Among the things that struck me with the arrival of 2010 last night (hmm...I start grad school in four days...) was a new found excitement for the opening of Target Field.
As a lifelong Twins fan, I spent many a night twisted half around in my seat to face home plate instead of somewhere between second base and the centerfielder, phenomenal seats for the Vikings game the next day, but not so great for a pitchers' duel.
In my excitement, I went looking for some press on the new stadium, and there's a lot of excitement around baseball about this new park.
Buster Olney wrote a very nice piece a few days ago about how great they new place would be, but for some reason, he's in the minority. If you believe the buzz, Target Field will see one baseball game, it will be 100 degrees below zero and Bud Selig will close the place until a roof is built after Albert Pujols gets eaten by a roving polar bear.
Minnesota is cold, that is a fact this time of year. As I write this—6 p.m. on January 1, 2010—it is three degrees above 0 with a wind chill of -14. That sure sounds cold, doesn't it? Only according to the Army Handbook does that not even constitute a dangerous level of cold; it would take well over two hours for frostbite to set in on completely exposed skin. Does it get down to those dangerous levels? Absolutely it does!
The coldest temperature I can personally remember was a day with a -70 windchill (February 2, 1996. The same day Tower, MN set the state record at -60 degrees Fahrenheit—no windchill included). I was skiing, and my handwarmers froze. It was very cold—blindingly cold, in fact—but last I checked, the places they play baseball on February 2 are places like Caracas, Venezuela and San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic—pretty much not Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Without question, there will be some chilly nights, and maybe a snowout or two like the Indians had last year, but it's hardly an abnormal risk in major league baseball. Cold isn't the only risk for spring baseball; precipitation is as big a risk as any chilly temperature. Cold can be overcome with layers (a concept with which Minnesota residents are well acquainted), but precipitation is going to cause a game to be postponed, no matter what's falling from the sky—rain, snow, sleet, hail, locust—it just doesn't matter.
Here is a list of major league cities in which the stadium lacks a roof along with their average April temperatures and average number of rainy days in that month:
|City||Avg. April Temp.||Avg. Rainy Days|
*the retractable roof is supposed to be closed if gametime temperature is below 60.
Minneapolis may be the coldest of the bunch, but not by much, and it has the second fewest days of precipitation of any of the cities under five degrees away from it in temperature. I'd much rather watch a game in 44 and clear than 48 and drizzle, but your millage may vary.
Hard numbers aside for a moment, I feel uniquely positioned to speak to this issue. I spent the first 18 Aprils of my life in the Twin Cities and the last four in Chicago, and I can unequivocally say that Chicago's wind and damp cold makes it feel much colder than an April day in MSP. Watching the Cubs play the Marlins in mid-April with the win blowing in off the lake was a truly bone-chilling experience.
I'm not trying to somehow convince you that due to the urban heat shield effect that Target Field will actually be warm; it's going to be cold and, at times, really cold. I'm simply sick of seeing and hearing that it will be some abnormally frigid stadium. On any given night, it's likely to be as cold if not colder in nearly 1/3rd of MLB stadiums, and certainly drier.