Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Tuesday could have simply been a bad day for Minnesota sports on the playing field and in the arena. The Twins fell behind early and lost by three runs, finishing the night when Joe Mauer struck out with the bases loaded. The Wild lost 1-0 on a goal caused by a misplay. The Timberwolves lost again in the late-night obscurity of a West Coast game on FSN Plus.
Yet those failures will likely be forgotten well before the Twins' ham-handed effort to extract up to $900 per game from a select group of fans for the privilege of entering Target Field 45 minutes before their peers to "watch a majority of Twins batting practice."
I won't bore you with the old-school arguments about how getting to games early enough to watch batting practice used to be part of the game-day deal for some fans. Or even the new-school suggestion that letting people into the outfield seats 45 minutes early from time to time, and opening a concession stand or two, could have brought in more in concession revenue and maybe even have generated some good will.
I will take the Twins at their word that this bright idea was killed because "the idea was not fully vetted across the Twins organization," as the team's never-mind press release stated. That phrase can mean anything.
So does the statement by a Twins official, as reported by startribune.com and others yesterday, that "about half the teams in the majors have some sort of early entry program."
That phrase can mean anything. Here's why:
If you pay $14.95 to become a Red Sox Nation card holder, you can enter Fenway Park earlier than other fans any time you have a game ticket -- and watch batting practice from on top of the Green Monster. The $14.95 also gets you free MLB.com GameDay audio, a discount at the team store and some restaurants near Fenway, and some other stuff. I think I'd buy that one.
If you're a Baltimore Orioles season-ticket holder, you can enter Orioles Park at Camden Yards 30 minutes before the gates open to the rest of the fans.Yes, it's an apples-and-oranges comparison to what the Twins were offering for a few hours, but it should dissuade you of the idea that a bunch of MLB teams are already doing what the Twins had proposed.
If you really want to pay money to watch batting practice, the Atlanta Braves will let you do it before night games -- for $60 during the week and $75 on weekends. The Braves, though, let you watch batting practice from a fenced-off area on the field behind home plate.
That's where my research, which was almost as painful as watching the first inning of Tuesday night's loss, stopped.
I give the Twins a lot of credit for creating an experience at Target Field that is overwhelmingly fan friendly. You can spend a reasonable amount, by my standards, and have a very good time at the ballpark. In fact, the "fan experience" is one of the things that's supposed to see the Twins to some degree through their troubled times on the field. Off the field, the Twins do a lot of the little things right.
What the Twins did on Tuesday, unfortunately, was to undo a chunk of the good will they have created. The "never-mind" press release didn't really do the trick. Not even close. If you have a few minutes, you can check out some of the 138 comments on the story from our website, including those posted after the vetting was fully completed.
I'll be interested in what they do to recover from this gaffe. It shouldn't be hard to figure out something.
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