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It's Official Now! Twins Invite Affiliates

The Twins have officially extended invitations to the St. Paul Saints (AAA), Wichita Wind Surge (AA), Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A) and Fort Myers Mighty Mussels to become minor league affiliates beginning in the 2021 season.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
The news really came out about a week ago when the Star Tribune announced that it was happening, but it became official this morning. (full list of 119 'invitations" that were sent out by MLB teams this morning)

There are many reasons for the Twins affiliation changes, even beyond the fact that MLB has been in process of making these changes for a couple of seasons. There is proximity, both between the Twins and their AAA affiliate and their rookie level campus/spring training site and the Low-A affiliate.

Ultimately, teams want what's best for their player development.

Derek Falvey points out, "Quality player development is the core of a winning baseball organization. These potential affiliations - both new and sustained - put us in prime position to continue to build on our recent major league success."

In one of baseball's worst-kept secrets, the St. Paul Saints are the Twins new Triple-A affiliate. They were part of the Northern League before the league became the American Association. They have become one of the most famous independent league teams in baseball. 19 former Saints have eventually made it to the big leagues including former Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler and current Twins lefty Caleb Thielbar (twice).

Twins President & CEO Dave St. Peter notes, "The Minnesota Twins are ecstatic about the potential to form a partnership with the St. Paul Saints. We are incredibly excited at the thought of Minnesota baseball fans having the opportunity to watch their favorite Twins prospects as they wear the Saints uniform and play at gorgeous CHS Field."

For those wondering about the Saints in-game experience, Saints chairman Marv Goldklang noted, " During my conversations with Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter leading up to the decision to move forward with our partnership, with the exception of players on the field, they don't expect much, if anything, to change in terms of the experience of attending a Saints' game."

In the Fargo Forum, the FM RedHawks GM Matt Rau said that it's exciting for the Saints.

“The overall feeling is that we’re really excited for them, but sad to see them go,” said RedHawks general manager Matt Rau said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for that organization. While it stings a little to lose a member and a great member like the Saints, it’s really a feather in that hat of that organization. That proves how well they have been run over the years.”


The Rochester Red Wings were invited to be the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. There are a lot of great people who work with the Red Wings and the Twins had nearly two decades in western New York. Josh Whetzel is as good as it gets on the microphone. Nate Rowan, who is from Minnesota, is their media relations director and has been very helpful through the years. Thank you to them from Twins Daily, but also just personally from me.

The Wichita Wind Surge play in Riverfront Stadium in downtown Wichita. The stadium broke ground in 2019 and has an overall capacity of over 10,000 fans.

Falvey noted also, "The brand new facility in Wichita and what we've learned about the rich history and passionate baseball fanbase there creates fantastic new possibilities in Double-A."

Wind Surge Partner and CEO Jordan Kobritz noted, "The Wichita Wind Surge are pleased that the Minnesota Twins have invited the team to become one of their minor league affiliates."

On another note, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos received their invitation from the Miami Marlins to be their AA affiliate in 2021.

Blue Wahoos owner Quint Studer said, "Our entire organization would like to pass along our gratitude to the Minnesota Twins for their partnership with the Blue Wahoos over the past two years. On the field, they provided a playoff-caliber team for us. Off the field, they were excellent business and community partners, recently making a generous donation to hurricane relief efforts in our city. We wish the Twins nothing but the best."

On a side note, I would like to thank Wahoos media relations guru Dan Venn for being great for Twins Daily to work with. He is a Minnesota native in Pensacola and has done a great job with the Blue Wahoos the past two years. He will also be helping with the Beloit Snappers who will be a High-A affiliate of the Marlins now. The Snappers are now owned by the Studer family as well. Thank you Dan!

The Cedar Rapids have been a Twins affiliate since 2012. However, the Midwest League is now a High-A affiliate.

Twins Director of Player Development, Alex Hassan, noted, "From top to bottom, the Cedar Rapids Kernels are a first-class organization. Over the years, they've been tremendous partners to the Minnesota Twins and an integral part of our player development process. We would be thrilled to see that partnership continue for many years to come."

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley noted, "I am pleased that the Cedar Rapids Kernels remain an affiliate with the Minnesota Twins. I fondly remember going to Minor League Baseball games growing up. It is exciting that the Cedar Rapids community will continue to enjoy America's national pastime with this team that has so many Iowa fans."



With that, the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels will now be the Twins Low-A affiliate as the Florida State League is now a Low-A league. The Twins have been in Ft. Myers for 27 seasons and Hammond Stadium have been the Twins spring training site since 1991.

Andy Kaufmann, managing owner of the Mighty Mussels, said, "The Mussels organization is thrilled to be continuing the long-term partnership with the Minnesota Twins for many years and generations to come."


The Twins have always placed an emphasis on player development and building from within. Much of their current big league roster came from inside the organization and that's important to long-term sustainable success.

