04/12/10 9:44 PM ET
Bauman: Target Field is state-of-the-art
Twins' new ballpark fitting, suitable home for Minnesota
For many years, people in baseball have referred to the Twins with a broad and heartfelt range of respectful adjectives, such as admirable, intelligent, diligent, astute. The club didn't have tons of money, which made its success all the more remarkable. And the other thing Minnesota didn't have was a ballpark that would work for it in the 21st century.
That changed officially on Monday, with the home opener at Target Field, which provided both a promising beginning and a happy ending with a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
For the first time, the Twins have a facility that will not be shared with a National Football League operation.
"It's ours and our fans and the seats actually face home plate," said manager Ron Gardenhire, working in one more one-liner at the expense of the Metrodome. And why not?
"Everything that we've seen on the road in other ballparks -- new ballparks, the things that other teams have -- we've got here now," Gardenhire said. "We can stay in-house, our guys can work out, we can do aqua-therapy, we've got it all now. And we've got the outdoors. We've got grass. We actually have soap to wash our pants rather than get turf stains out."
Opponents had 28 years' worth of moaning, carping and complaining about the facilities and the idiosyncrasies of the Metrodome. But they weren't the primary victims.
"When you would go on the road, you would notice how much better you body felt," center fielder Denard Span said Monday about the effects of playing on an artificial surface at home.
The new place offers state-of-the-art creature comforts for the players and the patrons. The home clubhouse at the Metrodome was not the kind of place around which baseball dreams could be built, because there wasn't room. The Twins' digs are now at Major League level.
But this ballpark will be remembered for all of it that is on public view. It is an intimate place, without being a cramped place. Gardenhire said it reminded him a bit of what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland. That's a good thing. It's another new-as-old park, where you can have all the modern amenities but still feel that you are attending a ballgame in an earlier time.
"When you walk into the dugout in Cleveland you look up, you see the big scoreboard and it's just a beautiful ballpark," Gardenhire said. "I always thought it was gorgeous. And I thought with this one feels a little bit like the same thing, probably more so. It's a happening place. But they didn't go overboard and make it ridiculous. It's a gorgeous place."
Minnesota touches abound in the new yard. There is the Minnesota limestone, inside and out. Beyond the center-field fence there is a stand of Minnesota spruces. You look at the spruces and you wish there was also at least a small Minnesota lake, so one part of this could look like northern Minnesota, or, possibly, an old Hamm's beer commercial.
But even the trees might not be semi-permanent given early complaints by hitters that their presence might affect depth perception. If these complaints continue, there will not be a problem, as Gardenhire said: "We got plenty of chainsaws in Minnesota."
What about the weather, the crisis with the great outdoors? This was supposed to occur because, the Twins, at the end of a long political struggle to get their new home, could not prevail upon the appropriate authorities to include funding for a retractable roof.
There was no need for a roof -- retractable or otherwise -- on Monday. The game-time temperature was 65 degrees, a moderate wind blew from the southeast and the forecast for scattered showers missed on the side of being too wet. There were no showers, scattered or otherwise.
The truth is, a place without a retractable roof looks a lot better, that's just unavoidable. And the truth is, there will be problems with the weather, sometime, because this is the way it goes when baseball is played in its natural state, outdoors.
"It's way better than watching speakers sway when it's storming outside," said Gardenhire, weighing in with another Metrodome memory. "We actually might have a rain delay. That's all good and fine, too. That's baseball."
But what about the huge home-dome advantage the Twins had at the Metrodome, an advantage so large that they could win World Series in 1987 and '91 without winning a road game? Won't that be gone forever in a new place?
Left-handed starter Frank Viola, the MVP of the 1987 World Series for the Twins, said that the main issue for the opposition in the Metrodome was the noise.
"We lost as many balls in the roof as anybody else," Viola said. "The real problem for teams coming in was adjusting to the crazy noise in there."
Open-air Target Field can't be as wickedly loud as the Metrodome, but if Monday was any indication, noise will be created in the new place. This is a cozy ballpark, with a lot of people close to the action. With the Twins starting the season 6-2, those people are making a joyful noise. And that, Viola figures, is the deal.
"You play good baseball, you get the fans involved, I think that's the biggest thing," he said.
Said Span: "As long as we see Twins fans, we're going to be all right."
The primary emotion, beyond joy, on Monday was gratitude. This is a beautiful ballpark. It is now home to the Minnesota Twins. These two, connected facts made for good feelings.
"This is what you dream about when you're a kid playing baseball," Viola said. "This is the ultimate."
Joe Mauer, catcher, No. 3 hitter, St. Paul native, franchise centerpiece, said: "People have been waiting a long time for this. It's a special place and I'm glad it's here."
Good for the fans, good for the organization, good for the players, good for everybody involved. The Twins were referred to by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig as "a model Major League franchise" a designation Selig said they merited for the last three decades.
That's a large statement to make, but in the case of the Twins, it is not pandering. It is not overblown rhetoric. It is fact. And now, the Twins have a ballpark that is every bit as admirable as the attributes they have been displaying. Target Field should be a fitting, suitable and ultimately happy home for the Minnesota Twins.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.