Twins hoping for nice weather for April 7 home opener
MINNEAPOLIS — Two weeks from the Minnesota Twins’ home opener at Target Field, snow fell throughout the Twin Cities as one of the most brutal winters in recent memory has continued into the spring.
The long, cold and snowy winter that introduced Minnesotans to phrases such as "polar vortex" has created a mess for seemingly everyone in the state. The Twins are hoping it won’t affect their home opener on April 7.
"We know it’s a crapshoot. It’s April in Minnesota," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "The reality is it’s a crapshoot in April in Chicago and Cleveland and New York and Boston, and the list goes on. So we’re not alone in this. We’re hopeful that the weather will be gorgeous on April 7 in Minnesota."
Indeed, the Twins open up the 2014 season with games in Chicago and Cleveland — neither of which figures to be much warmer than Minnesota when the Twins’ season starts on March 31. But it’s not just the cold that the Twins have had to worry about this offseason. It’s the snow and ice that have been a bigger issue.
St. Peter said crews will continue to remove snow and ice from the seating bowls of the 39,000-seat stadium throughout the next week in advance of the home opener. The playing field, meanwhile, recently had the tarp removed to reveal perhaps the only green grass in the state thanks to the heating system that runs underneath the turf.
"We enjoyed tremendous weather in the first couple years at Target Field. The last couple years have been a little bit more challenging, but nothing like this winter," St. Peter said. "I’m happy to report, though, that the playing field again came through the winter really well. We have the tarp off last week and feel really good about our playing field in terms of playability for our players and the opposing teams."
Three straight 90-loss seasons have dampened the spirits of some Twins fans, as is evidenced by the ticket sales for next month’s home opener. St. Peter said the team still has between 4,000 to 5,000 tickets to sell for that first home game.
"We’ve got some work to do," he added. "I don’t think the cold weather has helped us to kind of get people thinking baseball."
When fans do get to Target Field for the home opener, some may experience added security at the gates. All parks in Major League Baseball must install metal detectors at the gates by 2015. The Twins, however, must do so earlier. Since Minnesota is hosting the 2014 All-Star Game in July, Target Field’s metal detectors will be in place by then.
In fact, St. Peter said the hope is that they’ll be fully implemented by May 1. The team plans to run a demonstration on the new system on Tuesday.
Also of note for the Twins’ home opener will be the presence of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an organization that raises money for cancer research. Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan was diagnosed with cancer this offseason, which is why both the Twins and Oakland A’s players will wear SU2C patches on their uniforms (as well as their hats during batting practice) in honor of Ryan, who continues to receive treatment for cancer that was discovered in his neck. Signs will also be distributed to fans to allow them to write the name of a friend, family member or loved one who has been affected by the disease.
"Some of that certainly is being done as we all kind of continue to think and pray about Terry Ryan and his recovery, as well as other cancer victims," St. Peter said. "There’s no doubt that everybody in that ballpark on Opening Day will know somebody that’s close to them that’s either dealing with or has dealt with cancer.
The Twins announced Monday that actor and Minneapolis resident Barkhad Abdi — who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in "Captain Phillips" — will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Free breakfast will be served on Target Plaza from 6 to 9 a.m., and former Twins Bert Blyleven, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Tom Kelly will ceremonially open the park’s four gates.
New food and drink items will be unveiled next week, while St. Peter said fans might notice a few other additions to the park. That includes enhanced WiFi throughout Target Field, as well as a new digital clubhouse.
The thing the Twins hope fans notice most, though, is an improved product on the field. Minnesota lost 96 games a year ago and had the worst starting rotation in all of baseball. Several moves were made to address that problem, and St. Peter knows it’s important that the Twins put together more wins to keep the fans in the stands.
"No doubt that shoring up the starting rotation I think gives fans some reason for hope," St. Peter said. "I know there are significant question marks about other aspects of our team, and our offense is one of them. But our fans want to get behind this team. We just have to give them a reason to do so by getting off to a reasonable start."
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