A judge in the north-central U.S. state of Minnesota has ordered Major League Baseball's Twins to play their entire home schedule next season in the twin cities' Metrodome, further placing in doubt a league owners' decision to eliminate two teams.
The district judge, Harry Crump, also ordered team owner Carl Pohland not to sell the team unless a new owner would keep the franchise in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.
Baseball owners have not said the Twins will be one of the teams done away with, but the franchise is a likely candidate along with the Montreal Expos. The players union is fighting the owners' decision, and a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has introduced legislation that would curb the owners' right to eliminate or move teams.
In a four-page decision, the judge in Minnesota says "the welfare, recreation, prestige, prosperity, trade and commerce of the people of the community are at stake." He said further that the vital public interest of the Twins outweighs any private interest.
League and team officials will try to overturn the decision in a Minnesota court of appeals, but a trial is considered likely, and could drag into next season, forcing the Twins to abide by Friday's ruling next year.
The Twins have won two World Series titles in 40 years as a franchise, but have suffered poor attendance in recent years.