Image courtesy of Melissa Berman
- Opening Day was a blast, and it was the right call to push it to Friday. For the second year in a row, the Twins moved their Home Opener to Friday, and this seemed to be the right call. It was less windy and about 12 degrees warmer, and by the end of the game, it felt plenty chilly enough in the shade with that breeze. Other fans cooled off during the game, too, because many crowded under the concourse heaters warming themselves like iguanas by the end of the game. From the fans I talked to, the consensus was that mostly everyone was happy with the Twins’ decision to move the game to Friday. The Twins handed out navy blue baseball hats with the new TC logo on Friday and Saturday of the series. In past years, the team set the bar high with Opening Weekend giveaways like vests, hooded sweatshirts, and zip up jackets, so I was a little underwhelmed, but it is a nice quality hat. Everyone who stuck the game’s chilliness out was rewarded: nothing like ending the game with a walk-off win vs. the defending World Series Champs!
- Eighty-degree games in early April? When they unveiled the Twins’ 2023 schedule, I immediately noticed that there were 16 home games in April, the most of any month, and figured we’d have a lot of bundling up and hand warmers in our future. I never expected we’d have games with temperatures in the 70s and 80s! “False Summer,” anyone? The Twins are leaving town just in time to cool down again, so time will tell what it will be like when the Twins return to play the Nationals on April 21. Attendance was strong over the weekend for the Astros series, but was been noticeably light for the White Sox series (12,078 on Monday, 16,153 on Tuesday, and 17,658 on Wednesday) despite the warm temperatures. Nearly everyone at at the ballpark was in shorts. Light attendance is pretty typical of April weekday games though, especially day games, and no doubt attendance will rebound on weekends and once school gets out; Target Field is packed with youth day camps during the summer.
- The revamped Target Field looks impressive. Target Field was refreshed with a number of upgrades during the offseason, as you’ve heard by now. The new scoreboard looks even bigger in person, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it is not cluttered with ads. The scoreboard operators had a field day on Opening Day of scoreboard errors and mistakes, but since then it has been smooth sailing. The new, bright Minnie and Paul sign is a fun touch, though their handshake is slight, so you might miss it if you’re not looking closely! The “disco ball” in right field is cool, though I have not noticed it too much (it’s pretty high up there). I also really enjoy the enhancements the Twins have added on the right field concourse, like mini golf and a new video board so that the parents chasing their kids around out there can keep up with the game action. After 13 years, it was time to bring Target Field into the future. One other change fans at the ballpark will notice is how quickly the building in left field is going up. I asked a friend who works in the urban planning industry, and he said that the tall tower has 352 long-term rentals, 98 short term rentals. The shorter building (not visible from inside Target Field) has about 350k square footage of office space and is already about a quarter leased. There will also be and 17k square footage of retail space in the base. Fan reactions to this giant building, and its crane, appear to be mixed; it’s the only building visible on that side of the ballpark, so for now, it sticks out.
- But I’m not a fan of replacing the out-of-town scoreboard in the right field with rotating advertisements. The scores are now on a new light-up scoreboard down the third baseline. The scores and details on this screen are small and hard to read, and you can’t see the screen at all if you sit near home plate or anywhere down the first baseline. And, of course, no one wants to look at a giant ad the whole game, either. I know money makes the world go-’round, but I thought the out-of-town outfield scoreboard was a useful, unique feature of Target Field. Now the scoreboard is effectively unusable to a majority of the stadium. Somewhat related, it’s not a change the Twins made this year, but I miss the flags in right field displaying the order of the central division standings.
- The new security system is a game-changer. I covered it in my story about Opening Day, but the new scanners have all but eliminated lines to get into Target Field. Even on Opening Day, which traditionally has lines that can span blocks, people could walk in as if entering during the middle of the game. I’ve still triggered the scanner a few times because I often bring a portable charger to the games (I asked a security employee, and he said the scanner is still a metal detector. He recommended I carry my portable charger in my hand so that security can see on the screen exactly what set off alarm- I took a peek at the security screen and saw a pitcher of me with a square over my bag. If I had been carrying the charger in my hand, I would’ve had a square over my hand), but it’s been no problem to hand my bag to the security staff and walk through the body scanner again. The new scanners will make everyone’s lives a lot easier, especially those who bring purses are bags to games, because usually the bag lines were the longest.
