Homerdome? It's more like Loserdome now for Twins

Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Metrodome has been transformed from a stadium that once gave the Twins the most feared home field advantage in the American League into a stale, boring and mostly empty ballpark.

It's the ''Homerdome'' no longer. ''Dismaldome'' would be a better moniker.

The Twins are 11-11 at home this season, but fans don't seem to care that the young Twins are playing with a sense of excitement not seen under the Teflon in half a decade. Announced attendance averages 11,536, but that figure is padded by team officials.

''I wouldn't even put the word fun on the scoreboard unless it was part of the word functional,'' said Seth Hawkins, a retired college professor from St. Paul who said he has seen major league games in 60 stadiums.

In the community, the Twins have been demoted to the fourth most interesting team, behind even the Minnesota Wild, the expansion NHL team that starts play in October. The Wild actually sold about 500 more season tickets than the Twins' average attendance -- months before the first player was signed.

Twins coach Paul Molitor, who played for the Twins for three seasons before retiring in 1998, said sparse crowds and the Twins' status as losers takes a toll on the players, although they won't publicly admit it.

''I think for young players to play in an organization that has had a lot of controversy and uncertainty and lack of stability in terms of talk of its future and you combine that with small crowds, where comments are regularly very audible, I think they're more comfortable almost playing away from here now,'' Molitor said.

It didn't used to be that way. The Twins went 8-0 in World Series games at the Metrodome in 1987 and 1991 as the Metrodome was filled with more than 55,000 for each game.

Visiting players felt like they were already down a few runs when they came into the Metrodome during those years, Molitor said.

''I think, more than anything, the players on this team at that time knew that coming in here, although maybe visiting teams made it out to be worse than it was, as far as background, the bouncy turf, the milky bubble for seeing the ball ... that if they came out here and played with a certain amount of confidence, they could intimidate teams,'' Molitor said.

The Metrodome bears little resemblance to the raucous stadium that helped the Twins to a 51-30 home record in 1991 and a 56-25 home mark in 1987.

''It was kind of unusual. I really don't have an answer for why we played so well at home,'' said former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven, who went 3-1 in the 1987 postseason. ''Those years there in '87, we had a very powerful-type ballclub.''

Blyleven, now a commentator on Twins television broadcasts, isn't convinced that the Metrodome is a worse environment than it was in its heyday.

''I think circumstances -- poor pitching, poor defensive plays, sometimes mental errors, the lack of talent -- has to do with it,'' he said. ''It's a very young ball club that's still learning to do it at the major league level. They have some guys that probably should be in Triple-A.''

What about the theory that some of the current Twins are so young and inexperienced that they haven't had time to adjust to the Metrodome's quirks?

That's not an issue at all, said pitcher Joe Mays, who said it's not difficult to acclimate to the adverse conditions.

''I don't know, you just learn to let your instincts take over,'' Mays said.

But retired professor Hawkins said he sometimes feels pity for Twins players, because they have to play 81 games a year in the cavernous, empty building.

''Just as we feel for physicians who have to operate in small, country hospitals where the equipment is not up to standard, so should we feel for these players who have to put up with this kind of thing,'' he said.



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