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15 Comments

Thanks for the update

 

I'd like to hear more quotes from Saints ownership. I think the changes in this article will impact them more than anyone else.

 

Thanks for the good writeup.

Thats right, the Florida Miracle have bee rebranded as the Mighty Mussels, including a new logo that, frankly, if someone asked me, "what is that?" I'd be at a loss for words.

    • Steve Lein, glunn and wabene like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Dec 09 2020 02:37 PM
This is exciting. I will be watching more live baseball when it becomes possible again, as I don’t fret as much taking two baseball unaware children to a game at Saints prices.
    • Steve Lein, glunn, DocBauer and 1 other like this

This is fantastic, thanks for the update, Seth.

 

Looking forward to getting to St. Paul to see the best prospects. Every time I went to Cedar Rapids I say, damn, wish I lived in a town that had minor league ball. Well, its about to happen.

 

Is one of the concerns the Kernels have is that they are going to have to pay additional dollars to move up?

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VivaBomboRivera!
Dec 09 2020 05:19 PM

Wow, we've come a long way from Toledo.

 

Shame there's not a peep about Elizabethton.

    • SkyBlueWaters likes this

Sometimes the overall prospects have been better at the AA level than the AAA level for the Twins in the past. But Wichita and Cedar Rapids will get many Twins fan visits during the season.

The change in St. Paul won't be a difference in the overall fun and games of the minor league experience. It will be in the caliber of play. Maybe not as overall competitive, as the roster is now a pipeline to the majors and has ups and downs accordingly. Instead of people who want to play ball (a step above Town Ball) and hope to get into a minor league system, you will be looking at bonafide prospects on the cusp and other players capable of filling in on a major league team if given the opportunity. 

 

It will be as much about player development as well as putting competitive play on the field, but winning is not exactly the main reason for minor league team affiliate baseball. Because you are playing teams that have no salary caps, no age limits on prospects, no non-experience levels, and full of very talented people who are trying to improve their game as well as get comfortable in team play.

 

A lot of hardcore Twins fans may find themselves unable to get single game tickets. That will be the key...will the Saints continue to sell well, or will they turn-away from being the bad boys of baseball. 

 

Expect to see cross promotions, a lot of Twins merchandise for sale (moreso than in Rochester). It will benefit players on both fronts. Able to get workouts at either facility and work with trainers, probably with no need to go to Florida for rehab.

 

    • DocBauer, MN_ExPat and Melissa like this
Living in Omaha, I'm not going to be attending any/many Saints games...though my father and I are hoping for a trip in the future to catch a "double header" or sorts...but I'm happy to see the Saints still embracing their independent attitude of fun and embracing the fan experience still. The only bummer might be reports that the Wichita affiliation may not last long as they really want to be a AAA level franchise. With their new ballpark, I get it. Perhaps Twins and fan support will be strong enough the agreement may end up lasting longer than initially expected?

Shame there's not a peep about Elizabethton.

There won't be. The Appalachian League as a whole is switching over to be a summer college league along the general lines of the Cape Cod.
 

    • VivaBomboRivera! likes this
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IndianaTwin
Dec 09 2020 08:11 PM

I don’t pay for Baseball America. Is there a list of teams that have not been contracted. I’m particularly curious whether Clinton, Quad Cities and Burlington survived. I know they have been considered for the chopping block. 

 

Edit: Found my answer. Clinton and Burlington gone. Quad Cities moving to the Royals 

 

Wow, we've come a long way from Toledo.

 

Shame there's not a peep about Elizabethton.

 

What are we expecting to hear about Elizabethton. We knew that they weren't going to make it through this contraction process. 

 

During the press conference today, Dave St. Peter took time to thank the Rochester Red Wings, Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Elizabethton Twins. 

    • bighat and VivaBomboRivera! like this

 

Living in Omaha, I'm not going to be attending any/many Saints games...though my father and I are hoping for a trip in the future to catch a "double header" or sorts...but I'm happy to see the Saints still embracing their independent attitude of fun and embracing the fan experience still. The only bummer might be reports that the Wichita affiliation may not last long as they really want to be a AAA level franchise. With their new ballpark, I get it. Perhaps Twins and fan support will be strong enough the agreement may end up lasting longer than initially expected?

 

They didn't say anything today, but if I recall correctly, these PDAs (Player Development Agreements) are believed to be 10-year deals. 

 

I think teams have 30 days to accept the invitation. 

 

I'd like to hear more quotes from Saints ownership. I think the changes in this article will impact them more than anyone else.

 

Thanks for the good writeup.

Other news organizations had a few things about the Saints ownership.Veck, main owner, said Pohlad, now a minority owner, is not asking Veck to make any changes to on field entertainment.That was a main thing for Veck, lets hope no disco nights like he did for Sox.There is talks about cross-promotions too.I think Veck would not have agree to this had he not had those assurances.He used to be in MLB and left because he wanted more fun outside of the actual games on the field.  

