Conclusion of a two-part story
The downtown Minnesota Twins ballpark now is at 100% capacity no longer with pods and seating area restrictions. At least 25 promotions and special events are scheduled in the team’s remaining home games, including the team’s annual “Celebrate Diversity” day (July 22) and a St. Paul Gophers ball cap giveaway as part of honoring the Negro Leagues (August 27).
Team officials are hopeful that with the full stadium opening fans will come back in the current post-pandemic environment. But will African Americans be among them?
Will Blacks, a group historically minuscule compared to non-Blacks, be drawn to Twins games where there are few Black players on the team [currently two] and few Black players among their MLB opponents? Twins officials recently talked to the MSR as they explained “what we’re doing…and the way and how” as they address this issue.
Related Story: Twins explore outreach out to Blacks
Bryon Buxton is having an MVP-type year. He is one of two U.S. Blacks on the Twins and is prominently featured on digital advertising, in-game broadcast advertising, print ads, and on street pole banners throughout downtown Minneapolis. But in North Minneapolis, just over the North 7th Street bridge from the Twins ballpark, we don’t see any sort of Twins advertising, Buxton or otherwise.
“We’re reaching other communities in different ways,” said Miguel Ramos, the Twins’ senior director of diversity and inclusion strategy. He sais, “In our new marketing approach, [the team is] rethinking the way we do everything…including a focus on reaching the Black community.”
For over a decade, the Twins have worked to improve its outreach efforts, including hiring Ramos in 2008. They were the first local pro sports franchise to hire someone who exclusively focuses on partnering with diverse communities.
Over 3,500 kids played in the Twins RBI program in 2019; of them 22% were Black. Over $100,000 worth of new baseball equipment is annually provided to Minneapolis and St. Paul middle and high school baseball and softball teams, and thousands of tickets will be donated this season to local youth-serving organizations.
The team also partnered with Playworks in 2018-19 to introduce students to baseball in 4th and 5th grades in 14 local underserved schools; of over 8,600 students, 27% were Black. About 66% of these students say they never played baseball before and 76% say they will keep playing the sport.
Still, the paucity of Blacks at Twins games continues.
Dr. Charles Crutchfield last summer used a social media poll to find that 97% prefer that the longtime “Minnie and Paul” Twins logo—it’s two White men shaking hands across the Mississippi River—be updated. He presented a proposed new logo to team officials last season.
Last week Crutchfield told the MSR that team officials say a logo change might possibly come in a couple of years. He added that a modified Twins logo might help to attract more Black fans.
Crutchfield is a longtime baseball fan but estimates that maybe five percent of people at games look like him. “I’ve been a season ticket holder for well over 20 years. I think the Twins are a great group of people…from [team president David] St. Peter [to] Miguel Ramos,” said Crutchfield. “There’s no simple solution” to attracting more Blacks to Twins games. “It’s not just a Twins problem, it’s a problem for all the teams.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” surmised St. Peter.
“I want this conversation to get more participation,” said Ramos, “in this case, African American kids. We need more People of Color.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.