Twins to install extra padding at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field is considered one of the finest ballparks in all of baseball, but it's not perfect. The Twins found that out early in the season when two of the center fielders ran full speed into the wall -- in almost the exact same ...
MINNEAPOLIS - Target Field is considered one of the finest ballparks in all of baseball, but it’s not perfect.
The Twins found that out early in the season when two of the center fielders ran full speed into the wall - in almost the exact same spot in center - and both got concussions.
With a focus on concussions in all sports taking center stage in recent years, the Twins decided they needed to do more to protect their own players, as well as those from other clubs, by making the walls at Target Field safer.
With that in mind, the team installed new padding along the walls in the outfield, extending from the padding along the third-base line about 75 feet short of the fence, throughout the entire outfield, and down another 75 feet of the wall along the first-base side. This offseason, the team plans to incorporate the new material on the wall around the entire playing surface.
“Our grounds-keeper, Larry DiVito had been researching what’s out there and trying to find out what a better solution might be,” said Twins Senior Vice President of Operations Matt Hoy.
The Twins began researching a new material in spring training. The original wall was a three-quarter inch of plywood, covered by four inches of padding and a vinyl cover. Now, the padding is eight inches thick and is made from a new-age foam by a European company called Trocellen, which specializes in polyolefin foams used in automobiles, contraction and even footwear.
On the front of the foam is a thin membrane designed to better distribute the force of a player running full speed into the wall.
“If you hit the old stuff real hard, you’d go right into the (plywood),” Hoy said. “The way Larry showed it to me, he put the old stuff on the ground and a sample of this new stuff. He literally dropped his knee on it, and right away on the old stuff, you go right to the floor. With this new stuff, it just disperses. He dropped on it a couple of times and never made it to the floor. Right there, I was convinced.”
DiVito originally pitched the new materials late in the spring, but it wasn’t until Sam Fuld and Aaron Hicks were injured running into the old wall that the decision was made to make the change. Between the end of April and the middle of August, the material was being fabricated and fit for Target Field. Covermaster, a company based in Ontario, Canada, was the contractor and installed the new walls a little over a week ago.
“Right away after the second concussion, we had another conversation with (Twins owner) Jim (Pohlad) and he said ‘Go ahead and do it right away,’” Hoy said. “It might be a little more firm, so balls might bounce off it faster, but when you hit it, you’re never going to get to that backing. In theory, you’re going to avoid serious injury.”
Hoy said he believes the new material on the walls at Target Field is the first of its kind in a major league ballpark.
“It’s a thicker pad, but it’s the same concept,” Hoy said.