Outdoor Baseball Returns to Twin Cities
By Brad Horn
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Minnesota Twins opened a new ballpark on Monday, as Target Field played host to its first official regular-season game, and for the first time since 1981 a major league game took place outdoors in the Twin Cities. The day could not have been more perfect – from the weather, to initial reviews of the stadium, to the reactions of players and those in the stands. The new ballpark is a home run.
Deployed to bring home items to Cooperstown that represented the Twins’ move from the Metrodome, I was honored to be a part of the day, which was filled with so many familiar faces – all who were united in their reverence for a ballpark that has immediately joined the discussion of best ballparks anywhere in the country.
Hall of Fame Senior Vice President Bill Haase and I encountered several members of baseball’s royalty who were simply thrilled to be a part of the moment. Hall of Famer and Twins legend Rod Carew – along with his wife, Rhonda – and I talked about how the gaps would play for his sweet stroke, and how he might run all day around the bases. Former Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart offered me a contrarian view of the defensive effort that would be required of the new dimensions.
Harmon Killebrew, the “Killer,” and his wife, Nita, enjoyed the beautiful weather conditions and a new era for baseball in Minneapolis with several members of their family, as did fellow Hall of Famer and Twins great Dave Winfield, who along with his brother Steve, watched the game from just past the first base dugout.
As to the game itself, we at the Hall of Fame were fortunate to head home with the ball hit by Boston Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who laced a single to center off Carl Pavano to lead off the game for the first hit at Target Field. A special tip-of-the-cap to home plate umpire Jeff Nelson and crew chief Tim Tschida for pulling the ball out of play to make sure it ended up several hundred miles east of here, in its eternal home in Cooperstown.
The ball came out of play with a three-inch scuff of fresh-cut grass, a substance not found on a baseball in a major league game in Minneapolis in nearly 30 years. It was the perfect treasure for representing a return to outdoor baseball in a city whose passion for the game has, perhaps, never been more intense.
Following the game, Jason Kubel of the Twins pledged the hardwood used to hit the first home run in the history of Target Field, an eighth-inning solo shot to right field off Boston’s Scott Atchison (like me, a TCU Horned Frog, who is one of the best stories of the early season, winning a spot on an Opening Day roster for the first time at age 34 after a previous brief stint with Seattle in 2004 and 2005).
Kubel was honored by our offer to have the bat preserved forever in Cooperstown, but he was convinced that there are a few more bombs left in the bat. So, we happily agreed to take the bat once it dies… and I’m guessing it is going to be remembered as a hero, with a few more big hits in it for Kubel. This would be his second artifact donation to the Hall of Fame, previously donating his helmet from his cycle in 2009.
Before departing Target Field, I made sure to scoop up some infield dirt to commemorate the day to add to our collection in Cooperstown. Mixed in are several cuts of fresh green grass, a perfect tribute to Minneapolis’ triumphant return to outdoor baseball.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.