The Minnesota Twins open their new ballpark, Target Field, today for an exhibition game versus the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the past month, I have probably read and looked at 40-50 stories, reviews, Flickr photo streams or videos of the building, and I am insanely excited to make my first visit with the family. I estimate that the stories I’ve read represent one-fifth of the total I’ve come across, especially coming through my Twitter feed. There is a nice buzz about the Twins, which is well-deserved right now.

Here are just a few facts I have learned about Target Field:

* First Twins home game outdoors since September 30, 1981
* Target Field has a capacity of 39,504
* The infield is made up of 93% sand, allowing for quick drainage when it rains (up to an inch per hour) and is heated at or near 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Translation: the Twins will play through a lot of rain
* Main scoreboard (as of today) is the fourth largest in Major League Baseball

Two other construction notes that I find interesting are that the wood-backed seats located in select sections are the first wood seats to be added in a new ballpark since before World War II. Also, the Budweiser Roof Deck in left field is the only deck inside a MLB stadium – think Chicago & Baltimore, where decks are on top of buildings across the street.

I just can not get enough of the new field. When I was having trouble getting tickets online to a couple games when single-game tickets went on sale March 13th, I was more than happy to drive to the box office. I didn’t look around as much as I wanted to, as we had plans, but I look forward to a couple afternoon games in May.

As great as the ballpark is, the 2010 Twins team should be nearly as impressive. The front office has built a lineup to win now, and the offense should have no problem scoring runs. If they were still playing in Metrodome, I don’t think the team signs free agents Orlando Hudson or Jim Thome, and they might not have given lengthy contracts to OF Denard Span (5 years) and SP Nick Blackburn (4 years). Joe Mauer was always going to get his money.

The estimated payroll of $96 million (50% higher than opening day 2009) is a direct result of the expected revenue the team hopes to pull in from the new Target Field. That, and the owners are some of the richest people in Minnesota, so, yeah, they can spend some money in the coming years.

One of the Twins items I came across on Twitter within the last week was a Twins fan and blogger looking for 2010 Minnesota Twins predictions. I thought, “Hey, I can do that!” Without further delay, here are my Twins predictions for 2010:

Twins-Specific Predictions
- Twins MVP: Joe Mauer (best in the A.L. has to be best on the team, right?)
- Twins Top Pitcher: Scott Baker (expect big things from Big Spot Scott)
- Twins Best Rookie: Danny Valencia (when he makes it to Minneapolis)
- Twins Most Improved Player: Francisco Liriano (could average 12+ Ks per 9 innings)
- Bold Predictions (think of several if you’d like): Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer finish with 15+ homeruns (I would say 20+, but not sure Thome gets enough at bats. Also, whoever becomes the closer will finish with 30+ saves.
- A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals
- Three Keys to Success for the Twins: 1) someone emerging as primary closer 2) M & M boys’ health holds up through October 3) one starter getting 20 victories.

Rest of the League Predictions
- A.L. MVP: Mauer or Mark Teixeira
- N.L. MVP: Hanley Ramirez (the only one to supplant Pujols here)
- A.L. Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (his talent & team allow him to explode)
- N.L. Cy Young: Roy Halladay (move to NL will be very good
- A.L. Rookie of the Year: Michael Brantley
- N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward (this guy will be good for a long time)
- A.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Denard Span (nice lineup behind him & he will produce)
- N.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Stephen Strasburg (awesome pitching prospect)
- A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Francisco Liriano
- N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Carpenter
- A.L. Playoff Predictions: Twins, Yankees, Rays & Mariners
- N.L. Playoff Predictions: Phillies, Cardinals, Braves & Dodgers
- World Series Prediction: Yankees beat Phillies (these teams might meet in W.S. for next five years)

I really want to pick the Twins to win the World Series, but not having the number one starter like other teams and losing Joe Nathan as their closer costs them in the post-season once again. Nathan would have been better this October than last year. The Twins will score runs, challenging the Yankees for the MLB lead this year, but will just miss the World Series.

It will be a very successful year for the Minnesota Twins, and fans should enjoy the season. We have our Twins gear, thanks to a long trip to Target the other day, and we’re ready to watch outdoor baseball at Target Field for the first time in downtown Minneapolis.

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