Twins set for final Metrodome season
Team hopes to earn title before moving to Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's a building that's synonymous with Minnesota sports.It's been the site of two World Series, a Major League Baseball All-Star Game, two NCAA Final Fours and a Super Bowl. But in 2009, the Metrodome will host its final season of baseball, as the Twins say goodbye following 28 seasons of playing under the white roof. Minnesota's final season inside the Dome will kick off on Monday night when the club hosts the Mariners. And over the course of the 81 home games this season, the Twins will do their share of celebrations to send off the Dome in style as they prepare to open Target Field in 2010. They'll don throwback uniforms from the ballpark's first year, 1982, on Saturdays, and every jersey worn during the season will feature commemorative patches. They'll also have a video tribute, counting down the 100 most memorable moments inside the building, along with completing a game countdown to their new ballpark that began last season. But unlike other ballclubs -- such as the Yankees -- that have recently said goodbye to their previous parks, the Twins aren't necessarily overly emotional about leaving the place they've called home for so long. "We've had a lot of good memories in there, and we'll celebrate those this year," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "But this new ballpark is going to be spectacular. While the Metrodome has been a tremendous building for Minnesota, it's not a good baseball park." The Metrodome has certainly shown its quirks throughout the years, which many people have said created a tremendous home-field advantage for the Twins. With its white Teflon roof that made it hard to track fly balls, and slick turf that's created some awkward bounces, the Dome often frustrated visiting teams. The crowd noise also could play havoc on Twins opponents when the place was packed, particularly when the curtain's raised during playoff contests to allow 55,000-plus fans. Opposing teams have even gone so far to say the Twins used air circulation fans to create "wind" in their favor during games. But outfielder Michael Cuddyer says that all of that talk of the Dome's home-field advantage is a little exaggerated -- at least it is now. "I think over the years, it's kind of lost its mystique," Cuddyer said. "With the white roof, you could make a case that the club had a tremendous advantage. But as that roof has gotten dirtier and dirtier, it's gotten easier and easier to see the ball." Yet the park's unique elements, such as the roof -- no matter what its color -- and the baggie in right field, have led to some of those "only in the Metrodome" type plays over the years. There was the fly ball that Dave Kingman hit to the roof back in 1984, one that never came down because it went through one of the drainage holes. There was David Ortiz's blast in 2006 that looked like it was headed directly at a banner honoring Kirby Puckett in the upper deck of right-center field before slamming off a speaker and leaving the Red Sox designated hitter with just a single. And for all of its zaniness, the Metrodome has also been the site of many memorable moments in baseball history. Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. each recorded their 3,000th hit inside the Dome. The Twins won both of their two World Series titles in the building, which included Puckett's infamous Game 6 home run in 1991. "There have been some pretty special moments, and it's those that you'll want to remember, not particularly the building where they took place," said Twins starting pitcher Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native who grew up going to the Dome for Twins games. "The Metrodome is not necessarily a place you say you want to forget, but it's not the most fun place to play." One thing that the Metrodome has always provided the Twins with is the knowledge that no matter what the weather, the game will be played. "Unless the roof leaks," manager Ron Gardenhire joked. All kidding aside, the Twins say they'll miss the consistency of baseball under a roof -- with games starting on time and the temperature always at 68 degrees. But that's nothing compared to knowing that next year they'll once again be playing under the Minnesota night sky. And while they'll face new elements with playing outdoors, unlike the Dome, those will be more practical. "It's going to be a new era, and that's the way baseball is supposed to be played -- outside," Gardenhire said. "We're going to get back out there. We're going to have issues like every other team has now -- the possibility of rain and delays and no batting practice. We'll live with it like every other team does, but nobody's going to be able to blame it on us turning on the fans anymore." The team still has one more season in the Metrodome where its opponents will be able to blame those "wind-currents" for the club's success. And while the Twins are already excited about moving into their state-of-the-art ballpark across town next year, the hope is that they can first close out their history in the Dome with a third World Series title. "I think the goal is to send the Dome out with a champion," Cuddyer said. "We know we have 81 games left here at the Dome. Hopefully we make those 81 games special and then move on."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.