MINNEAPOLIS -- The attendance woes of early April are nothing but a distant memory now. For the third consecutive day, Twins fans packed Target Field on Sunday, June 16, coming early and creating a buzzing atmosphere.
Sunday’s attendance of 38,886 marked the Twins’ sixth sellout of the year and third in as many games. It was the first time they have sold out three straight games since late August/early September 2011. A Prince jersey giveaway on Friday, the Joe Mauer number retirement ceremony on Saturday and Father’s Day on Sunday combined with a first-place team helped create the busy weekend at Target Field.
“You really get a chance to feel it when you walk out there before the game and you open the doors and you look out there and when you see a lot of people and there’s a lot of buzz, it’s a great feeling,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Trust me, every guy out here and in that clubhouse over there loves stepping into the dugout and seeing a stadium that’s just about full.”
On Friday, after Mitch Garver hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to break open a scoreless game, he was called out for a curtain call by a rather loud crowd. Afterward, he called it “the coolest thing” he had done on a baseball field. His postgame interview with Fox Sports North’s Audra Martin on the big screen at Target Field was drowned by cheers.
“We have such great fans right now,” Garver said. “It’s just been an incredible month, past two months, however long it’s been. I think the fans are going to keep coming out. We’re going to keep performing for them.”
The Twins were near the bottom of the majors in attendance in April, thanks in large part to lingering, persistent cold, but they have moved up near the middle of the pack. Heading into Sunday, they were averaging 23,553 fans per game at Target Field, though those numbers have been trending upward.
The Twins drew an average of 17,008 fans in April games. That number jumped more than 10,000 per game to 27,151 in May and has ticked up even higher in the first few home games of June. It’s something Baldelli has been able to sense even outside of the stadium, around the Twin Cities.
“You can tell that people are excited about what’s going on, and that makes you smile,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Buxton out again
Byron Buxton was available, Baldelli said, but the Twins held him out of the starting lineup for the second straight day. Buxton was hit by a pitch on the right wrist Friday, and testing came back clean.
“We’re going to always be relatively conservative with him. We’re not going to force him back,” Baldelli said. “He really likes to play, and he will probably say whatever he has to say to get back in the lineup, even if he is not psychically OK to play. You respect that because he’s there for the team and his teammates and everything, but sometimes I might have to, the training staff might have to, coaching staff might have to slow him down a little bit.”
Baldelli said if it were a different situation — not a game in the middle of June, for instance — Buxton might have been playing. But the Twins have the luxury to be patient. Before the game, Baldelli said he was not 100 percent sure if Buxton would be swinging Sunday.
“We’re going to slow him down a little bit and see how he’s doing in another day, two days,” Baldelli said.