MINNEAPOLIS — Nearly a week came and went for the Twins in Chicago, and pretty much the only sites the Twins saw were either in their hotel or at one of the city’s two Major League Baseball stadiums.
A crucial part of making this season work — a season in which Major League Baseball teams will be traveling around their region of the country and not in a “bubble” scenario — will be players and staff being responsible on the road. And as a result, the Twins’ first road trip of 2020 looked like none that have preceded it in past years.
The Twins traveled to Chicago on Tuesday and back to the Twin Cities on Sunday after beating the White Sox in two of three games to begin the season. They return to Target Field for their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday night the successful road trip to open the season.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There does take a little bit of discipline to get used to it, but we’re adults and I think we should be able to handle some of these things we know we need to do.”
The team spent most of its time confined inside their hotel to minimize potential risks of being exposed to COVID-19. Each day, a meal was put out for the traveling party in a big, open space in the hotel for players and staff to come in and grab a bite to eat if they got sick of room service, Baldelli said. The hotel also had a patio that offered a slight change of scenery.
“We had to be smart. You would walk outside maybe, get some fresh air, but that’s kind of it,” outfielder Jake Cave. “You get food delivered. Room service food at the hotel if you’re hungry. … Obviously we don’t have the freedom, but I feel like, at least from what I saw, everybody was using their head.”
More people brought video games along, Cave said, to keep themselves entertained during the downtime at the hotel. Baldelli, a fan of going on walks and going to coffee shops while on the road, passed on much of his typical road routine.
“Could I probably do that right now? We talked about our code of conduct and the way we’re going to conduct ourselves. Probably. But I’d prefer not to,” Baldelli said. “Do I know if I’ll be doing that the entire season? I’m going to probably be in my room most of the time over the course of this season. That’s the way I’m going to approach it and the way we’ve asked our players to approach it.”
The adjustment varies from player to player. Some like lounging around and watching TV until it’s time to leave for the park anyway, Baldelli said. Others leave their rooms to go out exploring or to eat.
For designated hitter Nelson Cruz, the trip was more of the same. Time in the hotel room gives him plenty of time for one of his favorite activities: sleeping.
“For me, it’s no different. During the season I don’t go out at all. I always stay in my room,” Cruz said. “It hasn’t changed anything. … That’s part of my routine, staying in my room, trying to rest and prepare for every game.”
Cruz was named AL player of the week on Monday after batting .538 with three home runs and 10 RBIs against the White Sox. In three games, he has a slugging percentage of 1.385.
The Twins will now return to Target Field, where they won’t have the benefit of playing in front of their own fans but they will have a chance to sleep in their own beds and be in their own space.
While a typical home-field advantage might be somewhat neutralized without a crowd, the Twins are expected to play in front of oversized head cutouts and piped-in crowd noise that reacts to game play.
“We are looking forward to getting home and playing our first game at Target Field. I think all the guys are,” Baldelli said. “Our in-game (production) … the fun at the ballpark, we call them the ‘bells and whistles,’ and all that stuff, our field and the guys upstairs did a really nice job with that, and I think the environment is going to be a lot of fun and maybe a little different than some of the games we’ve played so far on the road with just a little more going on and some real life in the ballpark.”