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Twins Hope for Fans at April Opener

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January 27, 2021


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The Minnesota Twins 2021 home opener is scheduled for April 8 at Target Field against the Detroit Tigers.  Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners he is upbeat about the potential return of fans to home games after the pandemic made that impossible last year.

“We’re engaged in a conversation with the Governor’s Office and the Minnesota Department of Health about our potential of returning fans to Target Field here in April,” St. Peter said in Monday’s interview.  “Additional conversations need to be had but in general we’re optimistic about our ability to return fans to Target Field. It’s to be determined whether that will be in April, or not. We’re working towards that.”

Nothing will be announced soon regarding fans back at the ballpark. “We’re several weeks away, maybe a month away from clarity in Minnesota and our ability to have fans,” St. Peter said.

The most exciting return, of course, would be April 8.  “We’re shooting for opening day April 8th but, again, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Health, they’re going to help guide us on this, and we don’t take anything for granted relative to the virus.”

It’s all but certain that whenever fans return, the number of attendees will be restricted. “Whether that’s at 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, again, that’s to be determined,” St. Peter said.  “But I think it’s safe to say we will crawl before we walk, we will walk before we run relative to the number of fans we allow into the ballpark at any given time.”

Vaccinations and “herd immunity” are expected to help ease the COVID-19 virus as the year progresses.  MLB hopes the number of fans attending games will increase during the season as safety measures evolve.  Still, it will be a cautious road ahead and difficult in multiple ways including financially for MLB franchises who claim total debt was in the billions of dollars last year. “There’s no scenario we (the Twins) will not lose money in 2021,” St. Peter said.

Twins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Fort Myers February 17, with a workout the next day and the balance of the roster checking in a few days later.  Personnel will have daily COVID testing, wear masks and social distance. At the club’s CenturyLink Sports Complex spaces are being modified for clubhouse use as part of the effort to distance players. There will be other policies, St. Peter said, for dining and use of facilities like the weight room.

In the past fans have visited the complex, including for an annual open house and watching workouts. Because of the pandemic, access will be restricted to game days at Hammond Stadium.

Tickets for Twins spring training games are expected to go on sale soon but St. Peter believes capacity will likely be limited.  Restrictions on the number of fans who can attend each game are expected to be in place throughout the spring training schedule.

Dave St. Peter (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins)

The Twins won their division last year, took a quick exit from the playoffs and have the same ambitious goal again—earn their way to the World Series and a possible championship for the first time since 1991.  “We like our club a lot,” St. Peter said. “We think we’re really well positioned for success in 2021.  But we’re always looking for more pitching, and clearly there are a lot of good players on the board, both pitchers, and position players and bats.

“So we fully expect we’re going to add additional talent here before spring training. The way we approach it, we don’t necessarily think about it as one option.  There is always a variety of plans and you can improve your club a lot of different ways.”

The Twins and many MLB clubs have been mostly quiet with offseason moves.  Trades are possible, but most interesting is what St. Peter refers to as a “historic” number of free agents available on the market. “We’ll look to take advantage of that,” he said.

Multiple online sources yesterday said acquisition activity is heating up for the Twins, reporting the club has agreed to a $10.5 million deal with free agent Andrelton Simmons.  He’s a proficient and versatile infielder who will impact the Minnesota defense including at shortstop.

Minnesota’s highest paid player Josh Donaldson ($92 million) was injured much of last season, his first with the team, and didn’t see the field in the playoffs. The Twins were 19-9 with him in the lineup, 17-15 without him during the regular season, per a December 16 story. The slugging third baseman could be the team’s MVP in 2021.

“He’s a great player,” St. Peter said.  “He makes us better defensively.  He obviously makes us better offensively.  We need to keep him on the diamond and I know Josh feels that way as well.  We’re optimistic that he will be ready to go. …”

Another veteran the media and fans will scrutinize is bullpen closer Taylor Rogers whose ERA increased from 2.61 in 2019 to 4.05 in 2020.  “All his metrics were really good, some of it I think was (bad) luck, to be frank,” St. Peter said.

St. Peter admires Rogers for more than his pitching skills: “High character, really smart, great teammate, cares about people in the community. So yeah, we’re thrilled to have him in a Twins uniform.”

Worth Noting

Triple A teams like the St. Paul Saints are scheduled to open their seasons in April when the big league clubs start.  Because of the pandemic, though, start dates could be adjusted.

A story this week ranks the 14 Big Ten football teams 1-7 in each division.  The Gophers are No. 2 in the West behind Wisconsin.  Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue, Nebraska and Illinois follow.  Ohio State is No. 1 in the East, followed by Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland.

Adam Mayer, the former Gophers wide receiver, is living in the northern California Bay Area and involved with finance and accounting recruiting.  Dad Barry Mayer, the ex-Gopher running back, is mostly retired after a sales career in California and back in Minnesota substitute teaching K-12 and presenting for the Positive Coaching Alliance.

Commercials for this year’s Super Bowl are $5.5 million per ad, and down from $5.6 million in 2020, according to the Tuesday Front Office Sports email newsletter.

The newsletter also reported the NCAA’s year-end August 31, 2020 financials showed a $56 million loss for the organization and less than half of the $600 million in planned distributions was sent to Division I conferences.

The prep Mr. Football Award winner is usually announced in December at a banquet but the 2021 recipient will be revealed April 21 via Zoom. The award is sponsored by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and Minnesota Vikings.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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