Reporting from Boston — Target Field, the new 39,504-seat, open-air home of the Minnesota Twins, is not The House That Torii Hunter Built, but the outfielder will definitely feel a sense of proprietorship when he and the Angels play their first game there Friday night.
Hunter played nine seasons (1999-2007) for the Twins in the Metrodome, a dungeon-like facility in which players routinely lost track of fly balls in the dingy roof and took a constant pounding from the artificial surface.
With attendance sagging and interest in the small-market Twins waning, Minnesota became a target for contraction, and in the winter before 2002 speculation grew that the franchise would be disbanded and its players disbursed to other clubs.
But the Twins, with a collection of no-names dubbed "the best triple-A team in baseball," won the American League Central title and made it to the 2002 AL Championship Series, losing to the Angels but revitalizing baseball in the Twin Cities.
"We all came together and gave it one last go," Hunter said. "We won the division and went to the ALCS. I think that really helped keep baseball in Minnesota going."
Hunter and players such as Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz were part of a lobbying effort to save the Twins and build a new stadium.
In May of 2005, a deal was reached between the Twins and Hennepin County, in which the Twins would pay roughly one-third the cost of the $522-million stadium and the remaining two-thirds would come from a county sales tax increase.
Five years later, the Twins are in their sparkling new downtown stadium, and have won 11 of 14 games to open a four-game lead in the AL Central.
"We were out there fighting, going to luncheons and dinners, talking to local politicians," Hunter said. "We were really pushing to get that new stadium, and now I get a chance to see the result of that work."
Hunter said players have raved about the new stadium, and he plans to tour the facility before one of this weekend's games.
"I hear the fans are really supportive, and I'm pretty sure they're so happy to be outside," Hunter said. "They always complained about sitting in the dome on a sunny day. It's beautiful in the summertime there. The fans can work on their tans, like me.
"I won't miss the dome itself … just the memories."
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, sidelined for almost two months because of a broken bone in his left foot, was scratched from Thursday's lineup because of soreness in the foot. Pedroia, who was activated off the disabled list Tuesday and played Tuesday and Wednesday night, aggravated the injury while stealing second in the first inning Wednesday night.
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