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Article: Saints First Half Recap Includes 1000-Win Club Honor

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#1 Kevin Luckow

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Posted 01 July 2018 - 06:23 PM

The American Association season hits the halfway point next week. The St. Paul Saints are in the thick of the North Division race, tied for first place with the Gary SouthShore Railcats with a 22-19 record going into Sunday's games. It's been a challenging first half for manager George Tsamis. In what has become a trend, the Saints have had to retool the team. The Saints are a popular target for MLB and Mexican League scouts to boost their rosters and this year that has been the case again. Here are some highlights from the first half the season.Moving On Up
Three Saints have had their contracts purchased so far in the 2018 season. Vinny Nitolli, starting for the first time in his career, got off to a great start. In five starts, Nitolli went 3-2, with a 3.21 ERA before getting his contract purchased by Saltillo of the Mexican League on June 12. Josh Allen, a star second baseman in the Frontier League hit safely in his last 14 games to bump his average up to .344 before the New York Mets took notice, signing and assigning him to AA Hartford of the Eastern League. And Saints closer and former major leaguer Tom Wilhelmsen had his contract purchased by Tijuana of the Mexican League on June 26. While with the Saints, Wilhelmsen recorded seven saves and a 2.89 ERA.

Shoemaker The Runmaker
After the Saints’ 2017 second half collapse, much of the roster changed. One person that Tsamis brought back was the 2017 Saints Offensive Player of the Year, Brady Shoemaker. Shoemaker was the Pointstreak and the Minor League Sports Report American Association Offensive Player of the Week for the week of June 18-24. For the season, he is hitting .329 in 38 games, driving in 30 runs, with an on-base percentage of .422. In an offense that has been productive but prolific at leaving runners on base, Shoemaker has been the clutch hitter on whom the Saints have relied. He’s has had 13 multiple-hit games including two four-hit games. Shoemaker's power numbers are down from the 21 home runs that he hit in 2017, but with the acquisition of slugger Burt Reynolds, Shoemaker may start seeing more pitches to hit.

Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die
Right handed starter Eddie Medina was a late signing made by Tsamis. Medina is no stranger to the American Association, pitching the last three seasons for the Wichita Wingnuts. Currently Medina is in the middle of a 21-inning stretch of scoreless baseball, shutting down strong lineups from Winnipeg and Lincoln. For the season, Medina has started eight games pitching 49.1 innings, with a 3-2 record and a 2.00 ERA. Medina had to miss a start with a recurring back issue; his health will go a long way towards determining the Saints fortunes in the second half of the season.

Late Inning Magic
The Saints have shown fans why you should stick around until the end of the game. In the span of three games against the Texas AirHogs, the Saints scored six runs in the ninth inning to win 11-6, scored three runs in the 11th inning to win 3-0, and won 7-4 in ten innings in the third game of the series. In what became the 1000th win for manager George Tsamis, the Saints scored three runs in the eighth and shut the door on the Fargo Moorhead RedHawks. In their latest rallies, the Saints overcame a 5-0 deficit with a two-run rally in the ninth inning of a tie game versus rival Winnipeg. Two nights later, the Saints turned a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit and once again came back in the ninth tying the game before outlasting the Goldeyes winning 6-5 in 12 innings.

Mr. 1000
George Tsamis joined an elite group of Independent League Baseball managers in the 1000-win club on June 12. He joins current American Associations skippers Greg Tagert and Butch Hobson, former Atlantic League manager Sparky Lyle and longtime Fargo Moorhead manager Doug Simunic. In typical Saints fashion, Tsamis won his milestone game while wearing a Charlie Brown Saints jersey on Charlie Brown night at CHS Field.

And a Tommie Shall Lead Them
Facing a sweep at the hands of arch rival Winnipeg, the Saints turned to rookie Ryan Zimmerman from St. Thomas to solve a Goldeyes lineup that had scored 34 runs in the first three games of a weekend series. Zimmerman was not scared off by the prospect and shut down the Goldeyes giving up no runs in 6.2 innings, recording his first professional victory in his first ever start at CHS Field.

