Twins see promise in new park
Players, coaches excited about new ballpark's offerings
MILWAUKEE -- It's been such a long time coming for a new Twins ballpark that many Twins players and staff didn't believe the news when it came."I just want to see it stamped and say it's done," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said early on Saturday afternoon as the team awaited word on the Minnesota legislature's vote. Well, Gardenhire would have to wait until early Sunday morning for the official word to come down as the Minnesota Senate voted, 34-32, to finally secure the plan that will give the Twins a long awaited new ballpark. "That's very, very exciting for the Minnesota Twins organization and for all of Twins fans who are going to enjoy outdoor baseball," Gardenhire said with a big smile. For a franchise that has seen so much strife over the past few years in its attempt to get a new ballpark, the arrival of a new open air stadium couldn't be better news. "There is going to be relief, because there has been so many years spent and energy spent and question marks about the stability of the franchise," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "I think it's going to give a lot of people relief that it's all done and now we can just look forward to the opening in 2010." Ground is expected to be broken for the new ballpark in the fall of 2007, and it should be completed in time for the 2010 season. While that time seems a long way off to most of the current players who likely won't be around to see the new park, there is no doubting the impact it will have on the franchise.
Torii Hunter has dealt with the ballpark issue since his arrival with the club and knows just how big this news is for the Twins and their fans."I've been around long enough to listen to fans cry about it," Hunter said. "All they talk about is that. I've seen a lot of people in Minnesota over nine years who hate sitting in Metrodome to watch a baseball game in summer when it's 85 degrees. So this is what they all need." Though excitement abounds, there is a realization that the plan isn't perfect. There are always going to be a few holes, and one with the new plan is the absence of a retractable roof. But for Hunter and the rest of the Twins, any sort of outdoor ballpark is better than what they have now. "It would help, but you can't always get what you want," Hunter said of the roof. "You just have to take that sandwich and not that filet mignon. Sometimes you have to take a sandwich and be satisfied." During the near decade that the Twins have tried to seek a new ballpark, there has been plenty of payroll slashing and several rebuilding phases. So now, to have some stability as well as a chance for increased revenue, there could be some differences in the way the club operates. "It might change it, to some extent," Ryan said. "How you go about drafting and the type of players that you might think are a little more attractive for the facility could change, but I don't see us changing our mindset much. The real differences are that you are going to have more revenue and more opportunity, possibly." Hunter was the first to admit that the attraction of a new ballpark could be very enticing to other players that may have ignored Minnesota in the past, due to the turf and the lack of funds that the team possessed. But even more important for Gardenhire is the fact that the Twins might be able to keep some of their own players around for longer periods with the new park. "It's kind of like Cleveland, who signed those three-, four-, five-year deals with players at a younger age to keep them through the free agency levels," Gardenhire said. "We've done OK with Torii but lost a lot of people because of it. "The Metrodome has served its purpose, but it's outdated and not really a baseball park," Gardenhire said. "This stadium is going to be real good for a lot of people. People like the outdoors in Minnesota."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.