Twins soak up Target Field experience

Twins soak up Target Field experience

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins were finishing up their tenure in the Metrodome last fall, the prominent question was whether or not the club might lose its home-field advantage by moving out from under the Teflon roof.

But after experiencing Target Field's home opener on Monday afternoon, there certainly aren't many Twins players who are thinking about what they may have lost by moving out of the dingy Dome.

Mark McGwire

On a sunny, warm spring afternoon, the Twins christened their new ballpark before a packed crowd of 39,715 with a 5-2 victory over the Red Sox. These types of days, which the club had missed out for the past 28 years while playing inside the Dome, certainly seemed ideal for the fan base that had been anxiously waiting to see outdoor baseball once again.

And for the Twins, seeing the excitement of the fans and the anticipation that had built up for this day was pretty special.

"Everything went our way today," Twins center fielder Denard Span said. "It was a good first day in a new stadium. You look across the board, everyone had a good day. Just a great day all around for the fans and the club -- seeing the old-timers come back, the [Rod] Carews and all of those guys. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful. This was just a great day."

Before Monday's contest, former Twins pitcher Frank Viola stood in the home dugout and looked around at the sights -- the green grass, the huge scoreboard and the view of the downtown skyline. And while there had been many memories for Viola inside that ol' Dome across town, he agreed that it was time for the club to start making new history at Target Field.

"Minnesota in the summer is the most beautiful place in the world," Viola said. "Why do I want to go indoors when it's 80 degrees and sunny out?"

It may not have been 80 degrees on Monday, but the Twins were certainly pleased by the weather conditions that greeted them in their home opener and also the electricity of the home crowd as well.

"It's one of those things where you play in the Metrodome and it's so loud," said new Twin Orlando Hudson, who played at the Dome as a member of the Blue Jays from 2002-05. "But you come outside and it's still loud. It was a great day overall today."

The Twins have now played three contests inside Target Field -- two of them being exhibition games. They've had a chance to take batting practice a couple times and to see how the ball might travel, but they say it's too soon to determine whether this will be a pitcher's park or a hitter's park.

"I hope it's a hitter's park," Jason Kubel said. "There were a couple of balls hit today that didn't get out that I thought probably could. Hopefully as a hitter, as we go along in the summer, they'll start going out."

The excitement around the new ballpark could be felt as fans came down into the warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis early on Monday morning -- more than six hours before the first pitch. Many of the players and even manager Ron Gardenhire saw the extra activity that was taking place and could feel the buzz as they arrived at their new home.

"You see the people walking around and hanging around the ballpark," Gardenhire said. "We saw that at the Metrodome. But you see people staring at the fences looking in and everything. It's pretty neat. And it's fun. This is beautiful, what's not to like about it?"

With the gates opening three hours before first pitch on Monday, Twins fans flocked into the ballpark and cheered every batting practice home run. That enthusiasm carried throughout the game. When Kubel hit the first home run at Target Field in the seventh inning, a loud "Kube" cheer rang throughout the ballpark.

For Jon Rauch, who had taken part in the opening of the Nationals' new ballpark a couple of years ago, this was a special experience of its own.

"It's always exciting, but here more so I think because it's probably the best group of fans I've been in front of," Rauch said. "It's just an outstanding place to be and to play."

Having spent so much time playing in a stadium where the amenities were lacking for the players and many of the seats for the fans didn't even face home plate, the Twins and their fan base seemed eager to show off their new digs on Monday.

With the spotlight of the baseball world focused on the Twin Cities for this day, everyone seemed proud to be the center of attention in their beautiful new home.

"When you walk into the dugout in Cleveland you look up, you see the big scoreboard and it's just a beautiful ballpark. And this one, it's the same thing, maybe even more so," Gardenhire of their new home. "It's a happening place. They didn't go overboard and make it ridiculous. It's a great place, really nice."

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