As heaters thawed the field and scoreboard messages flashed “Fire Up,” crews bundled in winter wear shoveled an icy mix off the infield tarp at Target Field and tossed it in motorized carts to be hauled away.
More than 75 Twins employees — from part-timers in the call center to team president — shoveled, shoveled and shoveled some more to clear the field and seats of a record-setting snowfall in time for Thursday’s home opener against Seattle.
This may be the most unseasonable start to the baseball season since the outdoor downtown stadium opened in 2010. There’s been snow, there’s been cold, but there hasn’t been an April like this.
“Winter continues,” reads a long-term forecast statement issued Wednesday by the Weather Service’s metro area headquarters in Chanhassen.
The forecast offers little payoff for a delay in the scheduled start. The temperature has never fallen below zero in the Twin Cities during the month of April, but thermometers will be within a whisker of that this week. A low of 5 degrees Friday morning will shatter the previous mark of 1979’s 10 degrees for the coldest April 6 in the Twin Cities.
Another storm system will bring the potential for several inches of snow Sunday into Monday, the National Weather Service said.
Snow is a distinct possibility for the game, too, as game time temperatures should be just above the freezing mark. That puts it close to the coldest Opening Day at Target Field, April 1, 2013, when first-pitch temperature was 35 degrees. The coldest home opener in Twins history occurred at Met Stadium — 33 degrees in 1962.
Some shoveling included
On Wednesday morning Bryan Johnson was handed a shovel and directed to the right-field bleachers at Target Field. Call it one of those “duties as assigned” for the manager of premium services, who was on just his third day on the job.
“They did not cover this in contract negotiations,” joked the North Carolina transplant, whose job is to ensure fans have the best experience possible when they take in a Twins game. “My boss said fans will love and appreciate what we are doing.”
Johnson removed snow from the bleachers. Others from a paid custodial service walked through the stadium seating bowl using hoses to spray 130-degree water heated by steam from the neighboring Hennepin County garbage burner to melt accumulated snow.
“In the seating bowl, we really don’t have a good place to put the snow and we had to wash down the stadium anyway,” said Gary Glawe, senior director of facilities. “This will just take us a while longer and it’s more challenging when overnight temperatures are 10 degrees.”
Snow removal started Tuesday afternoon and will continue through Wednesday night so umpires can yell “play ball” at 3:10 p.m.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect, but we are hoping for an awesome Opening Day,” Glawe said. “I stress to people to dress appropriately and wear appropriate footwear as there could be icy spots.”
The round-the-clock shoveling operation is not unprecedented. A similar effort was needed in May 2012 when a freak 5-inch snowstorm led to the postponement of one game. The next day, the upper tiers of seats were closed and fans were moved to lower levels.
But for this home opener, calling off the game and waiting a day isn’t a viable option, even though another round of snow or rain is forecast to move in just before the game.
“Friday does not look any better,” Glawe said.
The weather service made it officially unusual.
“It’s not too surprising to see snow in early April, but the degree of the cold we will be experiencing into early next week is highly anomalous,” its statement said.
For Johnson, it’s just way too cold.
“I’ve never seen anything remotely like this,” he said. “It’s crazy, but lots of good team building.”