The center-field backdrop at Target Field is getting yet another makeover, this time with thousands of sea green juniper plants that Twins management says will offer batters an ideal contrast for tracking fastballs and be “one of the world’s largest living walls.”
The team has been searching for just right look for the “batter’s eye” area above the center-field wall since it removed 14 black spruce trees that were in place when the stadium opened in 2010, but removed after one season amid complaints from hitters that they were a distraction.
Removing of the trees raised objections from fans and invoked the team’s own mini-version of the Boston Red Sox’s decadeslong “Curse of the Bambino.” The Twins won 94 of 162 games and made the playoffs in 2010, then endured four seasons of 90-plus defeats.
The junipers — totaling roughly 5,700 — will take the space currently filled by a large black rectangle. The grass berm immediately below will remain.
“The Minnesota Twins are excited about plans to install one of the world’s largest living walls at Target Field,” said team President and CEO Dave St. Peter, who added that there is nothing else like it in Major League Baseball.
“Since the removal of the original trees, which were part of Target Field’s batter’s eye in 2010, the Twins have been searching for the right solution which balances playability and aesthetics,” St. Peter said. “We believe the living wall concept delivers on both fronts, while further enhancing the ballpark’s sustainability platform.”
Matt Hoy, the Twins’ senior vice president of operations, said the decision to go with the juniper plants came after consulting with players and coaches, and after sign-off from Major League Baseball.
While the new visual is meant to help batters see the ball better as it travels from the mound to home plate, Hoy said, “I’m not worried about our pitching staff. We just wanted to make sure it’s consistent.”
The living wall system will measure 95 feet wide, cover 2,280 square feet and be among the largest in the continental United States. The individually potted shrubs will be installed every March one by one in a tiered layout that will “create a consistent, stationary background of lush greenery, without variations in color or texture, to provide both beauty and a world-class hitter’s backdrop,” read the team’s announcement Monday.
The junipers will be irrigated by the stadium’s current rainwater recycling system. At season’s end, they will be stored locally in a nursery for winter care.
The wall will be made by Green Living Technologies International, of Rochester, N.Y., and installed by Boston-based CityScapes.
Juniper plants grow throughout the northern hemisphere and come in dozens of species. The sea green variety is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with arching branches that is conducive to mass planting.
The Target Field-bound plants are coming from Oregon, Hoy said. He added that the team is already working to have the imported plants replaced by ones grown in Minnesota. The state didn’t have a supply that would be ready in time for the coming season.
Parochial sensitivities were irritated before the inaugural season when the Twins went to Colorado for the field’s sod.
Potted juniper plants typically are good for two years, Hoy said. Once this current group needs replacing, juniper plants grown exclusively in Minnesota should blanket the space in time for the 2021 season.
Installation of the living wall system is scheduled to start the week of Jan. 21 and be complete before the Twins season opener at home on March 28 against Cleveland.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482