With Dome gone, Twins still believe in home field edge

Published 10:45 am Monday, April 12, 2010

The Metrodome was a clear boost for the Minnesota Twins: friendly bounces on the turf, lost fly balls by bewildered opponents, and that roof-amplified roar of the crowd.

Those benefits are gone, but as the Target Field era begins the Twins are confident their new ballpark will offer just as much of an edge.

“Good baseball players can play anywhere,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We know the Dome was an advantage, but it was more of an advantage because other teams hated going in there and playing.”

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The Twins will break in their new home when they host the Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon, a day fresh-air-craving fans and an amenity-seeking team have been desiring for more than a decade.

“I think it’s a neutral field now. I don’t think they get an advantage,” Red Sox infielder Bill Hall said. “But I still feel like they are going to be a good team on that field.”

The Twins played 28 weather-protected seasons at the Metrodome, using the noisy, quirky stadium to win two World Series, and five division titles in their last eight years inside. For now, though, with a loaded lineup and customers clamoring for tickets, 39,500-seat-capacity Target Field ought to provide plenty of energy itself.

“They’re going to pack this place and be behind this team the same way,” Gardenhire said. “They’re what lifts our spirits and lift you up during the course of the game. So we’re moving over with our fans to our ballpark, and believe me we can make this just as intimidating as the other place.”

Rain delays are now a factor, of course, and there will be some cold April (or October) evenings without the roof. Precipitation statistics suggest fewer postponements than lakefront or seaboard cities to the east, however, and the Twins only have three night games scheduled before May 3.

The visiting teams are just as eager for a new environment.

“I hated that dome,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, adding: “You couldn’t see the ball when it went up. You had those speakers hanging off the thing. I felt like I was in an office building.”

Last season, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen — weary of all the games his team lost at the Metrodome — issued a challenge to the rival Twins.

“I want to see the piranhas in a different lake next year,” Guillen said, using the metaphorical nickname he gave the Twins four years ago for the pesky, fundamental style they used then of slap hitting and hustling.

Actually, the Metrodome wasn’t as much of a boon for the Twins as the baseball world would have believed. Though the rebuilding teams of the late 1990s had a significant negative impact on their won-loss record, the Twins posted a .541 winning percentage during the regular season at the Metrodome. During that time, according to STATS LLC, the major league average was .540.