© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

04/12/10 5:58 PM ET

Selig thrilled to see Target Field open

Commissioner praises Twins as model big league franchise

MINNEAPOLIS -- Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has seen 22 new Major League ballparks open during his tenure in office. Of all these, his second favorite opening, he said Monday, was Target Field.

That means that this is Selig's favorite new ballpark opener in any place other than his hometown. Selig's favorite new ballpark opening was that of Miller Park in Milwaukee in 2001. As the former owner of the Brewers, he was at the forefront of a long and sometimes bitter political struggle to get the ballpark built.

There was a considerable political struggle around the building of the Twins' new ballpark, too, and Selig visited Minnesota frequently, campaigning for a new venue. A new home for the Twins became one of the primary causes of his time in office.

Mark McGwire

"With the exception of Miller Park opening in Milwaukee, I've looked forward more to this day than any other [new] stadium I've been to," Selig said at a news conference before the Target Field opener against the Boston Red Sox.

"There was a long, difficult process, but a very successful one in the end. My only regret today is that my old friend, Carl Pohlad, is not here," Selig said, referring to the late owner of the Twins. "When I think of all the hours we spent talking about [the new ballpark] and how much it meant to the entire Pohlad family, their loyalty to this community and this state, they have my undying gratitude."

Selig also underscored the dedication of numerous Twins officials, including club president Jerry Bell, who, the Commissioner said, "poured his heart and soul into this for the last 20 years.

"Today, I'm grateful to be a part of it. You watch people walking around having joy and happiness, which is the way these things usually end.

"This was a long and difficult process. This one had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of heartache, and it took a lot of patience, it took a lot of tenacity by a lot of people. That's why we're here. It was the right thing to do."

Selig said that Minnesota has been "for the last 2 1/2 to three decades, a model Major League franchise." There were so many reasons for the Twins' admirable status, Selig said, that he could not enumerate all of them, although he later pointed specifically to the club's strength in scouting and their farm system, as well as its organizational stability, all of which have allowed it to be successful despite being, by Major League standards, a small media market franchise.

"You look around and you see Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau," Selig said. "And all I can say is, it's not by accident."

The Commissioner also noted that without the promise of higher revenues from Target Field, the Twins would not have been able to complete Mauer's new contract extension, which is for $184 million over eight years.

Selig also said that Target Field was an aesthetic success, another new ballpark with all of the state-of-the-art creature comforts, and yet, a ballpark with intimacy that suggests a much older facility.

"The reaction to this ballpark is one of the reasons that this sport is more popular than ever before," Selig said. "They build new ballparks that look like old ballparks. Nobody will understand how the symmetrical bowls of the 1960s and '70s hurt us so much. They all looked alike. They had no character."

Target Field is at the other end of the spectrum; an intimate, singular kind of place, unique unto itself.

"I can't tell you how impressed I am," Selig said. "This is going to work out beautifully."

Selig made an informal pregame stroll through the Twins' new clubhouse, which is palatial compared to the team's old quarters at the Metrodome. That was basically his message to the players: "This is a long way from the Metrodome, isn't it?"

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.