Good Baseball Weather in MN? – April Fools!

Early April weather can be unpredictable in Minneapolis, the St. Louis Cardinals' destination this weekend.

Though I lived in the Twin Cities for seven years and have many dear friends there, it was an easy decision not to attend the St. Louis Cardinals upcoming pair of games against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis' new Target Field on Friday and Saturday.


You see, I know too much. No, not about baseball – about Minnesota spring weather.


Exactly 25 years ago today, April 1, 1985, is a date that lives in infamy for my family - and it had absolutely nothing to do with April Fools.


That was the day my wife, then eight-plus months pregnant, our four-year-old, his little brother, celebrating his second birthday that very day, and I had scheduled to move into our new house in a Minneapolis suburb.


There was only one slight problem. The moving van tractor-trailer was having trouble reaching us. The night before, a new 24-hour Twin Cities March snowfall record was set – not just for that date, for ANY March day in history – 14.7 inches, a record that may still stand today.


That very long-lasting memory of just how unpredictable Minnesota early April weather can be should help explain why I decided to stay home this time. I will wait to return there in June – just in time for the height of the annual mosquito season.


This coming weekend


This weekend's Twin Cities forecast is quite unsettled. The good news is that the temperature will not be in the 20s and 30s, but instead in the 60s on Friday, settling perhaps only in the upper 40s to around 50 on Saturday. The really bad news is that there is a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms on Friday afternoon, going up to 70 percent for just plain old rain on Saturday.


It would be extremely unfortunate for everyone involved if the exhibition series is impacted by the weather, but the baseball gods always seem to have a way of making their displeasure known.


It was an extremely short-sighted move to build a new outdoor baseball park in that climate, let alone one that could not later be retrofitted with a retractable roof when people came to their senses. Yet that is how Target Field was designed. In an area where the first freeze is often in mid-September, one can only imagine what late October night baseball might be like there.


Update: Reader Ben Tighe informed me that the record snowfall in Minneapolis occurred on October 31, 1991. The "Halloween Blizzard" dropped 21 inches of snow in 24 hours, and a total accumulation of 28.4 inches in 48 hours. As a point of reference, Game Three of the 2009 World Series was held on October 31.


Getting ready


Plans for the exhibition series have been worked on for weeks down to the nth degree of detail. I asked around a bit in camp recently to understand what some of the people in and around the Cardinals were thinking and doing in preparation.


The clubhouse staff is definitely focused. As part of MLB etiquette, home clubs are normally responsible for supplying parkas for both teams. The Cardinals checked with the Twins since their new outdoor park is opening for the first time. After all, coats were not needed in their former home, the climate-controlled Metrodome.


The Cards obviously didn't bring parkas with them to Florida so would have needed a special shipment from St. Louis with the proper lead time required. Though the Twins' initial answer was an "I don't know", they apparently plan to have coats ready. Good thing, based on Saturday's forecast.


Weather "war stories"


A Canadian by birth, a former Minnesota Twin and a major league coach for almost three decades now, I figured hardy Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay would have some thoughts about playing in the cold. I was right.


McKay told me a story about the first home game of the then-new Toronto franchise in 1977, in which he was the starter at third base. He insists the grounds crew had to run a Zamboni over the baseball field to clear off the snow before the field was deemed "playable." The turf underneath was like ice and the wind was so cold that the fielders stood with their backs to the plate, twirling around to face the hitter as each pitch was made.


McKay also remembered very well having played outdoors in the Twin Cities at old Metropolitan Stadium in 1975 and 1976. Those were his first two partial seasons as a major leaguer, then wearing the Twins uniform.


McKay recalled that the early part of baseball schedule was ahead of the natural growing season for the upper Midwest. For appearance purposes, the groundskeepers sprayed the brown turf green. The downside was that the paint residue ended up everywhere it didn't belong, including balls, hands and uniforms, causing a major mess for all involved.


Old Met Stadium was the Twins' home prior to moving to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982. The Metropolitan Stadium site in Bloomington is now the home of what is informally called the mega mall, officially titled The Mall of America. Ironically, as the result of a naming rights deal, the dome is now called "Mall of America Field."


Target Field footnotes


Target Field's first official game was held last weekend between the University of Minnesota and Louisiana Tech. Everyone loved it. Check out this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including ample video of the new park. This Star Trib piece offers up fan reaction.


It can happen (almost) anywhere


Inclement wintry weather disrupting the game can even occur in self-proclaimed "Baseball Heaven," St. Louis. Almost 13 years ago, on Thursday, April 10, 1997, the Cardinals were snowed out at Busch Stadium (pictured). Their scheduled game against the Montreal Expos that afternoon was postponed due to snow, the first time that happened at Busch in nearly 14 years. Their last home "snow out" prior to that was on April 17, 1983.


Even if they can get this weekend's games in around the rain, here's betting Target Field will not go 13 or 14 years between snow outs. No April Fooling required.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation Blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.


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