As the Twins edge closer to regular-season readiness, so, too, do the many other aspects of staging a major league game.
Major league umpires have begun calling balls and strikes at Target Field. The game presentation staff has the scoreboard and walk-up music ready to go. And on Wednesday, the Twins’ TV broadcasters will man the booth for the first time this season.
The Twins have scheduled a second dress rehearsal for Wednesday, a seven-inning game complete with full uniforms and piped-in crowd noise. And though the intrasquad contest — Kenta Maeda vs. Devin Smeltzer — will not actually be televised, Dick Bremer and Justin Morneau will provide commentary for the livestream on twinsbaseball.com and foxsports.com/north.
“It’s training camp 2020 for everybody. We didn’t get to broadcast a spring training game before camps shut down [in March], so we have nine months of pent-up baseball chatter,” said Bremer. “It’s a great opportunity for viewers to finally get a look at the team they’ve been anticipating for months.”
Same for Bremer, whose 37th season broadcasting Twins games will undoubtedly be the oddest. For one thing, to limit the size of the Twins’ traveling party, neither the radio nor TV broadcasters will travel to road games, calling play-by-play via TV screens from a studio in Minneapolis. Then there’s the lack of fans, which allows sounds and conversations to be picked up by stadium mikes. “These ballparks have great acoustics,” reliever Sergio Romo said.
The crowd noise experiment, to make the empty stadiums feel a little more familiar to players and viewers, is one Major League Baseball is considering for regular-season games. No decision has been made about whether the simulated cheering will be used during the regular season — though it would alleviate one concern that baseball executives have raised: language.
The players haven’t been warned about audible profanities, reliever Tyler Clippard said, but slip-ups are bound to happen.
“I hope people recognize that if there is something heard that maybe normally wouldn’t be heard, they can understand that we’re just competitors and we want to win and we want to perform well. Nothing is said in context of trying to hurt anybody,” said Clippard, a 13-year MLB veteran. “There are times when I’m out on the mound and probably saying choice words, but most of the time, I’m yelling at myself. Actually, all the time.”
Actually, Romo suggested, the possibility of overhearing players in empty stadiums might benefit the game and its popularity.
“I think you’ll see more personalities. You’ve seen more personality in just the scrimmage games, watching the smiles,” said Romo, one of the most vocal members of the Twins. “A guy like [Josh] Donaldson, when he hit his home run the other day, he ran around and he swung his arms once or twice. I can see that happening a little bit more. … I’m telling you, there are a lot of fun guys in this league. That’ll have to be shown more this year.”
And if there is an occasional bad word? The TV producers figure to be ready.
“You’ve got to remember, I work with Bert Blyleven,” Bremer joked of his Hall of Fame partner. “We’ve skated on the edge a lot of times.”
With a week left in training camp, the Twins’ home-run power has begun to assert itself in the daily informal intrasquad games. On Tuesday, for instance, Nelson Cruz (for the second consecutive day), Mitch Garver, Jake Cave and Jorge Polanco all connected off their teammates’ pitches, and Max Kepler hit a 420-foot blast off Jake Odorizzi that struck the scoreboard just to the right of the batter’s eye in center field, an easy double.
Odorizzi, however, escaped without allowing a run in his five-inning, 79-pitch start, giving up five hits and striking out five. Lewis Thorpe allowed two runs in four innings.
Getting on the game face
Donaldson is ready for camp to turn more serious. “At some point, you’ve got to start taking the training wheels off and start getting after it,” the third baseman said.