Stadium quirks still causing hang-ups

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August 16, 2010 // UPDATED 8:51 am - August 16, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Blame the swirling wind. Blame the tricky right field corner. Blame the grass infield and its drag on speeding ground balls. Heck, blame Minnie and Paul, and the alleged glare they’re sending toward the batter’s box.

Just don’t blame the color of the “batter’s eye,” the large wall in center field; team management took care of that over the All-Star Break, painting it darker and flatter.

For two months now, Twins players have wrung their hands over Target Field’s quirks, worrying that the stadium’s design has dampened their offensive power. Home runs are way down this year. Only Oakland’s Coliseum has yielded on average fewer per game. Joe Mauer hasn’t knocked one out of the park yet. And stat watchers have noted that Target Field yields about two ground-ball double plays per game, a 20 percent increase from last year at the Metrodome, which had a hitter-friendly artificial surface.

Team management has taken the complaints seriously.

Aside from repainting the batter’s eye, the team has sent scouts to other sunny stadiums to study glare-reduction strategies.

But the worries keep mounting. Michael Cuddyer has told reporters that the trees in front of the batter’s eye cast shifting shadows that cause problems for batters. Cuddyer also has issues with the limestone overhang in right field. The jutting piece of wall has caused him to guess on caroming fly balls — sometimes wrongly, as he did in a recent game against the Royals that allowed an easy triple for Jose Guillen. And the wind — one of the most convenient scapegoats in an outdoor stadium — remains a little-understood X factor.

Still, not all stats incriminate the stadium. The Twins still have the best record at home in the American League Central (33-20, as of this writing, tied with the White Sox). Their home batting average of .291 is third in the majors — which could actually be aided by the stadium’s minuscule foul territory.

Team officials wouldn’t comment on whether more changes were coming to Target Field. Or if changes were even needed. In a game as mental as baseball, perceptions can be just as powerful as reality.

Hopefully, the Twins can ditch their hang-ups before the playoffs.

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Mn/DOT to deliver plan for median

Target Field, as observers have already pointed out, has been designed to a T. But that attention to detail doesn’t necessarily stretch to the facility’s immediate surroundings. Some say
a small little eyesore visible from Target Plaza has been ruining an
otherwise gorgeous stadium environment.

The culprit? A weedy strip of median running alongside Interstate 394, visible just below the Twins’ “Tradition Wall.” For months, team management, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority and 2020 Partners have made a concerted effort to prod the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) toward sprucing up the patch.

Landscape design firm Oslund and Associates, the firm that designed Target Plaza, has been called on to help suggest improvements. And Vincent James Associates Architects (VJAA) presented a preliminary improvement plan to the city. But the responsibility of the final design lies solely with Mn/DOT, who will implement any changes in-house.

Mn/DOT’s proposal for a redesign was expected the first week of August. But according to department spokesperson Kent Barnard, VJAA’s plans, which called for lots of vegetation, proved “too difficult” for the “harsh environment” of the median.

“We’ve looked at a few things, but it hasn’t been finalized yet,” Barnard said. He expects a new plan to be ready by mid-August.