Is this team built for Target Field?

There are three players wearing Twins caps on their plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. They also will be recipients of bronze statues located at Target Field.

The commission went to Bill Mack, the world's preeminent relief sculptor. You can discover that by Bing-ing him.

Carew's statue was the first to be unveiled at mid-afternoon Friday. It is larger than life-size and depicts Sir Rodney in a classic stance with the bat extended off his shoulder.

The ceremony started in the rain. When it ended 15 minutes later, the rain had stopped and the system that sucks water from the playing field was doing its magic. There wasn't a hint of extra moisture when the exhibition game started on schedule two hours later at 5:11 p.m.

This was a blow to the two groups of critics: A) The citizens still whining over Hennepin County's contribution to the project; and B) those upset that another $200 million wasn't spent for a retractable roof.


Exhibition or not, these folks would have been in celebration mode if the Twins' first planned contest in Target Field was wiped out by rain.

Don't despair, critics. You'll get your rainout — even a snow-out — and maybe as soon as the official home opener on April 12.

And Minnesota's baseball fans will remain grateful for what has been provided with their third Major League park.

The first Twins game played in Met Stadium was the home opener on April 21, 1961. We had a fondness for our erector set on the Bloomington prairie, but it was being in the big leagues that had everyone's heart pumping.

The first Twins game played in the Metrodome was an exhibition against Philadelphia on April 3, 1982. We appreciated the roof that night, since it was snowing, and also appreciated a thunderous Dome's contribution to a pair of World Series championships.

That said, a baseball fan never could be proud to call the Dome home — not with the plastic version of the game played inside that big blue room.

The situation changed late Friday afternoon. The Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals took the field and were surrounded by glorious sights wherever they glanced. This included down, where the grass was already as green as Augusta National's fairways thanks to the underground heating system.

Carew played his 12 seasons for the Twins at the Met. He was reminded of those early April games when the grounds crew occasionally broke out the green paint to make the infield grass more attractive to the audience.


"I don't think the pitchers here will have any of those green baseballs to throw like we saw a few times at the Met," Carew said.

You figured that Target Field, with all it had to offer, would be home to more socializing than serious baseball watching. It didn't take long for that to come true.

There were fans in the small bleachers down the right-field line trying to start a Wave by the third inning. They failed, thankfully.

By mid-game, the top deck in left field was nearly empty. Hundreds of ticketholders seemed to prefer standing on a platform behind the foul pole. This gathering seemed to be made up of and 20- and 30-year-olds and eager to make new friends.

The Twins didn't give the young and social much reason to focus on the ballgame. Denard Span was the exception. He had the ballpark's first hit (triple in the first), the first home run (in the third) and the first exceptional fielding play (on Albert Pujols' drive in the first).

Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus homered off starter Carl Pavano for a 3-2 Cardinals' lead. Then, Pat Neshek was hammered for a five-spot in the eighth. The in-house radar gun had Neshek's fastball at hit-me 86 miles per hour.

The final was 8-4 for the Redbirds. Near the end of the game, a senior Minneapolis sportswriter confided to colleagues: "The problem is, this Twins team was built to play in the Metrodome."

It's tough to dispute a sage, but it says here that there's an outside chance the Twins can bounce back from Friday's drubbing and win a few in their new surroundings the next six months.

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