The Twins feel like Friday was a big success at Target Field. But the players had nothing to do with it.
For only the second time in a decade at the ballpark, team employees heeded an SOS from the stadium operations department: We need your muscle.
“The call went out this morning — we need people to shovel the concourses,” said Matt Hoy, Twins senior vice president of operations. “So many staff members came out, we ran out of shovels.”
More than 150 Twins employees, from Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey to ticket salespeople in the box office, cleared the remnants of a two-day snowstorm, helping make Target Field playable for this weekend’s series with the Tigers. Just not on Friday.
“From a purely operational standpoint, sure, the field could have been ready and we could have played” on Friday, said Twins President Dave St. Peter, who a day earlier made the call to postpone the game until May 11. “But common sense overruled that. You never want to put people in harm’s way, and with the forecasts we received, it made sense to get out in front of this one.”
By now, the Twins are used to these springtime disruptions. This season is their 10th out from under the Metrodome’s Teflon roof, and Friday’s game was the 22nd to be called off before a pitch was thrown. Nine of their 10 seasons at Target Field have been interrupted by wet spring weather, with 15 of the stadium’s 22 pregame postponements occurring in the season’s first month.
“Since Target Field was constructed, we have certainly planned for challenging weather early in the year, taking it into account as we set our financial and attendance projections,” St. Peter said. “April is always a roll of the dice in the Upper Midwest, but our record of playing as scheduled is probably better than people would have anticipated a decade ago.”
The snow covering Target Field seats was melted late Thursday by stadium crews with high pressure hot-water hoses, and once the snow on the concourses was shoveled into the seating bowl Friday, the process was repeated. The team expects Saturday’s 1:10 p.m. game to go on as scheduled, though probably with the upper decks closed, Hoy said. Fans with terrace- and home run-level tickets will be invited to relocate to the lower deck on Saturday and Sunday, he said.
The playing field, with its heating system underneath, is in good condition, with only the warning tracks still showing the effects of two days of snow. Temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees on Saturday and the mid-40s on Sunday afternoon, when the series concludes.
If the weekend’s opponent had not been a fellow AL Central foe, scheduled to return to the Twin Cities in May and August, the Twins would likely have played a doubleheader in this weekend’s chilly temperatures, because the team figures to be even more reluctant than usual to give up a future off day to make up a postponement. That’s because the Twins have already had five off days in the season’s first two weeks and, apart from the All-Star break in July that every team observes, have only 14 more remaining over the 24 weeks left in the season.
In other words, the Twins have played 6.2% of their schedule — at least two fewer games than every other MLB team, and as many as eight fewer than some — while using 26.3% of their scheduled days off.
“I know our players are anxious to get out there and play, but we also want to play in conditions that are more conducive to baseball,” St. Peter said. The team employs more than 700 people on gamedays, and “just like the fans who buy tickets, they deserve to know as far in advance as possible what our plans are.”
And what if weather turns so bad that an entire week’s worth of games is threatened? St. Peter said the team has no agreements in place to move games to another site such as U.S. Bank Stadium across downtown, or Milwaukee’s Miller Park, as the Indians did when an Ohio snowstorm prevented an April 2007 series with the Angels.
“We’ll never say never about moving a series, but it’s not something we expect to face,” St. Peter said, pointing out that the Twins played Seattle in 27-degree weather a year ago, the coldest game in franchise history, in order to avoid postponing back-to-back games against a non-Central opponent.
It’s all part of the … charm? … of April baseball in Minnesota. “Not for a second” do the Twins wish Target Field had a roof on it, St. Peter said, even in April.
“Fans love the ballpark and everything it brings,” he said. “We knew there would be days where conditions less than stellar, and we’ve held our own.”