Target Field has a few extra obstacles to overcome this year as April 1 approaches.
By TYLER MASONFS North
MINNEAPOLIS — On this day last year, temperatures in the Twin Cities would have been perfect for a baseball game — if only season were underway.
Now, one year later, a look outside at snow on the ground and more falling from the sky makes you wonder whether spring (and with it, baseball season) will ever come. But the
Minnesota Twins are just two weeks away from Opening Day at Target Field on April 1.
It's the first time since the downtown Minneapolis stadium opened in 2010 that the Twins will begin the season at home. From 2010 to 2012, Minnesota spent the first week of the year on the road, allowing the temperatures back in Minneapolis to warm up at least a few degrees before the team returned to Target Field.
The Twins won't have that luxury this year, and they're keeping their fingers crossed for good weather in the Twin Cities on April 1 when Minnesota hosts the Detroit Tigers.
"The reality of it is any time we're going to play baseball outside in Minnesota in the month of April, there's going to be risks of weather," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "The deeper you go into the April, probably the less risk. But there's never going to be a time in April where there isn't going to be some risk."
St. Peter said the Twins requested to start the season on the road in 2013, just like they've done every year since 2010. He noted that's likely how teams in Chicago and Detroit and other cold-weather climates approach the year, too.
But it's not up to the teams to decide their schedules. That job is left up to Major League Baseball, which for the first time in four years has the Twins opening at home.
"The reality is more than 15 teams request to be on the road. I'd be willing to guess that probably every team requests to be on the road to start the season," St. Peter said. "Major League Baseball tries to ensure the best possible weather, but there are going to be times where they're not going to be able to accommodate every request. … If it's only once every four years, I'm not sure that there's a lot I can complain about as it relates to that."
After last year's mild winter, head groundskeeper Larry DiVito and his crew have had their hands full this offseason at Target Field. While the ballpark has a field heating system that keeps the grass warm, the snowy winter has meant plenty of snow removal in the seating bowl, concourses and sidewalks outside of the park.
Additionally, there's been a lack of sun this winter, which DiVito said might mean that the Target Field grass will be slightly behind where it has been the last few seasons.
"You have building shade here, so some areas in right field are a little bit behind based on the amount of sun they're getting," DiVito said. "Not only is it cold, we're getting a lot of cloudy days too. We've been here a few years now. The difference between April 1 and April 10, it's pretty big in terms of the sun getting a little higher and the temperatures and everything."
Minnesota has an off day scheduled on April 2, one day after the season opener. That open date serves as a buffer in case inclement weather forces the opener on April 1 to be delayed a day. The Twins have had that same buffer in the past. Last year, there was no game scheduled on April 10, one day after the home opener on the 9th.
Tickets for the Opening Day game on April 1 would be good for April 2 if it were postponed, according to St. Peter.
"We're pretty confident we're going to play baseball on April 1," St. Peter said. "If not, we'll go back at it again on April 2."
This year's Opening Day game won't be the earliest baseball game played at Target Field. Back in 2010, the University of Minnesota baseball team played a game there on March 27. A few days later, the Twins hosted the St. Louis Cardinals from April 2-3 for two exhibition games to give the brand-new park a final test run. Weather was in the 60s both of those days.
With exactly two weeks until the 2013 season opener, it's too early to predict what the temperatures might be when the first pitch is thrown at 3:10 p.m. on Opening Day. All the Twins can do now is hope for yet another year of good weather at Target Field.
"I'm not sure that anybody's going to get too excited about highs in the 40s, but highs in the 40s are a lot better than single digits and snow and rain. Right now we'll take highs in the 40s," St. Peter said. "We're not too concerned about being ready to play baseball here on that day. There's no thoughts of canceling the game or moving the game. We're going to play in Minnesota on April 1 and hopefully get off to a great start."