Glaring statistics

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June 21, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
During the final weeks of May, scores of news reports offered statistical confirmation for what casual fans had readily pointed out — long balls are not leaving this stadium. As of the recent home series against the Atlanta Braves, June 11–13, the Twins’ new ballpark had yielded the third lowest average of home runs per game in the entire Major Leagues. According to hittrackeronline.com, which charts homerun statistics for MLB in excruciating detail, Target Field gives up on average only 1.36 homers per game. Only Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum (1.00) and Seattle’s Safeco Field (1.22) are more pitcher friendly.

The Metrodome averaged 2.30 home runs per game last season.

But now it seems that anyone near the batter’s box is having trouble, including catchers. The Twins’ hitting coach Joe Vavra has hinted in the press that catchers are having trouble tracking pitches. And Joe Mauer, who crouches behind the plate for Minnesota, recently said in the Star Tribune that there have been times — particularly during 3 p.m. afternoon games — where he can barely see the ball coming at him.  

The problem? A wicked glare that allegedly emanates from numerous areas of the ballpark.

Blame has been placed on the silver railings that cut through the banks of seats. The iconic Minnie and Paul celebration sign has also been called into question, as its mostly white exterior directs the sun right toward home plate.

Of course, to fans of a certain cynical bent, this sounds like a lot of convenient excuse-making. In fact, ESPN.com’s Park Factors page reveals that Target Field has been the league’s easiest ballpark to hit doubles in. But the Twins are taking the feedback serious enough to make inquiries. They are actively collecting feedback from players and studying glare-reduction in other stadiums. But don’t expect knee-jerk changes.  

“This is something that has happened in every new ballpark that has ever opened,” said Kevin Smith, spokesperson for the Twins. “There have been some good suggestions, and we’ll try to take care of it as much as we can.

“But basically, this is what happens you’re breaking in a new place.”

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Ticket sales hit three million

As of June 14, total advanced ticket sales for the inaugural season at Target Field had surpassed the 3 million mark, according to a press release issued by the Twins.

The last time the team sold so many tickets was in 1988, the year following the Twins’ first World Series Championship. That year also witnessed the team’s all-time annual attendance record of 3,030,672.

If home game attendance maintains its high levels, this year should break this record. Through 33 dates in this current season, the Twins have averaged a paid attendance of 39,001, which puts them in the top six of Major League Baseball teams. Only the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels have drawn larger crowds on average.

Ticket inventory is limited for games in July and August, but fans are encouraged to check back regularly, as single-game inventory often becomes available for various reasons.

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Northstar proves popular with fans, more frequent schedule debuts

The Northstar commuter rail line, Metro Transit’s speedy pipeline connecting Downtown to the northern suburbs, has pulled its weight this season in terms of getting baseball fans to Target  Field.  According to Metro Transit reports, Northstar ridership is averaging 3,500 for 2010 home games. To accommodate demand, Metro Transit has increased the number of passenger cars in service for Twins games.

And that number will most likely increase, as trains serve more home games during the core summer months. Beginning with the June 8 series against the Kansas City Royals, Northstar now serves every weekend game and all weekday night games.

Northstar trains serve the lower level of Target Field Station, located just outside of the stadium’s left field wall.