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Hayden Goethe, Published January 19 2010

Oliva, players anticipate opening of Target Field

Former Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva has had as much of a look at the Twins’ new stadium – Target Field – as anyone who participated in the team’s annual Winter Caravan stop Monday in Fargo.

Oliva said the ballpark looks nice, and he also expects it to help the team’s performance, too.

“Everything is big league there,” Oliva said with a laugh. “The clubhouse is so big. It’s so nice. They’ve got everything, so there’s no excuse not to play good baseball.”

For the first time since the Twins moved to the Twin Cities from Washington before the 1961 season, the team will have a stadium built specifically for it.

Target Field will host its first regular-season game on April 12 against the Boston Red Sox. The stadium, which cost a little more than $400 million to construct, was built mostly with public funds generated from a sales tax in Hennepin County. The Twins were to pay a third of the costs, though that number increased as upgrades were made to the original plan.

Oliva said there’s no comparison between Target Field and Metropolitan Stadium, which was the Twins’ home from during his playing days their first season in 1961 to 1981.

Metropolitan Stadium was demolished in 1985 after the Metrodome was built. The Mall of America was built on the stadium’s site in Bloomington.

“It’s a different era,” said Oliva, who played his entire big league career for the Twins from 1962 to 1976. “It’s very nice. It’s a lot more modern.”

Twins general manager Bill Smith said the stadium doesn’t have him focused quite yet on putting a team together that tailors to the stadium.

“We’ve got to see how it plays,” Smith said. The ballpark is 98 percent done. It’s a spectacular facility.”

Current players Nick Blackburn and Matt Guerrier haven’t gotten much of a chance to see the facility.

Blackburn hopes a new stadium will allow the team to keep more of its home-grown players, since the Twins are expected to see more revenue generated from Target Field than they did at the Metrodome.

“The more and more we continue to lock up our guys is just going to make it better in the locker room,” Blackburn said. “That all down the road leads to wins.”

Guerrier doesn’t think much will change playing outside in terms of preparing to make an appearance out of the bullpen.

“I think the main thing is just trying to stay warm before you go out there,” Guerrier said. “Just wear some jackets until you start to warm up.”

Smith acknowledged there will be some weather challenges, but things shouldn’t be any different for the Twins than they are in other northern markets that have outdoor stadiums like Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland.

He expects the good days to far outnumber the bad ones.

“It’s going to be great for our players,” Smith said. “It’s going to be great for our front-office people. But it’s really going to be spectacular for our fans. It’s going to be a great place to watch a game.”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor

Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558