7/10/2014 9:51 P.M. ET
Twins help rebuild field in nearby Robbinsdale
By Alex M. Smith / MLB.com
ROBBINSDALE, Minn. -- The mayor of Robbinsdale stood between home and third with half of a ribbon and two old photographs in his hands.
"Let me show you a picture," Regan Murphy said. "My mom dug these up the other day."
When he was finished looking back at memories he made on the T-ball field in the summer of 1981, Murphy looked up and saw the future of athletics in his city: a state-of-the-art youth baseball park that was made possible by the Twins and several other contributors as part of the club's $8 million All-Star Game legacy giving program.
Thursday night's dedication of MLB/Twins All-Star Field was the culmination of several months of hard work, and Murphy had just cut the ribbon to usher in a new era.
"This is a novelty," Murphy said, a bit lost for words.
In the photographs, the old field had obvious differences -- home plate was in the new center field, with railroad tracks behind the backstop. There was also a giant oak tree in the outfield.
"It was big, huge and beautiful," Murphy said. "There was no fence, so that was our indicator. If you hit it past the oak tree, it was a home run."
But the tree eventually died and was cut down, and kids used the raggedy field less and less over the years. Mike Opat, the Hennepin County Commissioner who helped build Target Field, was not sad to see the old Robbinsdale ballpark replaced.
"It wasn't even a good Little League field," Opat said. "It was a tweener field used for practice. When we did play on it, it wasn't enjoyable, because the sun would be right in the catcher's eyes. The wind was usually blowing in, and it was a dust bowl. That's what I'll remember."
Opat, who grew up in Minneapolis, remembers riding bikes into Robbinsdale early in the morning to beat the local kids to the field across town.
He's coached in the Little League that will play on the new field for the past eight years.
"It really became obvious that we needed to do this one," Opat said. "We knew there was going to be the potential for All-Star giving, and we wanted to make sure we got in the mix. We are under-fielded here, a lot of kids playing in the spring. It's very tough to get enough field time and practice time before you dive into a season without knowing what a forceout is, or what an infield fly is."
The new field is gorgeous. Decked out with laser-graded artificial turf, a brick backstop and a 20-foot high outfield fence, it's a Little League mecca.
Former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie, a Manitoba native who grew up playing organized hockey and volleyball, was in awe of the new digs.
"We played in a lot of cow pastures," Koskie said. "You'd just hit the ball to the gap, and you'd run forever. Being able to play on a field like this would be phenomenal."
The former Twin also offered some advice to the group of roughly 50 Robbinsdale Little League players in attendance: swing for the fences and see who can knock out the first home run.
"If the coach asks you to bunt, call a timeout, go over there and say, 'Coach Koskie says I can't bunt my way to the big leagues,'" Koskie said.
Thursday night marked the beginning of Robbinsdale's biggest tradition: Whiz Bang Days, which always turns the town into a mass of music, shopping and sporting events the weekend after the Fourth of July.
As Opat surveyed the hundreds of people gathering in and around the town's new ballpark, he couldn't remember a better beginning to the festivities.
"Nothing comes close to this," he said.