As another spectacular summer of Twins baseball continues, the team’s new home is quickly taking shape in downtown Minneapolis. With more than 500 workers at the ballpark site each and every day, Jerry Bell, Bill Smith and I were recently privileged to provide a variety of the club’s uniform personnel with their first look at their new digs.
Ron Gardenhire and his coaching staff along with current Twins Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Nick Punto and Denard Span all recently made the 10-block trip from the Metrodome to the North Loop Neighborhood to visit the future home of Twins baseball. While we have addressed hundreds of questions during the many tours conducted for internal staff, select ticket holders, corporate partners and public officials, I found it interesting to see the coaching staff and players tour the site while gleaming information beneficial to their trade. Examples include:
· Field/Groundskeeper – Not surprisingly all personnel expressed interest in the state of the playing field. While the grass is currently being grown at a MLB-approved sod farm in Colorado, the players were particularly interested in the infield dirt, the warning tracks, etc. They also were curious as to our plans to hire the groundskeeper – a position which will be filled prior to spring training 2009.
· Dimensions/Outfield wall height – The players seemed pleased with the planned outfield dimensions which are almost identical to the Metrodome. Included in that discussion was the height of the outfield walls – 8 feet in left and center and 23 feet (same as the Metrodome) from right center to right. Needless to say Mr. Morneau is intrigued by the placement of “The Overlook” which extends eight feet over the right field wall.
· Wind/Sun – With an American flag flying high on a pole placed on the future site of the pitcher’s mound the wind direction was immediately evident. That led to discussion regarding the various wind studies which have been inconclusive. In addition, the group noticed the high sky and sun location at a time representative of a standard day game. I could see Denard Span pay particular attention to the location of the sun as we walked from centerfield. The bottom line is we will not fully understand the impact of wind and sun on game conditions until the ballpark construction is complete and the roof canopy is in place.
· Bullpens - All were pleased with the plan for “stacked” bullpens in left centerfield. Much of the discussion focused on which pen the Twins will use – the lower or upper version. The team is yet to decide as both locations have theirs pros and cons. My sense is we will look for Gardy, bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek and even Joe Nathan to be consulted on this next summer when the bullpens are fully in place.
· Clubhouse - Of course much our time on site was spent reviewing the plans for the Twins clubhouse. The manager, coaches, players and staff spend countless hours here and all seemed excited with the proposed layout. Among the highlights were the strategically located batting tunnels, the weight room and the training room – complete with state-of-the-art hydrotherapy.
· Dugouts – Understanding the Twins dugout (first base side) is now constructed, it was interesting seeing the players gravitate to this space. Much of the discussion was focused on the type of flooring, the type of bench and the type of fencing along the front of the dugout.
· Parking – Like all employees, the group was curious as to their route to the ballpark and where they will park. Ironically, the player parking area – located south of the ballpark — will be paved in the next few weeks. All seemed quite pleased with the spacious area which will allow for adequate parking for spouses on game day.
Dave St. Peter