lutherans on the field filming a Public Service Announcement about youth homelessness one year when LSS was deeply involved.

At press time, Ott was in negotiation with two Minnesota politicians — who are also Lutheran — about throwing out the first pitch. Not wanting the event to appear partisan, Ott will only have politicians participate if there are equal numbers of different stripes. (Watch the Metro Lutheran website, www.metrolutheran.org, for an announcement of the politicians’ names.)

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