- He’s baaaack! Everyone’s favorite local realtor is back as the sponsor of the 7th Inning Stretch this year. Talk about an advertising budget. Just don’t mention him by name on Twitter unless you want him (or someone from his team) to swoop in and like every single tweet he’s mentioned in.
- Saturday Strikeouts and Ski-U-Mah! I am a proud University of Minnesota alum. It’s not every day that your team plays in a National Championship, so I wore a Gopher hockey jersey to the game on Saturday. I was extra excited when the Twins used the big video board to wish the Gophers good luck, and they played the Gopher Rouser, which I loudly and passionately (annoyingly) sang along to. A side note is that the main video board looks even bigger when they use the entire display to show an image, and it’s not sectioned into different parts like batting lineup, player picture, and stats.
- The Twins only handed out 5,000 of the magnet schedules a night on Monday and Tuesday of the White Sox series. I make it a point to get the magnet schedule yearly because I heavily reference it throughout the season. For reference, they’re handing out 5,000 presumably-expensive wood bats for Carlos Correa bat day? Come on; it’s a magnet! It’s a bummer for people who like to collect these, but of course they have already appeared on eBay.
- Dollar Dog Night returns. Dollar dog night is every Tuesday this season. The Twins say there is a limit of two hotdogs at a time, but I saw others buying way more than that. I don’t plan on missing many of these nights. I noticed the Twins added way more condiments like BBQ sauce and mayo to their concourse tables, too.
- The Buck Truck is back! This year, after Buxton gets a home run or a big hit, the Twins have played a loud truck horn as Buck rounds the bases. Buxton also has brought back his pull-the-truck-horn celebration. In past years the Twins have sounded the Bomba siren as other players do their home run trot, but the siren has yet to appear.
- Fans are fully taking advantage of the expanded beer sales. The Twins announced that this year, they would be continuing their alcohol sales into the 8th inning due to the shorter game times caused by the pitch clock. From what I have seen at the games, fans are taking advantage of this extra time. In the bottom of the 8th inning on Tuesday, a guy sat down a couple of seats from me with two fancy cocktail drinks. You have to wash down those dollar dogs with something, right? The intent of stopping the sales in the 7th was so that fans sober up a little before the game ends, but was that enough time to begin with? It is a good move to let vendors recoup a bit of the money they otherwise would have earned before MLB implemented the pitch clock. Speaking of..
- The games feel MUCH faster in person. But it’s kind of nice. Tuesday night’s game was a blazing fast 2:23 despite ten innings. That was partly because Pablo López retired 23 consecutive batters and struck out 10, but also because of the pitch clock. Everything feels faster now. It was the bottom of the 7th inning, and I looked up at the clock and saw it was only an hour and a half into the game. I am hestitant to get up at all during the game, because I might feasibly miss an entire half or full inning. It is a significant mindset change for me walking to my car at 9 p.m., getting home, and not having to go to bed immediately. It will be nice, especially on weekdays, for kids attending games or those who have to wake up early for work the next day. I used to consider watching a Twins game my entire afternoon or evening’s activity, but now I almost equate it to the same amount of time spent watching a Timberwolves or Wild game. Target Field has a pitch clock in the outfield so that fans can monitor it, as well as two located behind home plate. Once the pitcher starts his windup, I’ve noticed the timer immediately turns off- probably so that the pitcher doesn’t see the flashing numbers in his peripheral. On Saturday, we saw our first strikeout due to a pitch clock violation when Joe Ryan struck out José Abreu, and fans in the stands really hooted & hollered/ laughed.
- Great walkup song choices (even though I don’t know many of them). Most of the returning Twins, outside of pitchers, changed things up this year and are using new walkup songs. Maybe my favorite is Kyle Farmer, who is using “A Sky Full of Stars” from the kids movie Sing 2 as his walkup this year because his son likes it. I was thankful they ditched the somewhat-cringy horror movie theme entrance for Jorge López (last year it included a scary little girl laughing and also the famous “Thriller” laugh). Best of all, it was incredible seeing Duran’s entrance on Tuesday night- the first of the season under the lights. His entrance is an entire show in itself. The video board prompted fans to take out to turn their phone lights on, and the Twins flickered the stadium lights as Duran ran out. We don’t need to mention what happened on the first pitch Duran threw, but the theatrics were incredible. Full list of Twins walkup songs here.
We’ll see you back at Target Field next week for the Nationals Series!
Have you made it out to Target Field yet? What have you noticed during your time spent at the ballpark? Let us know in a COMMENT below.