The Launching Pad: A grand opening in the Twin Cities

What to expect in the major leagues today:

The great outdoors: Target Field officially opens today.
The great outdoors: Target Field officially opens today.

Tearing the roof off

For the first time since September 1981, the Twins will play an outdoor regular season game in Minnesota this afternoon. The Twins bid farewell to the Metrodome when the Yankees finished a three-game ALDS sweep last October. But don’t expect Twins fans, who will have their first chance to cheer catcher Joe Mauer since he signed his contract extension this spring, to be too downtrodden.

It remains to be seen whether the move outdoors will rob the Twins of a distinct home-field advantage. From 2001 to 2009, only the Yankees and Red Sox had more home wins than the Twins, who went 8-0 at the Metrodome in the 1987 and 1991 World Series.

Another pennant for Philly

For the second consecutive season, the Phillies will raise an NL championship banner in their home opener. And for the fourth time in this young season, they will play the Nationals.

Left-hander Cole Hamels, who was credited with the win in Philadelphia’s 8-4 win over Washington this past Wednesday, will throw the first pitch of the season at Citizens Bank Park. After watching Hamels walk four Nationals in five innings last week, Phillies hope that first pitch will be a strike.

Last week, Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco combined for four homers and 12 RBIs against Washington pitching.

Big Mac returns

Like the Twins and Phillies, the Cardinals will celebrate a division title before their home opener against the Astros this afternoon. Unlike in Minnesota and Philadelphia, however, the batting coach should steal the spotlight in St. Louis. For the first time since 2001, Mark McGwire will don his No. 25 uniform for Cardinals fans, who must choose between a standing ovation in honor of Big Mac’s contributions to the franchise and a public display of their disapproval for his steroids admission.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

What to expect in the major leagues today:

The great outdoors: Target Field officially opens today.
The great outdoors: Target Field officially opens today.

Tearing the roof off

For the first time since September 1981, the Twins will play an outdoor regular season game in Minnesota this afternoon. The Twins bid farewell to the Metrodome when the Yankees finished a three-game ALDS sweep last October. But don’t expect Twins fans, who will have their first chance to cheer catcher Joe Mauer since he signed his contract extension this spring, to be too downtrodden.

It remains to be seen whether the move outdoors will rob the Twins of a distinct home-field advantage. From 2001 to 2009, only the Yankees and Red Sox had more home wins than the Twins, who went 8-0 at the Metrodome in the 1987 and 1991 World Series.

Another pennant for Philly

For the second consecutive season, the Phillies will raise an NL championship banner in their home opener. And for the fourth time in this young season, they will play the Nationals.

Left-hander Cole Hamels, who was credited with the win in Philadelphia’s 8-4 win over Washington this past Wednesday, will throw the first pitch of the season at Citizens Bank Park. After watching Hamels walk four Nationals in five innings last week, Phillies hope that first pitch will be a strike.

Last week, Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco combined for four homers and 12 RBIs against Washington pitching.

Big Mac returns

Like the Twins and Phillies, the Cardinals will celebrate a division title before their home opener against the Astros this afternoon. Unlike in Minnesota and Philadelphia, however, the batting coach should steal the spotlight in St. Louis. For the first time since 2001, Mark McGwire will don his No. 25 uniform for Cardinals fans, who must choose between a standing ovation in honor of Big Mac’s contributions to the franchise and a public display of their disapproval for his steroids admission.

Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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