Smallest opening day crowd ever at Target Field as Twins fall to Oakland

Kevin Correia
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kevin Correia walks off the field as he is replaced by Samuel Deduno during the sixth inning.
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

The Twins have a day off after yet another home opener defeat.

The Oakland Athletics beat the home team 8 to 3 Monday afternoon at Target Field. The loss was the team's third straight home opening loss. And it happened in front of the smallest opening day crowd since Target Field opened in 2010.

Photos: A different kind of opening day triple play at Target Field

Still, despite the team's three straight previous dismal seasons, fans showed up in droves outside the gates of Target Field two hours before the first pitch.

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Twins great Kent Hrbek swung open the doors to the gate that bears the number he wore for 14 years and greeted fans as they filed into the ballpark.

Hrbek greets arriving fans.
Former Twins player Kent Hrbek help open the gates at Target Field and greeted fans outside gate 14 for the home opener.
Brandt Williams/MPR News

And before they could head off to the nearest concession stand or find their seats, fans emptied their pockets and walked through one of five metal detectors. Security personnel with hand held wands were ready to check fans who set off of the machines after walking through twice.

Del Sanders traveled to the game from North Dakota. He didn't have a problem getting through the metal detectors.

"Aw, that was no problem. It went really good. It was easy," he said. "I'm glad they're doing it, actually. I think that's a smart thing to do."

Major League Baseball has directed all teams to have new security protocols in place by 2015, however the Twins decided to make the change now. Target Field is hosting the All-Star Game in July and team officials say they want to have the new process in place well before then.

The temperature at first pitch was 58 degrees, 23 degrees warmer than than the 2013 opener. Fans like Mark Kennedy followed the sun around the ballpark.

"It's nice here. Our seats are over there in the shade. It's cold in the shade," he said.

The new metal detectors at Target Field
Baseball fans who arrived at the Twins home opener at Gate 14 came through the new metal detectors.
Brandt Williams / MPR News

From where Kennedy was standing high above the center field fence, it was easy to see all the empty seats sprinkled throughout the upper and lower sections of the ballpark. The paid attendance of nearly 35,837 is the lowest since the team moved to Target Field.

The team set a season attendance record in 2010 when more than 3.2 million people attended home games at Target Field. That number dropped by more than 700,000 in 2013.

Kennedy says if the team wins more games, more people will come see them. But that could be a struggle.

"I think they'll end up about .500, they'll be a .500 team. They got some better pitching, but I don't think it's the answer," Kennedy said.

Ron Gardenhire
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire the game.
Ann Heisenfelt/AP

Twins spokesman Kevin Smith says the team has struggled on the field over the last three years. And he says a lot of baseball teams have a hard time getting fans out during April and May.

"The gravy train days are June, July and August and we'll see what happens in those months," Smith said. "We're well aware of what's been happening in the marketplace and we're doing what we can to excite that fan base to come out to Target Field."

Smith says one way the team is working to increase attendance is through creating new promotions and fan giveaways.

As for the first home game performance, manager Ron Gardenhire says the team got into a hole early against Oakland and couldn't dig its way out. Starting pitcher Kevin Correira gave up five runs in the first three innings of the game. Gardenhire says that was just too much.

"He didn't have his best stuff out there. But, once he started pitching both sides of the plate and using the other half of the plate, the game went a little better for him," Gardenhire said.

It also didn't help that Correia had to wait for several minutes on the mound while umpires reviewed video of a disputed play. In the third inning an Oakland batter hit what the umpires called a long foul ball but Oakland thought was a home run. Correia says right now there seems to be a lot of standing around as umpires and teams figure out how and when to use the league's new replay review system.

"And I think that's going to take too long. So hopefully, like anything else new in any sport it's just a matter of fine-tuning it and doing it as efficiently as possible," he said.

Correia was pulled in the sixth inning.

The Twins and As play again tomorrow afternoon.