Deep within the winding corridors on the bottom floor of the Target Field complex is a cramped room, easily mistakable for a large closet. Inside sits the man with the answer to the biggest question of the day.
“Any issues tonight?” Twins President Dave St. Peter asks, popping in for a quick update.
It was the kind of day — bright and sunny with a light breeze — that makes Craig Edwards’ job easy.
Since the Twins left the Metrodome and began playing at Target Field in 2010, Edwards has served as the team’s on-site meteorologist, the only position of its kind in major league baseball.
At most other ballparks, a team subscribes to a weather service provider, which will allow grounds crew members to monitor the radar for weather systems that could interfere with games. However, with no trained eye on site, calls are often made to off-site meteorologists for help.
“I’ve spent a good portion of my life watching radar, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really know what I’m looking at,” said Dave Horsman, the Twins’ director of ballpark operations. “We’ve got outsourced services, but they’re not here. They’re not looking at what we’re looking at; they’re not sensing what we’re sensing.”
That’s where Edwards comes in.
A ballpark job
From a young age, Edwards was transfixed by the sky. Growing up in western Chicago, he spent a lot of time monitoring clouds, wishing for snow days that would keep him out of school, he recalled.
In 1971 he graduated from Northern Illinois and went to work for the National Weather Service, for which he spent 34 years in three different cities. From 1991 until he retired in 2006, Edwards served as the chief meteorologist for the NWS in Minneapolis.
Edwards was working part time for Minnesota Public Radio when the construction of Target Field began and the thought of becoming the Twins meteorologist first popped in his head, he said. Before the first season in the new ballpark commenced, Edwards approached Twins head groundskeeper Larry DiVito with his plan.
DiVito didn’t need much convincing. He came to Minnesota after three years as head groundskeeper for the Washington Nationals, where he said he was spread thin, forced to juggle his everyday duties with monitoring the radar and keeping umpires updated on the forecast.
So just days before the first ever pitch was thrown at Target Field, DiVito hired Edwards in the hopes of making game day operations smoother. And so far, that’s exactly what the outcome has been, DiVito said.
“Whether it’s the umpires or the managers of the teams or the executives, they all kind of have this expectation for finite answers — when is it going to rain, how long, how hard,” DiVito said. “He’s helpful in that he’s better able to give a convincing answer.”
Edwards was quite busy during the nasty spring weather that plagued the Twins when they had 15 home dates in April, and two games were postponed in a week. The outlook for one of those games, a Sunday afternoon start against the Mets, began appearing bleak 90 minutes before the first pitch, when a cold drizzle began to fall.
Edwards said he hates having to postpone games, especially when the fans are already in the stands. But as the rain continued to fall that morning, and there didn’t appear to be a clear window on the radar for three hours, he warned the decisionmakers that starting on time would be unlikely. The game was eventually postponed.
“If you’ve got people in the ballpark that got here at 10:30, 11 o’clock, the game wouldn’t start for three hours,” Edwards said. “The temperature is 40 degrees and there’s cold rain. How about staying around for that?”
Edwards arrives at Target Field two hours before every Twins home game. He had a stroke in 2004 that prevents him from driving, so he takes public transportation to and from his home in Eden Prairie. Once he arrives, he closely monitors the radar in that small room, often holding conferences with umpires and team executives to brief them on the daily forecast.
On stormy days, Edwards communicates with the groundskeepers about when the tarp will be needed to cover the field, and with ballpark operations workers who help alert fans about postponements and evacuations. He continues to monitor it during the game, alerting DiVito of any changes that could affect the game.
But most days, Edwards is just happy staying out of the way.
“Really, the best meteorologist is sort of irrelevant when it comes to baseball,” Edwards says with a laugh.
Student of his game
On the wall beside Edwards’ chair is a black and white photograph of former major league umpire Bill Kunkel standing in the pouring rain calling off a game at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Between the screens on his desk displaying the radar and what’s happening on the field outside lies a pair of books entitled “The Way of the Weather” and “Everybody’s Weather.” He’s authored his own, “Nature’s Messenger: Memoirs of a Prophetic Meteorologist.”
Edwards, who began his career having learned the art of cloud reading from World War II pilots and farmers, graduated from college before technological advancements like Doppler radar have made meteorology more computer-based. Every now and then, he will take crash courses to get up to speed. The trade itself might occasionally change, but Edwards’ love for watching the weather has remained constant throughout his life.
Add baseball — a sport he has relished since his early days as a tortured Chicago Cubs fan — to the mix, and Edwards can’t help but display an unshakable smile when talking about his unique job.
“They’re right out there,” Edwards said, referring to the players who take the field on the other side of his office wall. “Just hearing the crack of the bat is a whole different thing.”
And whenever he hears it, Edwards knows conditions are fair, and it’s a good day to play ball.