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Twins ballpark: Ceremonial shoveling begins

  • Article by: Maria Elena Baca
  • Star Tribune
  • August 31, 2007 - 12:29 AM

Under a nearly cloudless, perfect-for-baseball sky, about 5,000 people, including fans, construction workers, ballplayers past and present, state and local government officials and Major League Baseball dignitaries came together Thursday night for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the new ballpark, set to open for the 2010 baseball season.

The lot was crowded with men and women in business wear, families and young adults in shorts and T-shirts, and little kids and babies, spangled in their best Twins finery. Craig Bauman of Woodbury attended the ceremony with son Dylan, 11 months, and parents, Carol and Ralph.

"He's the next generation, just like the stadium is for the next generation," Bauman said. "By the time it opens I'll be able to teach him all about it, the way baseball is supposed to be played."

Behind a set of bleachers lay an expanse of new sod, marked by pristine, white bases and a piled-high pitcher's mound.

Twins announcers John Gordon and Dick Bremer invited the fans to gather around the stage and welcomed a long list of celebrities and other notables on the stage. They included team own Carl Pohlad and sons Bill, Bob and Jim, Hennepin County commissioners, state legislators from both houses, Minneapolis City Council members and Minnesota Baseball Authority members. But fans saved their loudest applause for the guys accustomed to stadium cheers, the players, including Tony Oliva, Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew, 1987 and 1991 great Kent Hrbek and current Twins standouts Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who once talked about disbanding the Twins organization, drew a few boos, but in his comments complimented the team and its fans. "All stadium situations are a struggle, but it was the perseverance of everyone involved in the process that eventually carried the day," he said. "Your patience is rewarded, and your loyalty has been great. ... The future is now secure for the next two or three generations of Minnesota Twins fans."

The stadium's $522 million price includes $390 million for construction, $90 million for infrastructure and $42 million for financing.

Despite the Twins' elaborate ceremony, the 8-acre ballpark site remains mired in a legal squabble. A three-member condemnation panel last week voted 2-1 to set the value of the land at $23.8 million. Neither the county nor the landowners and their Texas developer partner have appealed that decision yet. But Rich Pogin, an official with the Land Partners II, said his group plans to submit a settlement offer to the county as soon as today.

A handful of protesters stood on a nearby overpass, carrying signs that read, "FOUL,"Stealing Home,"Bridges, Not Ballparks."

But nothing dampened the mood Thursday.

Twins President Jerry Bell waxed poetic about the Twins and outdoor baseball: "They're going to experience baseball the way it's supposed to be played, with the Minneapolis skyline, the moon and stars overhead, under the sun on day games."

Hrbek, the former first baseman, garnered laughs with the comment, "I brought no script; I'm here to drink beer!"

A man in an untucked jersey strode onstage and handed the former first baseman a bottle. "I'll drink the first beer at home plate!" Hrbek bellowed. "Cheers!"

After a round of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," ceremony participants lined up. In three shifts they grabbing a shovel, and pose for a photo, then tossed a load of sand

As the players and executives were shuffled away, fans came out taking pictures on the mound and digging their fingers into the wet, cool sand. The sun was setting, and it was time to go home.

Staff writer Curt Brown contributed to this report.

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