MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Last year, the New York Yankees christened their billion-dollar ballpark with a World Series title.
This time, the Minnesota Twins are hoping their new downtown home can help supply the same October charm.
“I’ve never experienced — besides the birth of my two daughters — the feeling of winning a world championship in New York in the new stadium,” Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said earlier this year, after using the word “magical” to describe the memory.
So here come the Twins, having torn the roof off and returned to the great outdoors, trying to repeat that feat. They settled in at Target Field this spring following 28 climate-controlled seasons at the quirky, clamorous Metrodome, and so far the results have been tough to beat.
“Our crowd always energizes us and gets us going. This is where the excitement is,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. He added: “We’ve played really good baseball here at home, and there’s a reason for that. You come to this ballpark, and every game is an event. The people are packing it, and the guys enjoy this ballpark. They love coming to the park. You’re supposed to play well at home. Most good teams do. This has definitely been beneficial for us.”
Minnesota’s 53-28 home record during the regular season was bested by only the Braves, and the Twins set a franchise record for attendance with more than 3.2 million people counted through the turnstiles. The Twins averaged 39,798 paid customers per game, ranking sixth in the majors.
“It’s just a great place,” newcomer Jim Thome said. “Our guys like to play here. Our fans, the energy of the ballpark when it gets rocking, are great.”
So is there truly a correlation between stadium openings and postseason success?
Well, the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t argue. Just like those 2009 Yankees, they brought their baseball-loving city by the river a championship in 2006 with that new-ballpark smell filling the air. The only thing, uh, Busch league about the Cardinals’ first year in their new home was the famous brewer’s name on the stadium.
And while there’s barely anybody still alive to actually remember this, the Boston Red Sox broke in Fenway Park in 1912 with a World Series title. The old Yankee Stadium was kind to the Bronx Bombers, too, with a championship in the inaugural 1923 season.
In all, 13 teams have unveiled new ballparks and qualified for the postseason in the same year, according to STATS LLC. More recently, the San Francisco Giants in 2000, the Atlanta Braves in 1997, the Colorado Rockies in 1995 and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989 opened their gates in April and played in October past the 162-game schedule.
That makes a total of eight of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball that have been able to sell postseason tickets in their first year at their current headquarters.
In 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds even formed a cookie-cutter NL championship series after opening their perfect-circle multipurpose stadiums that summer. Oh, and the Pirates became world champs, too, after introducing Forbes Field in 1909.
Yes, good baseball teams are going to be good, no matter where they play. The new-stadium effect certainly didn’t help the Washington Nationals in 2008 or those pitiful 2001 Pirates, who lost 100 games. The 1982 Twins coronated the Metrodome by going 60-102. The air conditioning wasn’t installed yet, and the average attendance was 11,373.