Twins excited to play in outdoor park
Players looking forward to natural grass, hitter-friendly stadium
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even though it hasn't been built yet, Twins legends Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew know a lot more about playing in the new Twins' ballpark than any of the current Twins.
That's because both Twins greats are familiar with what it takes to play outdoor baseball in Minnesota at the old Metropolitan Stadium, while all of the current Twins are used to playing in the Metrodome, where it's always sunny and 70 degrees.
"I played a lot of years here outside, and you know going in that if you're going to play outdoor baseball in Minnesota, that you're going to have a lot of bad days with weather," Killebrew said. "It certainly is something you don't like to do, play in bad weather. I played 14 years here, and we had some good days and bad days, and the weather affected a lot of the games. That's the way baseball is, and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be played.
In town for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new ballpark, both agreed that baseball is better when it is played outdoors, and offered some tips for when the new ballpark opens in 2010.
"You start the season and some days there's snow on the field and some days it's too cold," Carew said. "But I think the key thing is that you have to put yourself in a strong frame of mind to go out and play. If you worry about the weather, then you're going to struggle. After awhile, we didn't worry about it; we knew what to expect. We just went out and played because that's what you're supposed to do."
Killebrew played in Minnesota from the time the Twins moved the franchise from Washington, D.C., in 1961 until 1974, while Carew played from 1967-78. The Twins moved into the Metrodome in 1982.
"I think the fans are real excited about having this new ballpark, and they can't wait for it to get built. The sooner the better, for them," Killebrew said. "It's going to be an exciting ballpark for them, they're going to be closer to the field than they are at the Metrodome. They're going to enjoy it on those nice days out here."
Joe Mauer, a St. Paul native, is really the only Twin with experience playing outdoors in Minnesota. Mauer, who was re-signed to a four-year contract prior to this season, should be around to relive his memories of playing baseball in the snow during high school.
"There might be some white stuff covering the grass, but we battled through it back in high school," Mauer said. "So those first couple of months might be cold, but during the summer, this is where you want to be, outside."
Current Twin Michael Cuddyer said that if all days were as nice as Thursday, he couldn't wait for the new ballpark to open.
"It's beautiful. This would be a great day to have a game," Cuddyer said. "Obviously, in early months it'll be a little chilly, but it's also a little chilly in Detroit and Chicago in April, as well. Just with a new stadium, the atmosphere's going to be fun, and just as a baseball fan in general, not even as a Minnesota Twins fan, I understand the magnitude of something like this."
Weather aside, many of the Twins are looking forward to just playing in a new stadium.
When told that on first glance it looks as if the new stadium is going to be a hitter's park, Cuddyer's face lit up.
"I hope so," he said. "Contrary to the name that the Metrodome's given, it's not the Homer Dome. Hopefully I'll be able to experience that."
Catcher Mike Redmond is looking forward to getting off of the turf at the Metrodome, known for being extra quick and making balls take funny bounces.
"If you ask any player, guys don't like to play on Astroturf, because it beats their body up," Redmond said. "So, anytime you can get out there on natural grass, it's a benefit to you as a player.
"Anytime you go to a situation where a team has a new stadium and a fresh environment, it's attractive. You know the fans are going to be great, and it'll be a pretty fun place to play."
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.