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The Life

September 18, 2002
Home Schooling
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Twins: Intro | Infield | Catcher

Twins second baseman Luis Rivas flew out of the batter's box on what would have been a routine line single to left-center in most ballparks. But Rivas knew: This was no ordinary park. The ball hit the turf and accelerated. A's centerfielder Terrence Long dived, but it got by him and went to the wall. Rivas had a leadoff triple.

Homer Hankies
Think the Dome is intimidating? Ask the Cards & Braves.
Welcome to the Metrodome, one of the greatest homefield advantages in the major leagues. It's why the Twins have the third-best home record (4926) in the AL, why they're a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. Only five stadiums in baseball have synthetic turf, and none is springier than the Metrodome's -- where balls beaten into the ground bounce so high and take so long to come down, it's as if they're suspended by wires. It's where ground outs become singles. It's where singles become triples. It's where opponents hate to play.

"This place takes getting used to," says Twins infielder Denny Hocking. "You should look up our record in first games of a series here [213]. The turf is faster. Infielders take the same route that they do in their park, but here the ball is by them. Outfielders take the same route they do at their place, but here the ball is in the gap. We exploit that."

Then there's the puffy white roof, which makes balls disappear. "Some fly balls you never even see," says Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter. Matt Lawton played in the Metrodome for parts of seven seasons, but in one of his first games back, he lost a ball in the roof and had another bounce over his head. The Twins beat the Indians 23-2 in that game, And, yes, it was the first game of a series.

Despite its eccentricities, the Metrodome is not the Homerdome, as it was once incorrectly titled. "Getting one out of here down the leftfield line (343 feet) is not easy," says Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "And left-center, that's death valley. The ball doesn't travel there." Still, the park looks small and inviting, which might explain why opposing hitters overswing here.

Last but not least is the noise. In the 1987 and 1991 World Series, sitting in that ballpark was like being strapped to a speaker when Springsteen plays "Born to Run." Members of the Cardinals ('87) and Braves ('91) said they had never heard such noise, which partly explains why the Twins are 80 at the Dome in the World Series. In '87, the Homer Hankies were introduced, and in '91, they were taken out of mothballs. When 50,000 fans waved them, it was like a thousand doves had been released inside the building.

Well, the Hankies are back for the third time in 15 years.

Beware the Metrodome.

This article appears in the September 30 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

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