Thursday, with snow still on the ground in Minnesota, a new Twins season will begin.
The Twins will be in Baltimore. But they will also be at home.
Remember: The Twins can be found on WCCO Radio. Again. After spending their first 46 seasons there, after spending the following 11 away, they are back.
“The Twins on ’CCO, for so long, was rooted in the tradition of the state,” said Dave St. Peter, president and CEO of the Twins. “People grew up listening to baseball there, with Harmon Killebrew, Zoilo Versalles, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek. It’s a powerful partnership.”
For six years starting in 2007, the Twins were on 1500 ESPN radio. Starting in 2013, they moved to 96.3 FM, a station owned by the Pohlad family, who also owns the Twins. After five seasons, the Twins decided trying to mix baseball with that station’s music format didn’t work.
And so they came home.
Much of what fans hear will sound the same. The Twins will still produce their own broadcasts. That includes the play-by-play team of Cory Provus and Dan Gladden. Kris Atteberry will do the pre- and postgame shows and fill in as backup announcer. The Twins radio network throughout “Twins Territory” remains.
It’s just that it will be heard again on WCCO’s AM clear channel.
“I’m just jazzed,” said Atteberry, who grew up in Bozeman, Mont., seeking out baseball games on the AM dial at night as a kid from places like San Francisco and, yes, Minnesota. “Who wouldn’t want to be on a station like that?”
That sentiment became particularly mutual after WCCO was taken over in February 2017 by Entercom Communications, a big player in sports broadcasting. According to Mike Dee, president of sports and live events at Entercom, the company currently broadcasts 44 professional teams around the country, including 14 Major League Baseball teams. Entercom also recently returned the St. Louis Cardinals to their longtime home, KMOX.
Getting the Twins back on WCCO was important, Dee said.
“We knew the Twins had interest in it, and it was a priority for us,” Dee said. “Few things are as iconic as the Twins and WCCO. But it’s not just about these historic relationships. Sports is a priority at Entercom.”
Entercom will have expanded coverage of the team, in terms of interviews and on-air content separate from the game broadcasts on all three Entercom stations in the cities — WCCO, JACK FM (104.1) and BUZ’N FM (102.9).
WCCO also has the rights to the Timberwolves. Going forward, in case of a conflict, the Twins will be on WCCO with the Wolves moving to one of the two FM stations in almost every case.
Dee said the WCCO deal didn’t take long. It just seemed like the perfect fit.
“Based on the reaction of the fans, it brings back something familiar. People grew up listening to baseball on WCCO. It’s like listening to songs you’ve heard before.”
The signal strength of WCCO makes it the ideal home station. “The footprint of WCCO is pretty vast,” Dee said.
Dee also said AM’s sound quality has improved to the point where it’s harder to discern the difference compared to FM.
But the sound of baseball on AM radio, with the occasional crackle? That in itself is nostalgic, according to Atteberry. “Just sounds like baseball to me,” he said.