The Twins are happy to be playing baseball again, but a lot of the joy of the game is missing in empty stadiums.
“To me, a ballpark without fans is soulless,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said Monday. “The game is for the fans, and [pandemic emptiness] isn’t the same.”
Which is why the Twins will be rooting for the St. Paul Saints on Tuesday, and it has nothing to do with beating Fargo-Moorhead. The Saints are allowed to sell 1,500 tickets to socially distanced CHS Field, and while the Twins are unlikely to do the same any time soon, they are eager to learn from their independent brethren.
“We have that plan, and we certainly have studied that plan,” which under Phase 3 of Gov. Tim Walz’s process for reopening Minnesota allows teams in outdoor stadiums to seat six segregated “pods” of fans, with a maximum of 250 people in each, St. Peter said. “At this point, we haven’t made any decision about whether or not we would ever proceed with that. But the question is moot right now.”
That’s because Major League Baseball has not shown any inclination toward opening stadiums to fans, and given recent outbreaks of COVID-19 among players, seems unlikely to do so in August at a minimum.
“Honestly, it remains to be seen when and if that will happen at all during the 2020 season,” St. Peter said. “In light of the outbreak with the Marlins and more recently with the Cardinals, my sense of it is that any approval is going to be delayed. I don’t see it coming any time over the next few weeks. And if it ever does, we’ll ultimately have a decision to make in Minnesota.”
The Twins’ top priority, like that of MLB, is to complete the nine-week season, and do it safely. “To introduce fans does create some incremental risk. How much is hard to gauge, so we’ll be interested in the Saints’ experience,” St. Peter said. “Ultimately, as much as we want to have fan engagement, we have to be comfortable that it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure the Twins as an organization are there yet.”
Should the state of Minnesota reach Phase 4 before the MLB season or postseason ends, outdoor venues might be allowed to host a larger percentage of their capacity. That’s helpful, considering the Twins would almost certainly lose money if attendance was capped at 1,500, and also because the 2019 AL Central champions appear to be on track for another playoff appearance.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’ve worked diligently to create a plan. Certainly in the back of my mind is October and postseason baseball, that clearly would be a goal,” St. Peter said. “But that’s a decision that ultimately will be made by the governor’s office, Major League Baseball and the Twins, the three of us together.”
So for now, the Twins will continue to wait. And root.
“We’re excited to see how it plays out in St. Paul,” St. Peter said. “We’re hopeful that it will be successful for them and ultimately safe for our community.”