Twin teams for the Twin Cities
It is expected that, when approved, the St. Paul Saints will become the Minnesota Twins’ first Triple-A affiliate since 2002.
The Saints, who have been an independent minor league franchise for 28 seasons in St. Paul, submitted its application last week to become the Twins’ Triple-A club. This would create the closest geographic relationship between a parent club and its top minor league affiliate in Major League Baseball, with fewer than 11 miles separating the two downtown ballparks.
Besides St. Paul, Minnesota also invited Wichita (KS) Wind Surge, Cedar Rapids (IA) Kernels and Fort Myers (FL) Mighty Mussels to become Double-A, High-A and Low-A minor league affiliates, respectfully, all beginning with the 2021 season.
Twins officials noted last week in their announcement that the four new partnerships are part of an enhanced player development model.
“Quality player development is at the core of a winning baseball organization,” explained Baseball Operations President Derek Falvey. “We look forward to hopefully collaborating with the ownership group[s], management and communities for each of our minor league affiliates.”
The Saints-Twins new partnership will focus on player development and rehab, fan engagement, youth baseball and softball, along with a host of philanthropic initiatives across the region.
Twins President/CEO Dave St. Peter called the partnership “a critical milestone” during a Dec. 9 media conference call that included the MSR. He pledged, “The Saints will operate as they [always] have.”
The Saints’ “Fun is Good” approach to marketing and promoting the team on and off the field has helped them lead their league in attendance 17 times in 27 full seasons and drawn over two million fans over five full seasons (2015-19), leading Minor League Baseball in perfect capacity in 2019. The zany between-innings antics during games is something not seen in the Major Leagues or their top affiliates.
Unfortunately, both teams over the years have demonstrated poor diversity on and off the field. Minnesota on opening day this season had one Black player, one Black coach and two Blacks as special assistants in baseball operations. St. Paul had three Black players and zero Blacks in its coaching and front office staff.
The 2020 MLB Racial and Gender Report Card by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found Blacks make up 6.3 percent of MLB coaches and 3.3 percent of managers, 5.9 percent of team VPs, 5.2 percent of senior administers, 6.1 percent of professional administers, and barely eight percent of players.
When the MSR asked how the new partnership will improve diversity, especially since the Twins will run all minor league assignments, St. Peter responded, “We have a lot of work to do. We recognize some of the existing gaps and ultimately, over time, we will do better.
“We are working more closely with Major League Baseball as it pertains to other ways of [creating] pipelines, and creating more opportunities, or seeing African Americans specifically, to advance to the major leagues, whether it is players, coaches, managers, etcetera,” he continued.
Saints President and Co-owner Mike Veeck added that baseball at all levels should be more reflective of their communities in its outreach efforts. “Kids have to look up and be able to see a Larry Doby, Jr. or a Michael Jordan, people that look like them, that are in ownership positions. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Both clubs are in a unique position to do this and more, surmised Veeck. “We can blanket the state, cover everything,” he said. “That’s taking the ballpark and the game to the streets, and not sitting back and waiting for people to come in. To take it to them.”
“It feels like we are moving in the right direction,” concluded St. Peter. “We have a lot of work to do and ground to cover. We are committed to that.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.