Blinding celebration sign

The fans love it, but hitting coach Joe Vavra said the celebration sign blinds like the sun when light reflects off it.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Players see Target Field problems

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN
  • Star Tribune
  • June 8, 2010 - 3:03 PM

The Twins are 18-9 at Target Field, and while the players generally love their new ballpark, they also have a few suggested tweaks.

"The pitchers are enjoying the heck out of it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And the hitters are hoping there's a swimming pool in center field with dolphins in it next year, and the fences are moved in."

Dolphins in Minnesota?

"Tampa Bay has their rays; we're going to get dolphins," Gardenhire said. "Or we could put walleye out there, but there's a limit."

Gardenhire said this tongue-in-cheek, but the players are serious about some of their recommendations, as they prepare to open their fourth homestand Tuesday night against Kansas City.

At times, hitters have had real trouble seeing through the combination of shadows and glare.

"It's a great facility, we're all proud of it, but there's always going to be some things that need to be adjusted," hitting coach Joe Vavra said. "There's a lot of light that reflects off that wall [beyond center field], maybe because of all the glass. It has been borderline dangerous at some points."

"You can see some of the catchers having trouble catching the ball, and if the catcher can't catch it, I don't think you're going to be able to hit it."

Never mind hitting it. How about ducking for cover if it's coming at your head?

"It gets pretty bright out there," Twins catcher Joe Mauer confirmed. "I don't want to make excuses, but there's been certain times of the game, when I couldn't really see anything hitting. Those are usually the 3 o'clock games."

Vavra said it's something he might not mention if it was just one or two hitters complaining. "But to a man, there were guys talking about not being able to pick up the spin of the ball."

Gardenhire said one suggestion to reduce the glare is to paint some of the ballpark's silver railings green.

Then there's the 46-foot sign with the original Twins logo above the center-field wall. That sign, which features Paul and Minnie shaking hands, is mostly white.

"When the light reflects off that sign, it looks like the sun," Vavra said.

Of course, the sign is one of the ballpark's signature elements. Gardenhire said there's hope that it can be tilted or perhaps covered with transparent, glare-reducing netting.

Joe Pohlad, the team's ballpark development assistant, flew to Seattle while the Twins were there last week, and players showed him the batter's eye at Safeco Field.

"They have a mesh net over their center-field wall," Gardenhire said. "There's no shadows there. So those are things that can be adjusted and that's what you try to find out as you go along."

Twins President Dave St. Peter has asked the players to list any and all suggestions, just as the front office has asked every other department.

Much has been made of the home run numbers at Target Field. The Twins have hit 13 homers in 27 games there, compared to 35 homers in 30 games on the road.

But the Twins are still batting 33 points higher at home than the road (.285 to .252) and averaging almost one more run per game (5.19 to 4.23).

According to's Park Factors page, Target Field has been the majors' 28th toughest home run park, but it's been the easiest park for doubles. Those calculations compare with how the same hitters do in every ballpark, not just the Twins.

Vavra admits the home run challenges have gotten into some of the players' heads. He said a few players gathered for an informal meeting after the team had lost to the Yankees at Target Field on May 26.

"What they were saying is, 'We've gotta quit beating ourselves up about the ballpark and quit trying to make things happen that we probably can't control,' " Vavra said. "Go back to doing what we do, spraying the ball around and having quality at-bats.' "

But not everyone clamors for change.

Denard Span is batting .374 at Target Field and .172 on the road. Asked about Safeco Field's batter's eye, Span's mind drifted back to his 1-for-15 showing there in four games last week.

"I don't want to bring Seattle to Target Field," he said. "I mean, everybody's complaining about home. I'm like, what the heck? I wish I could play all 162 games at Target Field."

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