Twins pleased with Target Field exhibitions
Players able to break in new park before pressure of season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was a little concerned when he first heard about the two exhibition games at Target Field that his club was going to play against the Cardinals this weekend.Knowing that the weather can be bad in early April in Minnesota, he was worried whether or not it was a good idea for his club to leave Spring Training in Florida and travel north for a pair of games to test-run the club's new field. But now that the two games have been played, in what can only be described as pretty ideal weather conditions, and his club got a chance to see its new field without the pressure of the regular season, Gardenhire is glad that everything worked out this way. "It was really a great thing for us to come home and play," Gardenhire said. "For everybody to see this place and the players to get a feel out on the field, it was fantastic." The two exhibition games at Target Field allowed the Minnesota players a chance to get out on the field and get acclimated with their new surroundings in contests that essentially didn't count. And nearly all the Twins agreed that was a good thing, because they were admittedly distracted by their new surroundings. "I think you had to lose that sense of awe," Michael Cuddyer said. "It was tough to focus these two games, because you're looking at all these things you've never seen before. It was hard to focus on the game. This allowed us to get that out of the way in a sense and just concentrate on baseball when we come back." After Saturday's exhibition game against the Cardinals, the Twins headed to board a plane to Anaheim in preparation for Monday's Opening Day contest against the Angels. Spring Training is now over for the club, but it finished on a very positive note, as everyone got a better sense of what to expect at their new home. "We learned a little bit about the wall, how the ball is carrying," Justin Morneau said. "It could be different when we get back. It's one of those things where you learn as you go. The biggest thing for us will just be being comfortable -- knowing how to get here and where our lockers are at. All of those other things away from the field that can end up making a difference, too." Saturday starter Kevin Slowey said that he enjoyed getting the opportunity to have an atmosphere that much like a regular-season game for his final spring start. And while this weekend felt a little bit more like a road series than a home one, Slowey knows that soon enough this park will become home. "I felt comfortable out there," Slowey said. "I loved the mound. That was a neat thing for me to get out there. It doesn't feel like home for us yet, but I think it's going to get there the more often we're out here and the more often we come in and enjoy these amenities." The Twins will be on the road for the first week of the season with a four-game series against the Angels and then three contests against the White Sox in Chicago. When they return home on April 12, the Twins will officially mark the opening of their new ballpark against the Red Sox. But the good news for the club is that it will do so having some -- albeit limited -- experience in its new park. "We are going to come here April 12, and it's going to be a huge series playing against Boston, opening up the new stadium," Nick Punto said. "That's enough pressure and enough anxiety so to not have to break in a new ballpark will be nice. I think it was perfect to get these two games in this weekend to avoid that."
With the sun shining on Saturday and a nearly packed crowd -- attendance was announced at 32,790, although an additional 7,000 complimentary tickets were also given out -- the Twins couldn't help but bask in the glow of their new home."We were talking on the bench about how fun it is to be out here, and look and see this stadium," Gardenhire said. "Knowing that we're going to get a chance to play here all year long, it sure makes it fun coming to the ballpark."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.