Twins have legends, fans involved at home opener

Twins have legends, fans involved at home opener

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins held their annual home-opener festivities at Target Field on Monday, which included a giant American flag unfurled on the field by season-ticket holders and a flyover from a pair of F-16s while local singer Caroline Smith sang the national anthem.

The pregame ceremony also featured the ceremonial first pitch being thrown by Twins legend and Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who suffered a heart attack in September and is awaiting a heart transplant later this year. Carew, 70, is partnering with the Twins for the "Heart of 29" campaign to help raise awareness and funds to prevent heart attacks like the one he experienced while golfing near his home in Southern California.

"It was just such a tremendous moment and such a tremendous honor," Carew said. "I just want to thank the Twins' organization for everything they've done to help me with my condition and to help me find a new heart."

Carew on throwing first pitch

The day kicked off with breakfast for fans on Target Plaza at 6 a.m. CT, with the gates to the ballpark opening at 1 p.m. Twins legends such as Bert Blyleven, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Tom Kelly, Jack Morris and Carew greeted fans as they came into the ballpark.

"I like Opening Day at home here," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's just something that's unique to the rest of the season. It's a special feeling. It's appropriate what we do with the introductions and being recognized and kind of kick off the inauguration of our season here. It doesn't get old for me. I kind of like that feeling and the adrenaline you get when you get to open your season at home."

Smith performs the anthem

The home opener also saw the official opening of a new multi-level section in center field. There's the upper level called Minnie & Paul's that's open to all fans, and the lower level called CATCH, which is for season-ticket holders.

New seating at Target Field

"We're excited," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "Today is the debut of a significant renovation in center field. I think the new space will be wonderful aesthetically and make the ballpark more beautiful. But I think more importantly it creates two new meeting places for fans. And Minnie & Paul's in particular because it's open to all fans."

Twins introduced at Target

It was also the debut of the new netting installed at Target Field, as they expanded their current netting to include six-foot nets above both dugouts.

"The new netting was a step we took due to the proximity of those seats to home plate," St. Peter said. "We've had a lot of dialogue with season-ticket holders, and we're sensitive to it. The fans that are the closest now have a net to keep themselves safe, and we thought that was the right thing to do."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.