Target Field to Host Tommie-Johnnie Game in 2017

Photo credit: Tom Schreier, Cold Omaha

At a press conference held at Target Field, the Minnesota Twins and University of St. Thomas announced that the St. Thomas football team will host Saint John’s University on September 23, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at Target Field. The NCAA Division III matchup, which will be a St. Thomas home game, will be the first-ever football game played at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins.

St. Thomas athletic director Steve Fritz and head coach Glenn Caruso joined St. John’s AD Bob Alpers and coach Gary Fasching, as well as Twins president Dave St. Peter, in the infield near the first base line. Both sides appeared to be thrilled with the arrangement.

“It allows us to play in front of a lot of our people,” said Caruso. “Being able to come here and house 25-30 or even more thousand fans just allows us to bring it to an even bigger audience. I think that’s important.”

“I would echo what Glenn said, but what I think that it does, it probably takes this game to an even bigger level than what we’ve experienced in the last 10 years, which has been incredible,” he said, noting that SportsCenter covered the event last year.

“You look at the facility and you look at how close the fans are, and our kids, they’re excited about it even though it’s a long ways away, they’re really looking forward to it.”

St. Peter’s father went to St. John’s, and one of his children is currently attending St. Thomas, so he is close to both schools and wanted to make something like this happen.

Things were set in motion when St. Peter happened to run into Caruso at a concert at Target Field, and the timing just happened to work out in 2017. St. Peter wanted to avoid hosting the St. Thomas-St. John’s game during a Gopher football home game, out of respect to the University of Minnesota, and the Twins just happened to have a 10-game road trip from Sept. 18-28 that coincided with the Tommie-Johnnie game.

“When I got my first look at the 2017 Twins regular season schedule, I saw there was a window there that might allow us to play a football game and ensure that we had a great baseball field on the back end,” he said. “And where it wasn’t our first choice, it just happened to be coincidence that St. John’s and St. Thomas were playing that weekend, so that really started the motion with President [Julie] Sullivan’s office and Steve and ultimately Coach Caruso.”

The Twins will cut St. Thomas a check for the revenue lost due to the move to Target Field, and both coaches were confident that the game will sell out.

“I don’t know if that’s the number, but if you draw 16-17,000 at St. John’s and we draw 12,000 at St. Thomas, some of those will carry over. But I do really believe that there’s a market out there of people who haven’t had the chance to experience this,” said Fritz, the UST AD. “We really haven’t gotten the feedback from the students yet, because they really don’t know, at this point, a lot about it. They’ll be very excited, this is a tremendous opportunity for everybody involved.”

“As far as St. John’s goes, this is close enough for us where it’s not gonna be a major deal. It’s so easy to get to this ballpark, there’s parking readily available,” added Alpers, the St. John’s AD. “I think the students are going to be very excited, there’s no question about that. The questions have been from the alumni, they want to know when we can start getting tickets, they want to start buying them today if they could. It’s just gonna be a great event all the way around.”

There will be no modifications made to Target Field other than the removal of the pitcher’s mound. As for where the students will sit, it will mostly be along the end zones, which run parallel to the third base line, as diagramed below. Student tickets will be $10, where general admission will range from $15-35. Twins season-ticket holders will get the option to purchase tickets before the general public.

Photo credit: Tom Schreier, Cold Omaha
Photo credit: Tom Schreier, Cold Omaha

No modifications will have to be made for the field, and St. Peter is confident that head groundskeeper Larry Divito will have the diamond in playing condition when the Twins host the Tigers on Sept. 29.

“I have 100 percent confidence in Larry DiVito and his team. We’ll be in good shape for baseball when we come back, and hopefully that will include some games in October. It certainly will be no small task, but I’m confident that Larry DiVito and his team will handle that, just like every other event,” said St. Peter.

“We put 10,000 people out here for a Kenny Chesney concert and played baseball four days later, I think they can handle St. Thomas-St. John’s football.”

Both Fritz and Alpers said that this game may open the doors for St. Thomas-St. Johns to play more neutral game sites, and St. Peter didn’t shy away from the notion that this could be an audition for future football games at Target Field.

“It’ll be a little bit like soccer this past summer. We learned a lot with that event, and ended up having a successful event,” he said. “I think we’ll do some things differently the next time. This was, again, the first football game; it’s feasible there could be others.”

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