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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: As stadium deals go, Target Field a winner for Minnesota

FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins are eight days from opening their 10th season in Target Field. The results in the standings are not what was anticipated, certainly not after the tremendous opening season of 2010. Those Twins won 94 games, a sixth AL Central title in nine years and sold 3,223,640 tickets, a franchise record that could stand for baseball’s eternity.

The Twins have been in the playoffs once since then, for a wild-card loss in 2017, and have lost between 92 and 103 games five times.

Mostly, blame pitching … certainly not the ballpark.

In this era of taxpayers across the nation being gouged excessively to finance stadiums to maintain an area’s major league status, Target Field has been a triumph for both the method of collecting the public dollars and the share of the millions coming from the primary tenant.

The state and the city of Minneapolis were unwilling to participate, and it took the Hennepin County commissioners to put their heads on the guillotine and guarantee the future of major league baseball in Minnesota.

They did this by approving a .15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County – three cents on a $20 purchase, as proponents always would say, and as close to pain free as you could get to wind up with a beautiful urban ballpark, and fit miraculously into small acreage.

The original construction cost was to be $390 million -- $260 million from a ballpark authority through the sales tax, and $130 million from the Twins. Hennepin County also budgeted $90 million for infrastructure (land, etc.), and the Twins added $15 million when that fund came up short.

The Twins also added $45.5 million as the stadium was being built. On opening day, the county was on the hook for $350 million (plus interest) and the Twins had committed to $190.5 million.

The Twins and the naming sponsor, Target, also split the $9 million cost for the plaza that serves as the gateway to the ballpark.

The Twins have continued to make improvements during Target Field’s first decade. With this year’s changes, the Twins will have spent $42 million to update the stadium since it opened.

Give the Twins credit for half the cost of Target Plaza and the team has now added $107 million to its original $130 million for a total of $237 million. Hennepin County’s number is $350 million.

(Note: The authority and the Twins also have split the cost of another $6.7 million in recent projects, but that complicates the math.)

The Twins are now at 40 percent of the dollars put into Target Field, and are the reason that it’s a better ballpark than when it opened for an exhibition game vs. the Cardinals on April 2, 2010.

This seemed worth a look after the recent report that Hennepin County has been able to fund $23 million worth of youth sports projects through the same .15 sales tax used to create Target Field.

Mike Opat, the Hennepin County Commissioner who was at the forefront of the push to build a ballpark and maintain the Twins in Minnesota, said: “We’ve also spent a like amount -- $23 million – to keep our libraries open on weekends and longer hours as part of the Target Field initiative. And that library fund is going to last through the 30 years of the Twins’ lease.

“Libraries and youth sports. Hennepin County wants our youngsters to be both athletic and literate.’’

Opat laughed at this, but he's also proud that 10 seasons later, the Target Field effort has guaranteed a baseball franchise, completed playgrounds and kept open librairies. 

Bethel's Jake Marsh back as a starter, now on pitching mound

FORT MYERS, FLA. – There are five fields at the historic Terry Park baseball complex in the city of Fort Myers. Those ballyards are occupied for the most part by Division III teams from the North at this time of year.

The Bethel Royals were assigned to the field named for Connie Mack for a doubleheader of 7-inning games starting at 9 a.m. Sunday. Mack was the owner and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for a half-century and brought the A’s here for spring training from 1925 to 1936.

The modus of arrival was either by boat or rough roads through the jungle until 1928, when Tamiami Trail – as in, Tampa to Miami – was completed.

Coach Brian Raabe, the former Twins’ infielder, has his Bethel team here for 13 games and for nearly two weeks, what with the People’s Stadium, a k a, the Zygi Dome, off limits to all baseball this year due to preparations for the Final Four.

The Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic draws more than 100 baseball and softball teams here from late February and to late March, allowing Minnesota visitors to southwest Florida to play quite a variety of colleges.

“We played Johns Hopkins, a top 10 team, last week and wind up next Saturday against Wooster, the No. 1 team in the country,’’ Raabe said. “It’s a lot of baseball, and we need it. We’re younger this year. We’re playing some freshmen.’’

The opponent on Sunday was the College of Old Westbury, a small State of New York University located in an affluent area of Long Island.

Jake Marsh, a junior from Wayzata, was Raabe’s starter for Game 1. He was Bethel’s starting quarterback before last season, when Jaran Roste took over early in the schedule.  Roste arrived as a transfer after having spent a year as a Gophers’ walk-on.

“I’ll be honest: It wasn’t easy, but I found out a lot about myself as a person,’’ Marsh said. “I had a chance to play some, we had a great quarterback room, and a tremendous turnaround on the field – getting back to the playoffs and winning two games.’’

As Marsh was balancing football and  baseball, Raabe used Marsh as his closer. Jake spent four weeks pitching for Willmar in the Northwoods League last summer, before jumping back into football with the idea of being the Royals’ starter again.

He’s committed to again pitching for Willmar. He’s going to be with the Royals for his senior season in football, but with Roste as the projected starter, he might spend more time pitching this summer.

On Sunday, Raabe made the same move that Gophers coach John Anderson has made recently with Max Meyer, his star closer from last season.

“John’s now starting Max, and we’re going to start Jake,’’ Raabe said. “He’s our best, and we want to get more innings out of him.’’

This looked like a very good plan on Sunday morning. The righthander had 41 relief appearances in his first two seasons, and one last week when he took a loss vs. Johns Hopkins, before making this first collegiate start vs. Old Westbury.

Marsh needed 73 pitches to get through the 7-inning shutout. He allowed two hits and one walk, facing 24 batters, three over the minimum. And the result was a 1-0 victory.

After five scoreless innings, Raabe was asked if Marsh would go seven. “Looks like it,’’ Raabe said. “He hasn’t had much stress. He has three good pitches and gets them over.’’

There were a number of ground balls and Joey Fredrickson and Marcus Krupka, the left side of the infield, made a series of excellent plays to keep the outs rolling in.

“The infield was good, but the biggest play was by Tommy [Friesen] in left field,’’ Marsh said. “That looked like a double in the sixth inning, but he cut it off near the line and kept the runner to a single. Kept the tying run out of scoring position … that was huge.’’

The 6 ½ innings were played in 1:34. Raabe gathered the troops in right field, offered brief congratulations to Marsh and his fielders, and then lit up his team for mistakes – particularly a couple of missed signs – that led to runners being lost on the bases.

“We can’t put Jake in a situation where he has to pitch a shutout to win,’’ Raabe said.

He reminded the freshmen that the .400 batting averages they posted as high school stars were meaningless; that if they weren’t’ going to play the game right, they weren’t going to play “baseball for Bethel University.’’

It was entertaining -- from a distance.

“It’s not all rainbows and balloons with Brian, is it?’’ I said to Marsh.

Jake, a junior, smiled and said: “That’s what makes it great playing for him. He knows so much about the game, and he teaches you.’’

Sometimes sternly? “Definitely,’’ Marsh said.

The end of Raabe’s speech was: “Here’s the good news. We’re going to win this second game, and then you have a day-and-a-half off to enjoy yourselves, to go to the beach.’’

Game 2 final: Bethel 13, Old Westbury 0.