Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Twins take heat for $15; Zygi doesn't for $50M

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 10, 2013 - 2:03 PM

I made this observation last night in the wonderful world of Twitter:

"Interesting sporting public here in MN. People more upset at Twins trying to add early BP option at $15 for 60 people than

"... they are upset w/ Zygi preparing to extort season-ticket holders out of $50-60 million for seat licenses.''

And what made it more interesting was that, among a handful of responses, one agreed with the absurdity of such a situation, and the others defended Zygi Wilf and continued to rip the Twins.

One gent said this was because of the perception (including his) that Zygi will spend and the Pohlads are cheap

Really? It's OK for the Vikings and Wilf to strong arm the Legislature into passing a flawed stadium bill, to blackmail a strapped City of Minneapolis for a king's ransom of tax money -- and all the while be planning a much more aggressive seat-licensing plan than the political supporters (including Gov. Mark Dayton or Mayor R.T. Rybak) imagined?

That doesn't make the Wilfs a gang of greedy backstabbers of their ticket buyers, right?

But if the Twins set up a plan to let a small number of people into the stadium early in order to be present for the start of Twins' batting practice, the Pohlads ARE greedy backstabbers of their ticket buyers?

The main problem for the Twins with this brushfire is a giant share of the sporting public doesn't really read and doesn't really listen. Instead, that share looks at a headline and listens for a sound bite and then reacts.

I was at the Wild-Blackhawks game on Tuesday night and had three different groups of fans on the 200 level at the X come up to me and offer a version of this: "What do you think of the Twins starting to charge to watch batting practice?''

I explained as precisely as possible:

The gates will be opening to the entire ticket-holding public as always. This is 90 minutes before the game on weekdays and two hours before the game on weekends.

The Twins are winding up batting practice when the gates open on weeknights. The $15 was going to allow a small number of ticketholders to gain early access, to congregate in right field, to watch the Twins take batting practice, and perhaps get a home run ball.

With these Twins, that would be a very large "perhaps,'' since the No. 1 home run hitter, Josh Willingham, is a left-field pull hitter, but the bottom line was this:

The Twins weren't charging for something the ticketholders have had available to them for the past quarter-century. They were going to give 60 people -- and who knows if 60 would've been interested? -- a chance to get in early.

As usual, tens of thousands of members of the public didn't bother to get to the bottom line. They simply reacted with outrage.

Within hours of Tuesday's news release, the Twins came up with a story of an "internal communications breakdown'' and cancelled the plan. This was accepted as a victory for the loud voice of the public, even though the protesters never took the time to figure out what they were protesting.

I pointed out a couple of times on mighty AM drivetime Tuesday that the Twins weren't taking anything away from the public -- simply adding an option that wasn't exactly going to enrich the Pohlads.

I received several e-mails (we oldtimers still use that) telling me the Twins indeed were taking away something, because the e-mailer remembered watching the home team take BP at Met Stadium and years back in the Metrodome.

That's true. Batting practice for both teams ran 10-15 minutes later from the '60s into the '80s -- before marketing and  robust schmoozing of corporate customers became keys to survival in the very expensive business of running a big-league club.

The field is now cleared of players earlier, to make room for multiple ceremonial pitches and other marketing gimmicks, such as home run contests featuring a bear.

What's also missing is "infield:'' The home team fnishing batting practice, spending 50 minutes in the clubhouse and coming back out to take infield before the game was a constant at the Met and for years in the Dome. MLB even made infield mandatory for a time.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said there is now an edict from MLB not to have pregame infield -- that the field belongs to marketing and the grounds crew at what was once the traditional time for infield.

The Twins now take infield, including turning double plays, during the course of batting practice. Which would've been something that 60 people with an extra $15 would've had a chance to observe, if the protesters had not managed this glorious victory over the cheap Pohlads.

Meantime, go ahead Zygi: Mug your long-time ticketholders for thousands upon thousands to keep their seats in the new dome, put that money with the free loan from NFL and naming rights and don't spend a nickel of your own money for a billion-dollar stadium ...

Go ahead, Zygi:  We're all for the extortion because you landed Jared Allen a few years back.

 

 

 

 

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