The biggest free-agent move made by the Twins organization this past offseason isn't going to help the team solve its pitching or other assorted on-field problems. But the deal will be noticeable every time the Twins play a game.
The club has moved its radio broadcasts from KSTP (1500-AM) to KTWN (96.3-FM), which, like the Twins, is owned by the Pohlad family. The Twins have been on AM radio since their move to Minnesota in 1961, but they joined a growing exodus of sports teams to FM; in Minnesota, only the Timberwolves of the professional sports franchises remain on AM (WCCO 830).
Twins fans won't notice much change in the actual game broadcasts, with Cory Provus and Dan Gladden back as the announcing team and Kris Attebury hosting the pre- and postgame shows. But Twins and KTWN executives see the move as an opportunity to build the station's overall listening audience from the ground up.
"How do you merge community, sports and music on a former hip-hop station?'' Twins Vice President Kevin Smith asked. "It's a program laboratory that's really unveiling itself in front of listeners as we go.''
Sam Elliot Gagliardi, KTWN general manager, said the station's goal is to "take advantage of the big Twins brand and build a station around that audience.'' It's not as easy as it sounds.
The games will bring a built-in listening base. But how do you bring those Twins fans back to listen to the morning and evening drive-time shows ?
The station has done research to try to gauge what kind of music Twins fans listen to. Thirteen full-time radio personalities have been hired, almost all with local ties.
Elliot Gagliardi said the goal will be linking the station with the local community. The laboratory, to use Smith's analogy, will be developing the proper mix of talk and music that Elliot Gagliardi describes as "guitar-based'' hits that "span generations.''
There's no format, he says, on whether the station plays three or four songs an hour, or double that.
"We don't want to handcuff the personalities,'' he said. "It's going to be up to them to gauge on a day-to-day basis.''
Elliot Gagliardi said the station's signal will reach about 85 percent of the metro area, the biggest concerns being the east metro near Stillwater. But he said the Twins network will have 81 stations, and every area of the metro will be covered by a station in the network.
Baseball fans will notice some things about the effort to marry music and sports, Smith said. Every Tuesday's pregame show will focus on a player and his interest in music, whether that be what he listens to, concerts he attends or instruments he plays.
"You'd be surprised how many players have played a musical instrument,'' Smith said.