The outfield was blanketed in snow, the warning track was a muddy mess, and the seating areas were slick with ice.
As the sun came up at Target Field on Thursday, it was difficult to imagine one baseball game being played in the ballpark, much less two.
So the Twins put out an all-departments memo, asking for help.
“It’s incredible. They put that memo out there, and people from all over the organization come out,” assistant General Manager Rob Antony said. Even Twins President Dave St. Peter grabbed a shovel and helped prepare the ballpark.
Workmen with steamers helped melt much of the ice that covered the seats following the daylong storm that postponed Wednesday’s game. But the Twins decided to close the upper deck for the first game of the day/night doubleheader, to give the ice-removal crews more time to work.
By noon, when the first game began, perhaps 12,000 fans were in the stands, a decent crowd considering they were watching the coldest home game in the Twins’ 54-year history. The 31 degrees at first pitch was 1 degree colder than the previous record, a 32-degree day on May 2, 1967, in Metropolitan Stadium. Behind three RBI by Harmon Killebrew, the Twins beat the Yankees 13-4 that day.
“Once the sun came out, it was actually pretty decent,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But if you stood at the rail, you could feel that breeze.”
The attendance for the regularly scheduled first game was announced at 20,570, the smallest crowd in Target Field history.
So why play two games in those conditions? “There were three other dates we discussed, but it didn’t make a lot of sense for either team,” Antony said. “You could say, well, on some other day you could get more fans, but it didn’t make a lot of sense when you consider travel, violating [the rule prohibiting teams from playing more than 20 consecutive days], giving up a day off. Plus, you don’t know if you’ll have to schedule other doubleheaders later.”
Both teams headed to the airport after the Twins’ 9-5 victory in Game 2 concluded, the Twins heading to Kansas City and the Blue Jays to Cleveland.
Nunez gets a taste
He spent all morning flying to the Twin Cities, and he will spend Friday flying back to upstate New York. But it’s all worth it, Eduardo Nunez said, just to meet Gardenhire and his future (he hopes) teammates.
“It’s a little weird, something new to me,” the infielder said. “I’ve never been on a different team before, but I’m glad I have a couple friends here so I feel comfortable.”
Nunez, acquired from the Yankees for minor league lefthander Miguel Sulbaran on April 7, is stationed at Class AAA Rochester while he gets his swing ready for the big leagues. But baseball allows teams to add a 26th player for the second game of a doubleheader (and both games if it’s scheduled at least 48 hours in advance, to ensure players can arrive in time), so the Twins brought in their newest player.
He started at third base in the nightcap, but he knew he was just a temp.
“I understand the situation. I just got here, new organization, they have things already set up. So I have to wait,” he said. “Play good, maybe come back later.”
Bartlett begins rehab
Jason Bartlett was in the lineup for Class A Fort Myers on Thursday, the Twins infielder’s first rehab appearance for a team he played for a decade ago.
Antony said he doesn’t know yet how long Bartlett will remain in Florida, but the Twins would like to send him to Rochester as well before returning. They have 20 days before he must be activated.