Scene of tranquility couldn't last forever

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2011 - 11:27 PM

Much is in play as weather weighs in at Target Field.

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The Twins were a bundled-up bunch for Wednesday night’s cold, wet game against Tampa Bay at Target Field.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The Twins returned to an outdoor home last season after 28 years in the Metrodome. They made it through the 81-game home schedule with one postponement and one suspension after five innings. They also played 81 games on the road without a rainout.

The weather magic has disappeared in Season 2 of the outdoor return. The Twins were rained out in New York on April 6, and they have been postponed twice on this second homestand of the season.

In the process, they have left the civilians confused. Friday's game was called at 6:40 p.m. By the time many fans made it home, the rain had stopped. Tuesday's game vs. Tampa Bay was called early in the afternoon. The heavy rain stopped and the game could have been played in a cold drizzle.

"One thing we're trying to figure in as we make these decisions is the 'misery' factor for the fans and players," Twins President Dave St. Peter said Wednesday. "And it would've been miserable for everyone if we had played last night."

The problem with choosing not to play on Tuesday was that it put the Twins, the Rays and the fans in a position of being required to play in conditions as cold -- with rain and snow -- on Wednesday.

"No matter how you try to adjust, we are going to play games on nights like this," St. Peter said. "That is no different than in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New York or Boston.

"We had unbelievable weather in our first season at Target Field. And the first homestand, the weather was fine. In a way, that makes tonight the official return of outdoor baseball for the Twins and our fans."

The decision to postpone Tuesday's game was less of a surprise than what accompanied the announcement: The postponement would be made up as the night portion of a split doubleheader on Thursday.

This puts the Rays in the position of playing day and night games on a getaway day, flying home to St. Petersburg, playing Friday night and then a 1 p.m. game Saturday. That adds up to four games and a three-hour flight in roughly 51 hours.

The Rays were confused as to why the game wasn't rescheduled for a split doubleheader when they return to Target Field on July 4-6.

"I would like the other way, but whatever we have to do," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, referring to the July option for a makeup game.

Split doubleheaders must be approved by players from both teams. The Rays initially said no. The commissioner's office gave the Twins' reasoning to the MLB Players Association, the union called the Rays, and they gave approval.

And why were the Twins determined to play Thursday, rather than a split doubleheader in what promised to be a more baseball-friendly atmosphere on the occasion of our nation's birthday?

The Twins' decision- making process on when to postpone and when to play starts with the weather, obviously, and then moves to baseball and business.

The Twins had played only twice in five days. General Manager Bill Smith and manager Ron Gardenhire wanted games now -- not stacking up with doubleheaders in July. Already, there's a split doubleheader coming vs. Cleveland on July 18-20.

Business? The first reaction would be, "Tickets would be in much greater demand for a night game on July 4 than for a night game on Thursday."

That's correct, but the Twins had 120 groups holding 5,000-6,000 tickets for Tuesday night's rainout. Many of these were school groups.

Make up the game on Thursday and it takes only a minor adjustment for the school groups. Make it up on Independence Day and the students and families will be scattered in lake cabins from Elysian to Ely.

Back in the Met Stadium days, ticket inventory wasn't a problem for the Twins. In the second season at Target Field, the Twins have no place for 6,000 ticket-holders, other than for the exact makeup game.

The largest group signed up for Tuesday night was 1,000 students, family and acquaintances from Sunset Hill Elementary in Plymouth. They will provide the choir for the national anthem.

And, while this split doubleheader might be an inconvenience for the Rays, it does give my niece Ellie and her pals their shot at singing about "rockets' red glare," which is Oh Snap!

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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