 

For those who have not been to other minor league games affiliated with MLB they still do similar things as the Saints did over the years.I used to live in Harrisburg and went to a few games when the Rock Cats, former Twins AA team came to town.They would still have plenty of side games and things to entertain similar to Saints.  

 

I think this will be a huge bump for Saints because fans, like all of us, will more of a vested interest in the team and how it is doing.We will want to follow players more, and get closer look at players that will be MLB bound.  

 

I would enjoy Saints games, but when I had little to no interest in the actual players it made following them kind of blah.I do recall going to one game, when former Twin, Brian Buchanon had record RBI night, and when I was a kid my mom made us leave early, to beat traffic, only to miss a walk off grand slam.I will also miss the annual story of the open try out where the mayor, in a suit shows up.It is also sad for MN own, Mark Hamburg who has played for Saints a couple years.  

 

However, all those nice stories aside, I am happy to see this happen now.For the price, I may try to go to more Saints games than Twins.It was announced no increase in ticket prices next season, whenever it officially starts. 

 

Other news organizations had a few things about the Saints ownership.Veck, main owner, said Pohlad, now a minority owner, is not asking Veck to make any changes to on field entertainment.That was a main thing for Veck, lets hope no disco nights like he did for Sox.There is talks about cross-promotions too.I think Veck would not have agree to this had he not had those assurances.He used to be in MLB and left because he wanted more fun outside of the actual games on the field.  

 

For those who have not been to other minor league games affiliated with MLB they still do similar things as the Saints did over the years.I used to live in Harrisburg and went to a few games when the Rock Cats, former Twins AA team came to town.They would still have plenty of side games and things to entertain similar to Saints.  

 

I think this will be a huge bump for Saints because fans, like all of us, will more of a vested interest in the team and how it is doing.We will want to follow players more, and get closer look at players that will be MLB bound.  

 

I would enjoy Saints games, but when I had little to no interest in the actual players it made following them kind of blah.I do recall going to one game, when former Twin, Brian Buchanon had record RBI night, and when I was a kid my mom made us leave early, to beat traffic, only to miss a walk off grand slam.I will also miss the annual story of the open try out where the mayor, in a suit shows up.It is also sad for MN own, Mark Hamburg who has played for Saints a couple years.  

 

However, all those nice stories aside, I am happy to see this happen now.For the price, I may try to go to more Saints games than Twins.It was announced no increase in ticket prices next season, whenever it officially starts. 

 

Thanks for this. I saw the comments about the entertainment aspect.

 

To me, it seems like the Saints were previously defined by their independence which...isn't the case as an affiliate. But it's probably good business move for both sides, especially in a post-pandemic unknown that could really hurt the indie leagues.

    • bighat likes this

 

This is fantastic, thanks for the update, Seth.

 

Looking forward to getting to St. Paul to see the best prospects. Every time I went to Cedar Rapids I say, damn, wish I lived in a town that had minor league ball. Well, its about to happen.

 

Is one of the concerns the Kernels have is that they are going to have to pay additional dollars to move up?

I haven't spoken with anyone connected with the Kernels about this, so these comments shouldn't be considered anything more than my opinions, but I can imagine the Kernels have multiple concerns, beyond any possible costs to move up a class. Those, to the extent they exist, would be one-time costs.

 

Of larger concern, I would imagine, are those additional costs that will be recurring.

 

1. Losing Burlington and Clinton will mean CR loses 2 'commuter series' rivals. Teams were able to bus to these games and home again after each game, meaning no hotel costs. CR will still be close to Quad Cities, but CR will be the westernmost city in a Midwest League that sees its footprint shift slightly eastward. If South Bend and Ft. Wayne shift to the Kernels' Division, the net effect will be higher travel expenses. The effect could be negated somewhat by other restructuring (lengths of series, no cross-division games, etc.), but we haven't heard anything about how the leagues will be structured or scheduled.

 

2. One of MLB's reasons for all of this is to improve conditions for players. Which is great, but it includes improvements to buses and hotel accommodations on the road... which are typically paid for by the MiLB affiliate. Likewise, improvements in food/diet is laudable, but will it be MLB or the MiLB affiliate picking up those costs?

 

3. Facility improvements is another issue. CR has a nice facility, but it's about 20 years old now. There will be facility improvements to size and nature of the clubhouse and training areas that will need to be made. No idea how soon or exactly what the nature will be, but they won't be inexpensive. We can also assume that MLB will continue to add to the list of their expectations as the years go on.

 

4. With Burlington and Clinton gone and Beloit building a new stadium, it's likely we'll see CR at the bottom of the MWL attendance list. They don't exactly make a ton of profit already, so the challenge will be finding ways to generate enough revenue to cover the additional expenses of both an operational and capital nature. 

 

All of that said, I'm really glad the Kernels survived the cut and have been invited to remain a Twins affiliate on a long-term basis. I hope the community supports them and they figure out a way to make it work financially.

    • ashbury likes this