Twins officials continued the club's policy of not having deferred money in any player contract in the case of Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184 million deal.

I was wrong when I speculated that the Twins' policy against deferred money might hurt their chances of signing Mauer. Paying interest on deferred-money contracts is something the team wants to avoid.

The Twins have now reached a high of 24,000 season tickets. The season ticket sale will be closed at 5 p.m. Monday. If you apply after that, you will be on the waiting list. They have sold 2.6 million tickets so far and are a cinch to break the team record of 3,030,672, set in 1988, when the Twins were the first American League team to top 3 million in attendance.

Forty-seven of the 81 games the Twins will play at Target Field are already sold out. Twins President Dave St. Peter said one of the big advantages for fans at Target Field over the Metrodome is the concourses are not only much larger but fans can walk around the ballpark and still see the game, something you couldn't do at the Metrodome.

St. Peter said he and other Twins officials will visit with Gophers coach John Anderson and his players to get their view of how the field played Saturday during the Gophers' game against Louisiana Tech.

More than $75,000 was raised for the Twins Community Fund from Saturday's game through the $2 admission, and more when the concession income is added.

Good for players

Former Gopher, Oakland and Twins catcher Terry Steinbach threw out the first ball at Saturday's Gophers game and said he was impressed with Target Field.

"People are asking me ... what I like [about Target Field] and, as a catcher, it's great to have that big green batter's eye [beyond center field], because you can pick the ball up a lot better coming out of the pitcher's hand," Steinbach said. "And obviously, hittingwise, you know it helps.

"I think Tampa Bay had one of the best batter's eyes in their dome when I was still playing. It was like the whole center field was a deep, dark green. And it really seemed like the ball was a size or two bigger. ... It looks like they did a real good job."

Steinbach said he didn't know where there was a better baseball stadium.

"It's going to be tough to beat," he said. "I have had the opportunity to see the Twins locker room, the training facilities, the weight room, the batting cages. I think it's really going to be tough to beat.

"You know, I think the final things that really come into a player's mind, about which parks they really like and don't like, is we got to see how the ball carries there. In my opinion Saturday, there were a couple of balls that were hit pretty good off an aluminum bat, one didn't go out to right-center, one went out to left field. But it only got up there a row or two."

Royals could repeat

Hopkins assistant boys' basketball coach Ken Novak Sr. just turned 81, and the Royals gave him a birthday present Saturday by winning their second consecutive Class 4A title by beating St. Cloud Tech 76-56 for the title. It might be hard to stop them from winning a third.

Head coach Ken Novak Jr. said only two seniors starters will leave the team. So there will be one great nucleus coming back, including standout juniors Joe Coleman and Marvin Singleton, sophomore Zach Stahl and ninth-grader Riley Dearring. Riley's father, Darren, was an outstanding high school player at DeLaSalle.

However, it is sad Hopkins and St. Cloud Tech played that championship game at Target Center, not at Williams Arena where it should be played, before a crowd of only 7,480.

At halftime, the 50th anniversary of the Edgerton- Austin state championship game was celebrated with players from both teams given 50th anniversary basketballs.

One big difference between now and then was that the 1960 title game was played at Williams Arena before more than 19,000 people, when there was a one-class tournament.

They have four classes now and some of those sessions drew as few as 2,980 at Target Center. There is some talk of reducing to three classes.

But why not find a way to get to 16 teams, with games mixing the classes, and bring back the chance of the small schools such as Edgerton knocking off much larger schools? And play the games at Williams Arena, where the kids would love to play where the Gophers perform.


For those who have been critical about the Gophers basketball team, remember that Tubby Smith and company defeated two of the Final Four teams this season -- Butler and Michigan State.

It's official: The Gophers' opening football game Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee will air on ESPU television at 6:30 p.m.

Former Gophers defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jordan Leopold are logging major minutes for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goligoski has seven goals and 24 assists in 63 games. Leopold has three assists in 13 games for the Penguins since being acquired from the Florida Panthers at the trading deadline. ... Former Gopher Paul Martin has two goals and two assists in his first seven games back for the New Jersey Devils since returning from a broken arm that kept him sidelined for much of the season.

Among American-born defensemen this season who are former Gophers, Erik Johnson ranks fourth in scoring with eight goals and 27 assists in 73 games for St. Louis. Goligoski is ninth with his 31 points for Pittsburgh; Keith Ballard is 15th with five goals and 18 assists in 74 games for Florida, and Leopold is 17th with 22 points collectively with the Penguins and Panthers.

Jake Kreuser, the 7-foot Henry Sibley center, is going to attend Lafayette College. Two other Henry Sibley starters, forward Mike Rostampour and guard Jordan Jackson, are being recruited by Division I schools. ... Hopkins' Coleman has been offered a scholarship by the Gophers.

Smalley's 87 Club is the name of a restaurant opened by former Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, inside the Butler Square Building in the former Champps space, a short distance from Target Field.

Dusty Rychart finished his 2009-2010 season by being named MVP of the Skytrans Cairns Taipans in the Australian Basketball League, averaging 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 26.4 minutes per game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •