In the Spotlight

News & Features
Organizations weigh cost of Twins loss
By Andrew Haeg
Minnesota Public Radio
November 8, 2001
Click for audio RealAudio

Minnesotans are pondering life without the Minnesota Twins. The team is a prime candidate for elimination if Major League Baseball carries through its intended plan to contract the league. If the Twins are shut down, businesses will lose customers. And local community organizations will lose an important benefactor.

The possibility that the Minnesota Twins could be shut down has people concerned, some of whom have no connection to baseball. Read more.
(MPR Photo/Andrew Haeg)

In the neonatal intensive care unit at the Hennepin County Medical Center, the staff helps save and nurture premature babies. Dr. Rich Lussky, who is in charge of the unit, has 22 babies on this day, and one that might not make it.

Saving newborns is Dr. Lussky's number-one concern, but today he's also thinking about saving the Twins.

The two missions aren't as disconnected as you might think. The Twins have, over the years, helped pay for breast feeding education programs for impoverished mothers.

They've paid for special devices, like pillows and stools for breast feeding that mothers use to take care of their newborns. And they routinely donate tickets to mothers who need a break from the stress of watching their babies struggle to live.

"I've probably had 100 people come up to me in the hospital in the last two days and say, 'What's going to happen if the Twins leave? All of this support, we're going to lose,'" Lussky says.

If the Twins leave, Dr. Lussky says his unit will quickly feel the effects. "Physicians and nurses will be here. And our ability to keep babies alive will still be here. But the ability to improve their development and continue with successful breast-feeding outcomes and provide support materials in the family resource room would be significantly impacted. And I would say would be devastating."


•Molitor Fields for Kids grant program contributed $120,000 to renovate 26 baseball and softball fields in the Upper Midwest.

•Since 2000, Twins Community Fund has donated more than 30,000 Twins t-shirts, tickets, school supplies and other items for teachers in Minneapolis and St. Paul to distribute to summer school students as incentives for attendance and academic performance.

•Hundreds of nonprofit organizations raise more than $1 million each year by volunteering to work concessions stands during Twins games.

•Annually, the Twins provide between $250,000 to $500,000 of in-kind support to help more than 1,000 community organizations raise funds. Twins items, in the form of game tickets and team memorabilia, are used in nonprofit auctions and raffles.

•Harmon Killebrew raised $50,000 for Gillette Children's Hospital via his 65th birthday party in 2001.

•Paul Molitor's Camp Heartland Golf Tournament raised more than $65,000 for Camp Heartland in 2001.

Partial list. Source: Minnesota Twins

The Twins have developed close ties to the community over the past 40 years. Twins officials say the team provides several hundred thousand dollars to about 1,000 community organizations.

And then there are the organizations that the athletes themselves choose to help. Kirby Pucket has raised over $3 million for Children's Heart Link. Former firstbaseman Kent Hrbek raises $100,000 annually for people with Lou Gehrig's disease. And just recently, Twins pitcher Brad Radke and his wife donated $30,000 to Dr. Lussky's neonatal intensive care unit.

Peter Martin, manager of community affairs for the Twins, says the death of the Twins will serve a harsh blow to the organizations that depend on the team. "Are those guys bigger and more resilient than this ballclub? Maybe to a certain extent. But definitely those things are going to be impacted no matter what," he says.

The Twins are also a major source of revenues for businesses throughout the Twin Cities. The Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association recently surveyed local businesses about the money they make from people who attend Twins games. They found that out-of-town visitors to Twins games spent some $103 million this year on entertainment and lodging, outside the Metrodome. They estimate that Twins fans from in and around the Twin Cities may have spent as much as three times that number, or $300 million.

"In a given year, the Twins volume is anywhere between 15 and 20 percent of our total business," estimates Scott Anderly, who owns Hubert's bar, kitty corner from the Metrodome.

Anderly says he'll have to cut staff and business hours if the Twins go away. He is concerned about his business, but he wouldn't mind seeing the Twins move to another Twin Cities location if it meant they could stay.

"I'll survive. Hubert's will survive. It's not going to mean that we're closing our doors by any means. But I would hate to see the Twins leave. And I've always said I'd just as soon they build a new stadium even if it's three miles or five miles from me. I don't care. I would prefer to see baseball stay in this market," Anderly says.

Back at the Twins Metrodome offices, team officials are considering their prospects.

"The best we can do is hold out hope that this is not a done deal," says Twins spokesman David St. Peter. "There's all kinds of people, companies and organizations, all across the Midwest, that will be impacted by the potential loss of major league baseball in this market."

Outside the Dome, two students producing a short film for a school project paused to reflect on t he Twins potential fate. "It's basically the owners' decision. It's not the people who watch the games. It's not the thousands and thousands of fans who watch the games, who have the vote on the say of whether the Twins stay or not. It's the people who own and the people who run the organization," said Seth Johnson, 21.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has said baseball hopes to make a final decision on contraction before spring training next year.

More from MPR
  • Lawmakers threaten antitrust effort (11/8/01)