The Twins were forced to accede to the wishes of ESPN and start Monday's home opener an hour early at 6:10 p.m. Thirty minutes before that, Jim Cunningham was charged with introducing a video clip that would take early arrivers from the Twins starting at Met Stadium in 1961, through the Metrodome and into the new ballpark in 2010.

The text provided Cunningham included the following: "In 1982, the team moved inside ... and for nearly three decades, the game in Minnesota has been defined in part by an unnatural playing surface, a roof that can make fly balls disappear and a baggie for a right field fence.

"In 2006, Hennepin County came forward with a plan to bring the game back to a green grass field and the fans back under beautiful Minnesota skies ..."

I'm not one to dispute the need for planning ahead when it comes to opening a new baseball season, but perhaps the Twins might have considered postponing the tribute to the magic of outdoor baseball to a night when there weren't a half-million Minnesotans risking chest pains every time they lifted a shovel full of Monday's fresh, 10-pounds-an-inch snow.

The first time the Twins ever have opened a home season in March coincided with a spring snowstorm that gave the cynics -- the folks who can't comprehend Minnesota building a ballpark without a retractable roof -- a wonderful opportunity to issue I-told-you-sos.

"My answer is that we hope never to open an outdoor home season on March 31," Twins President Dave St. Peter said. "If we can get the commissioner's office to cooperate, we'll be on the road for six games to open the season."

If not?

"If we get snowed out, we'll play the next day," St. Peter said. "The Twins averaged four postponements a year in 21 seasons at the Met. Everyone could live with that."

By everyone, St. Peter meant the fans and the club. Those cynics will point out that a baseball season now opens 10 days earlier than it did in olden times. The Twins' counter to that is that a modern drainage system means you will never have a postponement because the field is too wet.

What everyone could agree on Monday was that it was nice to be playing under a Teflon sky.

The evening started with a tremendous display of determination by the customers, and it was followed by a similar display from Twins starter Livan Hernandez.

There were 49,596 tickets sold, the largest number for an opener since 1993. Very few were deterred by the lousy weather and the traffic jams. The big blue room was bulging with bodies by the second inning.

Never question the will of Minnesotans wanting to get somewhere in a snowstorm.

"I couldn't drive to the Dome in my car -- it's an old Firebird with rear-wheel drive," said reliever Pat Neshek, a Brooklyn Park lad. "My mom had to drive me early in the afternoon in her Jeep Liberty."

Neshek's presence was appreciated, although not until Hernandez had worked through the Angels' minefield of a lineup to give up seven hits and two runs in seven innings. He didn't walk a batter -- something he achieved in two of 33 starts for Arizona in 2007.

"Livan was going so well ... I thought he was going back out [for the eighth]," Neshek said.

Manager Ron Gardenhire contemplated that, then decided to stick with the pregame plan, which was: If the Twins were leading, Neshek would pitch the eighth and Joe Nathan the ninth.

Neshek struck out three Angels, around Gary Matthews' bloop double. Vladimir Guerrero was the obstacle with two outs. Neshek went 2-2, sent Guerrero sprawling with a high fastball, then got the free-swinging, big-producing Vlad Man to go after an eye-high pitch for strike three.

Here came Nathan. While getting three outs, he showed off a 91-miles-per-hour sinker that might be nastier than this biting slider and earned the Twins the first dividend on that $47 million contract.

Twins, 3-2.

Congratulations to many -- to Nathan (save), to Neshek (hold), to Hernandez (first victory as an AL pitcher) and to the Twins' Team of 49,000 that showed up to enjoy a beautiful night for a ballgame under a roof.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •