The Minnesota Twins, with free coffee and hot chocolate for fans, were undaunted by the near-freezing weather and light snow Friday and dodged their first snow-out since moving to the roofless stadium in 2010 from the Metrodome.
“Game on!” Chris Iles, a team spokesman, said at about 9:30 a.m.
Less than 10 hours later, Twins pitcher Vance Worley unfurled the first pitch against the New York Mets: Temperature 34 degrees, with a north wind at 7 miles per hour. A light drizzle was falling.
By the sixth inning, the temperature slipped below freezing, and the winds were picking up.
Boys of summer need not apply -- yet.
The gates opened at 5 p.m., with a snow-globe effect fluttering onto the field and the temperature in the mid-30s.
“Thanks to some tremendous efforts by our grounds crew, the [heat radiated] field is currently clear of snow,” Iles said ahead of the game.
Some people who intended to attend the 7:10 p.m. game said they were counting on using extra layers, antifreeze of an alcoholic variety and other tactics to keep warm. But one fan said she can’t even give her tickets away.
Stadium crews were back in the stands Friday morning clearing snow from the seating areas and were done before the gates opened.
National Weather Service forecaster Rick Hiltbrand said that with a roughly two-degree drop per hour through the evening, sub-freezing conditions were a certainty.
And let’s not forget the windchill makes it feel just that much colder, Hiltbrand added.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few snowflakes” during the game as well, the forecaster said Friday morning and proven right that night. “[The players] could make snowballs and hit them.”
The Twins provided free coffee and hot chocolate Friday night at all Target Field gates as a way to thank their loyal followers “for coming out to enjoy a game under these unique circumstances,” Iles said.
“We’re [also] expecting a lot a fans taking advantage of the radiant heating throughout the concourses,” he added. The players, at least when not on the field, were cozy in their heated dugouts.
Iles explained that since this is the only visit by the Mets this year, “it is important that we play these games, if at all possible,” rather than drop one or more of them altogether from the schedule or somehow arrange for the National League team return later in the season.
Mike Gozola said he’s game for the game and understands the risk of being a fan of an outdoor team at roughly the 45th parallel.
“Buying early-April tickets was always a gamble, so who am I to complain?” Gozola said. “I’ll be using the same strategy I used at the Vikes-Bears TCF game — five layers of clothes, one blanket, and a healthy dose of mini-donuts and Budweiser.”
Danika Peterson said she and her husband are season-ticket holders with the 20-game package and “will not be going to the game tonight, even though it is the first game of the season we have tickets to. It’s way too cold.”
Peterson said she put the tickets on Stub Hub on Thursday “at one of the lowest prices tickets were selling for. Of course, they have not sold.”
Come Friday morning, Peterson posted on Facebook that she’s giving away the tickets. “Surprisingly, no takers,” she said.
Steve Hepokoski, of Maple Grove, said he is bringing with him “some of those chemical heat pads for my boots and mittens. I’m pretty much dressing like I would for deer hunting.”
The weather for the rest of the weekend is a mixed bag. The forecast for Saturday is for dry conditions but a high just short of 40. Game time on Saturday is 3:10 p.m. For Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. start, rain could spoil things.
This will be at least the fifth game in the majors this year with a starting-time temperature of 35 or lower, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The coldest so far this season was the April 5 game in Chicago, when the temperature was 34 for the first pitch between the Seattle Mariners and the White Sox.
While there are no all-time records kept, it was 29 degrees for the first pitch when the Tigers played the Royals in Kansas City on April 7, 2007. On that same date, the Twins’ road game at Chicago vs. the White Sox had a 31-degree game-time temperature.
On Wednesday, it was 39 degrees at first pitch for the Texas Rangers’ home game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays -- deep in the heart of Texas and in the afternoon, no less. Winds gusting near 20 miles per hour made it feel more like freezing.
Since the Twins franchise was moved from Washington, D.C., to the Twin Cities in 1961 and played outside at Metropolitan Stadium through the 1981 season, the Twins called off only four games to snow.
The latest on the schedule to fall victim to snow was on May 2, 1976. It was made up the next day as part of a doubleheader.
Moving indoors to the Metrodome starting in 1982 didn’t make the team immune from winter’s whims. The roof came down late on the night of April 14, 1983, after one of the Twin Cities’ biggest spring snowstorms.
The storm had already resulted in postponement of the Twins game because their opponents, the California Angels, were grounded by the weather.