In cold weather, baseball better off indoors
Indoor ballparks show their worth when temperature starts to plummet
Cold weather is, of course, largely a state of mind, especially when you have the option of being indoors.
True, cold weather it can also be the occasional polar vortex bringing in conditions that are so brutally cold that stepping outside becomes a life-threatening proposition. But other times, it's all relative. This is what I mean:
Warm good wishes to the Minnesota Twins and their fans for playing and/or watching when the game time temperature Thursday at Target Field set a record for coldness at a Twins game.
It was 31 degrees for the start of the first game of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays. There was a doubleheader Thursday because of the snow and cold that had postponed a game on Wednesday. The only reason there could be any baseball played in Minneapolis on Thursday was that Twins employees pitched in and helped clear the snow at Target Field.
Congratulations to everyone involved. That was a true team effort. That was also a very useful definition of the oft-used term, "organizational depth."
But I have to tell you that I was at another game this week where the game time temperature was also 31 degrees. That was Monday night in Milwaukee, the Brewers hosting the St. Louis Cardinals.
Nobody made a big deal about the 31 degrees, but that was probably because the retractable roof at Miller Park was closed.
From a lifetime of living in various Wisconsin locales, this is the one thing that experience has been willing to teach: Everything else being equal, when the temperature is below freezing, you're going to be better off inside.
Did I mention that it was also snowing in Milwaukee on Monday night at the same time that it was 31 degrees? One of my colleagues from St. Louis had chuckled initially when she arrived in Milwaukee and found her rental car equipped with an ice scraper. Later on that same night, she realized that in Wisconsin in April the ice scraper was an essential automobile item, sort of like gasoline.
Nobody made a big deal about the snow at Miller Park, either, until people went outside to their cars after the game and realized that the roads home would be glazed over with ice. But at game time it was 62 degrees inside Miller Park. In this current climate, that seemed like a day in mid-July.
I don't mention this to sneer or snicker at our neighbors one state to the west. The Twin Cities being farther north than Milwaukee, their climate can be even more severe than ours in the winter, or in an April when the winter just won't go away.
They don't have a roof on their ballpark. But they do have a varied ballpark history; outside at Metropolitan Stadium from 1961-81, then inside at the Metrodome until 2010, then Target Field and outdoors once again.
Target Field is an outstanding facility, top-shelf, first-class, one of the very best. It is vastly superior to the Metrodome, which was never really suitable for baseball, on every level except one, I suppose. And that would be when the temperature is below freezing and it's snowing.
In Milwaukee, the retractable roof has saved baseball for this community, for this state. Without this roof, the Brewers would not be drawing anything like three million people in a single season, as they did three times over a four-year period.
The roof is also in the process of saving a baseball season. For the nine Brewers home dates so far this season, the weather has been acceptable maybe twice. Couldn't have played Monday night with the snow. Couldn't have played Tuesday night, either, with the cold.
The former owner of the Brewers and current Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, insisted that the roof was an absolutely necessary part of the package. I don't think the Commissioner had advance knowledge of the polar vortex, but he was right on the roof, then and now.
The people in Minnesota, with a baseball park without a retractable roof, may be tougher than we are. Or they may be merely cheaper than we are. Or they may be both. But in Milwaukee, 31 degrees at game time does not bother baseball fans in the least. As long as there are ice scrapers in their cars.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.