With Dome gone, Twins still believe in home edge
The Metrodome was a clear boost for the Minnesota Twins:
friendly bounces on the turf, lost fly balls by bewildered
opponents, and that roof-amplified roar of the crowd.
Those benefits are gone, but as the Target Field era begins the
Twins are confident their new ballpark will offer just as much of
“Good baseball players can play anywhere,” manager Ron
Gardenhire said. “We know the Dome was an advantage, but it was
more of an advantage because other teams hated going in there and
The Twins will break in their new home when they host the Boston
Red Sox on Monday afternoon, a day fresh-air-craving fans and an
amenity-seeking team have been desiring for more than a decade.
“I think it’s a neutral field now. I don’t think they get an
advantage,” Red Sox infielder Bill Hall said. “But I still feel
like they are going to be a good team on that field.”
The Twins played 28 weather-protected seasons at the Metrodome,
using the noisy, quirky stadium to win two World Series, and five
division titles in their last eight years inside. For now, though,
with a loaded lineup and customers clamoring for tickets,
39,500-seat-capacity Target Field ought to provide plenty of energy
“They’re going to pack this place and be behind this team the
same way,” Gardenhire said. “They’re what lifts our spirits and
lift you up during the course of the game. So we’re moving over
with our fans to our ballpark, and believe me we can make this just
as intimidating as the other place.”
Rain delays are now a factor, of course, and there will be some
cold April (or October) evenings without the roof. Precipitation
statistics suggest fewer postponements than lakefront or seaboard
cities to the east, however, and the Twins only have three night
games scheduled before May 3.
The visiting teams are just as eager for a new environment.
“I hated that dome,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said,
adding: “You couldn’t see the ball when it went up. You had those
speakers hanging off the thing. I felt like I was in an office
Last season, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen – weary of
all the games his team lost at the Metrodome – issued a challenge
to the rival Twins.
“I want to see the piranhas in a different lake next year,”
Guillen said, using the metaphorical nickname he gave the Twins
four years ago for the pesky, fundamental style they used then of
slap hitting and hustling.
Actually, the Metrodome wasn’t as much of a boon for the Twins
as the baseball world would have believed. Though the rebuilding
teams of the late 1990s had a significant negative impact on their
won-loss record, the Twins posted a .541 winning percentage during
the regular season at the Metrodome. During that time, according to
STATS LLC, the major league average was .540.
Plus, despite the advantage they enjoyed in the 1987 and 1991
playoffs, the Twins lost their last eight postseason games at the
Dome, with their last such win coming in Game 1 of the 2002 AL
Off-the-field comfort might benefit the Twins as much as
anything with the move. Players often complained of the dim
atmosphere under the roof when they came inside on a sunny
afternoon, and the facilities – shared with football teams and all
kinds of other events – were substandard.
“We were packed in like little rats,” center fielder Denard
The sparse weight room was halfway around the stadium, next to a
makeshift batting cage.
“If guys were taking batting practice in the cage, you might
get hit while you’re doing a bench press,” catcher Joe Mauer said.
“It’s definitely an upgrade.”
At Target Field, they’ll have all the modern resources and
comforts, from underwater treadmills in the training room to plush
furniture in the clubhouse.
“Home-field advantage is sleeping in your own bed and driving
to your park 81 times,” first baseman Justin Morneau said.
“That’s kind of what you get used to.”
The Twins wanted a park that played fair, not a bandbox, but not
too spacious in the outfield. They wanted the grass at average
length, not too slow. It certainly won’t be as fast as that
artificial turf was at the Dome.
It’ll be a while before it’s possible to assess, while players
get used to the wind currents and the summer warmth and moisture
begins to affect the way the balls travel.
The big blue baggie that served as a right-field wall at the
Metrodome didn’t make it, but in about the only ode to their former
home the Twins have the same setup at Target Field – a short 328
feet from home plate and a 23-foot wall requiring clearance for
home runs. The difference is a limestone-faced overhang that
extends over the playing surface that could cause some tricky
caroms during doubles off the wall.
“I’m sure as the summer goes along you’ll see a few wacky
things,” Gardenhire said.
One of the biggest changes is a shorter distance to left-center
field, 377 feet down from 385 feet at the Metrodome.
With a left-heavy lineup, the people on the plaza behind right
field might want to keep their heads up in case Morneau or any of
the other lefties connect. Because the Metrodome had the same
dimensions to right, the Twins aren’t changing the way they build
their team much at all.
“We never tried to build our team specifically to the
Metrodome,” general manager Bill Smith said, adding: “We’ve
worked hard to get left-handed. It played to our ballpark before,
and it will play to this one. But also being strong left-handed is
always a plus.”