'Minnesota is not there yet': Twins unlikely to have fans at Target Field when MLB starts

The Minnesota Twins are undergoing Covid-19 testing and reporting for summer training camp this week at Target Field, with the agreement in place of starting a 60-game season July 23 or 24.

Major League Baseball has not finalized the 60-game schedule for all teams, but Twins President Dave St. Peter said Monday it’s highly unlikely there will be fans at Target Field when the team takes the field for its Opening Day. The decision comes down to keeping the team safe, and he said it’s a decision that largely isn’t his to make.

“That’s a decision that will ultimately not be up to us. It’ll be up to Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health. We are in regular conversations with the Governor’s office, and with representatives through MDH,” St. Peter told reporters on Monday via Zoom.

It’s unfortunate timing, with fan interest in the Twins the highest it’s been in a long time with the team coming off its first American League Central Division title since 2010, and signing slugger Josh Donaldson in free agency.

St. Peter wouldn’t rule out that fans could take in the Twins at Target Field at some point this season. The organization is developing a plan for what it might look like if they can have fans at the ballpark. Team officials don’t know if or when that might be.

“I wouldn’t put a timeline on it, I’m not sure it will happen. But it’s something we’re monitoring around the league,” St. Peter said.

Rocco Baldelli was part of Monday’s Zoom session with reporters and got an idea of what an empty Target Field looks like. Baldelli spoke from one of the dugouts looking out to the field, and said he was excited to be back at the ballpark after seeing graphics on the jumbotron featuring infielder Luis Arraez.

It was one of many signs that baseball is just around the corner, though plenty of uncertainty remains as teams have to make adjustments for inevitably when a player tests positive for Covid-19. Baldelli said the team has to be of the mindset of taking the next steps when there is a positive test, not being shocked and taking the proper measures to move forward safely.

It’ll be an adjustment for the entire organization. Limited to no clubhouse access for players, getting dressed and immediately going to the field, spending as much time as possible outside. There’s also the possibility that players will have to shower at home after games, or at their team hotel when they’re on the road.

“The unknown is really what keeps everybody up at night, one way or another, regardless of what the specific discussion is. Every single thing that we do, every comfort that we’ve always had has to be kind of re-looked at and re-imagined. We have to get used to new things, that’s not easy,” Baldelli said.

There’s a decent chance that the Twins will be playing in front of limited fans at some road venues this season. The State of Illinois could allow as many as 8,000 fans both at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, and the Twins will have both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox on their schedule this year.

As for Minnesota? Don’t hold your breath, especially after reports emerged last week that Minneapolis/St. Paul was eliminated as a potential host hub city for the NHL’s restart. That, and the 3M Open will be played in late July at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine without spectators on the grounds.

“I think it remains to be seen who is going to ultimately open with fans, there are a handful of teams that have high hopes to have fans from the start. We are not one of those teams. The goal here is to certainly get fans in our ballpark, that’s what the game is all about and built on,” St. Peter said.

One thing St. Peter made very clear on Monday is financial concerns due to the Covid-19 pandemic will not impact full-time employees. Several sports teams across the globe have either had to furlough or cut pay to employees in an effort to limit financial hardship.

Not the Twins. Their full-time employees will be paid in full through the 2020 season. Every player in the minor league system will also be paid $400 per week for their season, which typically ends by late August.

The Pohlad family, which owns the Twins, also recently announced a $25 million donation to various causes to fight racism and social injustice after the civil unrest that unfolded following the officer-involved death of George Floyd.

“You work really hard to build an organization across both your business side and your baseball side. That takes time, and unfortunately it doesn’t take as long to tear that organization down. For that I’m grateful that Pohlad’s have allowed us to keep our people onboard with full pay,” St. Peter said.