With grass, Target Field is a reality

With grass, Target Field is a reality

MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly after 10 p.m. CT on Monday night, a cheer rang out from a small crowd gathered inside Target Field.

It was a cheer of celebration as the first section of grass was officially rolled out into place down the left-field line of the Twins' playing field for 2010.

"It's exciting and in some ways it's unreal," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports Inc. "There were obviously many days with a lot of doubts that it would ever happen. So that's why I came out here tonight because it's a big moment.

"I think the grass is important because we have concrete, steel and glass here already in the structure, but the grass is alive. And it kind of makes the ballpark come alive."

Installing the grass is a process that many believe will turn Target Field, which is set to open in April, from a project into a bona fide ballpark. And while the first portion of grass was unveiled after the Twins closed out a 2-1 win over the Orioles just a couple miles away at the Metrodome, the transplantation of the Colorado-grown turf actually began at around 4 a.m. on Monday morning.

It was at that time when workers at Graff's Turf Farms in Fort Morgan, Colo., began harvesting the grass turf, rolling it up and placing it in refrigerated trucks for delivery to Minneapolis. Around 2.5 acres of turf will be harvested from the farms to make up the playing surface for Target Field.

All of the sod will have to be installed within 24 hours of being cut from the field in Fort Morgan. So the procedure of transporting the grass and then laying it down will be repeated over a total of four days, with the entire field expected to be in place by Friday morning.

Installation crews were on hand Monday night at the new ballpark to lay the large rolls of the grass in place. Each roll is about 400 square feet and weighs approximately 2,500 pounds. All of the work will be completed between 10 p.m. and around 4 a.m. CT each day before the sun rises.

Over the four days, a total of 19 refrigerated trucks will be used to transport the grass. Four trucks traveled to Minnesota on Monday, with six trucks expected both on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and three on Thursday night, the final night of the project.

The installation of the grass has been nearly a year in the making, as it was last August when the seeds for the turf were planted at Graff's farms in Fort Morgan. The grass is a four-way blend of Kentucky Bluegrass, which was chosen for its dark green color, wear tolerance and ability to withstand both the severe winter weather and the summer heat.

"This is the best grass seed makeup that I think any chemist or professional turf guy could come up with," said Dan Mehls, a Mortenson Construction executive. "We got numerous turf guys involved in specifying the blend of grass and how it's installed and maintained. Everyone is confident that it's a hearty grass, a dark green colored grass and that it will definitely survive the Minnesota winters."

And over the past year, the grass has become a tourist attraction of sorts for eager Twins fans -- some of whom drove all the way to Colorado to see it in person.

It's a reaction that Graff's hasn't seen with other notable playing fields it has supplied, such as the Cubs' Wrigley Field, the Cardinals' Busch Stadium and the University of Notre Dame's football field.

The reason for the excitement by Twins fans is clear. This will be the first time the Twins have had a natural grass playing field since 1981 -- their last season in Metropolitan Stadium.

"There is more interest in this field install, I would argue, than any field install in recent Major League Baseball history and I think it's a product of a fan base that's been shut out of outdoor baseball for almost 30 years," Twins president Dave St. Peter said.

In addition to beginning the grass installation on Monday, the ballpark saw two other big milestones. A temporary home plate was put down and the actual pitching rubber was installed in the mound. So with those two things in place, the infield dirt set, and the grass starting to arrive, there was plenty for the Twins to be excited about on Monday night.

"I think for those of us who have been involved in the project, we've had a really good feeling that we're doing something special here," St. Peter said. "We think that the facility is beautiful and that there are all kinds of good sight lines, but it's been missing something from a baseball perspective. ... So I think it really becomes a ballpark officially tonight."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.