New York Mets infielder Justin Turner stretches as snow falls before batting practice for a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Friday, April 12, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)The Associated Press
New York Mets third baseman David Wright waits his turn at batting practice as snow falls before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Friday, April 12, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)The Associated Press
Warmly dressed baseball fans wait for the gates to open as purple pansies in a planter stick out of the snow before the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins baseball game, Friday, April 12, 2013, in Minneapolis, which was hit with an April snowstorm on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS – In the hours before the Minnesota Twins started their series against the New York Mets, the Target Field grounds crew mowed the grass.
After the snow shoveling was done.
In an ode to modern stadium technology and plain old hard work, the Twins and Mets took the field as scheduled on Friday night despite wintry weather in Minnesota. About 4 inches of snow fell off and on over the past three days, forcing head groundskeeper Larry DiVito and his staff to work late Thursday night to remove the excess from the playing surface. But they had the diamond and the outfield ready by Friday afternoon.
"This was fun. It was a lot of work and the crew is tired, but this beats a concert any day," DiVito said.
Dozens of workers shoveled snow from the bowl of the 39,000-seat ballpark and accelerated the melting with hot water. The temperature at first pitch was 34 degrees, though the light snow that fell while the teams took batting practice had tapered off.
"I guess we're lucky that we can even play on the field with all the weather that's come down on it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You tip your hat to our grounds crew for being able to get us out there. When they built it, they built it right."
There are five separate heat zones underneath the field that keep the soil warm, which keeps the grass growing even when it's still like winter outside. DiVito had the three outfield zones set to 70 degrees, his maximum preference. The system melted almost all of the snow by itself, and the remaining inch or so was scraped with a PVC pipe on the front of the infield grooming tractor, DiVito said.
In the afternoon, the Twins announced an offer to fans of free coffee and hot cocoa to entice them out on the wintry evening. There more empty green seats than there were bodies in them, including an almost barren third deck in the outfield, but the radiant heat lamps along the concourses were predictably packed.
"It is what it is. It's April. We're in Minnesota. It's cold," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
The Mets will travel next to Colorado, where next week's forecast is just as frigid. The predicted high and low temperatures for Wednesday, according to weather.com, were 29 and 17 degrees.
"That's cold. That might be too cold," Collins said.
The Twins, too, played Wednesday night in Kansas City in windy, rainy conditions with a first-pitch high temperature of 4x degrees. The breeze at first pitch on Friday night was just 7 mph.
"This will be a day at the beach compared to Kansas City," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said before the game. He added: "You can talk all you want about the weather, but I'll guarantee in August we'll be glad we're playing these games. You don't want to stack up games in August and September."
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