St. Paul Raccoons
In response to the raccoon that stole news headlines (on the night Tsamis won his 1000th game) by crawling up the side of a downtown St. Paul building, the Saints became the St. Paul Raccoons for a night on June 26th. Along with having a raccoon mascot that climbed up the batter's eye in the third inning, the Saints wore special St. Paul Raccoons jerseys that were auctioned off. Proceeds from the auction benefitted the Minnesota Wildlife Foundation.

No, Not That Burt Reynolds
On June 27, the Saints signed veteran American Association slugger Burt Reynolds. Although the Saints have had a good offense, the long ball has been missing from their game. Reynolds, released from Sioux Falls, provided immediate dividends in his second game hitting two home runs and knocking in five runs in a win at Winnipeg.

The Greatest Fans in the American Association
Often when a new ballpark opens, there is the first season buzz when fans want to check out the new digs. This happened in 2015 when CHS Field opened to rave reviews and Lowertown St. Paul became the hip place to be in the Twin Cities. In the second season teams get a share of fans that haven't been to the ballpark yet, so they get a bump from those curiosity seekers. The third season is often when reality sets in, but the Saints were aggressive in planning several promotional giveaways to commemorate their 25th season.

The fourth season is the toughest; the newness is gone. Over at Target Field, the Twins teased their fans with a postseason game while the Saints missed the playoffs for the first time in their CHS Field history. Even with all that, the Saints are still by far the class of the American Association when it comes to fans flocking to the ballpark.

In 19 home games, the Saints have drawn 154,692 fans for an average of 8,142 fans with a season high 9,791 last Sunday taking in the Saints 1-0 victory over Winnipeg. To put the attendance in perspective, the Saints hosted Sioux City for three games this week. The three games drew over 21,000 fans, Sioux City in 15 home dates has drawn 18,187 fans for a team that is considered the best in the league. The Saints are close to averaging as many fans per game as the second and third teams in the league, Winnipeg and Kansas City, have combined. Attendance will only pick up during the last half of the season as July is a good drawing month and the Saints are home for four of the last five weekends of the 2018 season.

Home Again
The Saints return home for a single game versus Fargo Moorhead on Monday night. It's the Independence Day Fireworks spectacular with a Food Truck Rally. Take note of the starting time as first pitch is at 6:05. Following that will be a weekend homestand with the Lincoln Saltdogs visiting. Friday night fireworks will feature the music of ABBA and on Sunday the first 1500 fans get a free replica Saints jersey. Saints tickets can be found at Saintsbaseball.com or by calling 651-644-6659. Remember, 200 berm tickets go on sale at 9 am on game days and if all else fails, roaming tickets are available for $8 that get you in the door and allow you to enjoy the game from wherever you please.

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#2 Loosey

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Posted 02 July 2018 - 08:19 AM

Burt Reynolds plays for the Saints now?


#3 ashburyjohn

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Posted 02 July 2018 - 09:41 AM

Is attendance at other parks in the league a concern for the Saints? Is there something the Saints can do to help the weaker franchises, if the health of the league as a whole becomes at risk?

A slim chance equals a fat chance, yet a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.


#4 Kevin Luckow

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Posted 02 July 2018 - 08:18 PM

 

Is attendance at other parks in the league a concern for the Saints? Is there something the Saints can do to help the weaker franchises, if the health of the league as a whole becomes at risk?

 

Good question.Such a good question I turned it into a blog where I kind of answered it. 

 

http://10thinningstr...nce-please.html


#5 ashburyjohn

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Posted 02 July 2018 - 09:29 PM

Good question.Such a good question I turned it into a blog where I kind of answered it. 

 

http://10thinningstr...nce-please.html

A lengthy and thought-filled response at your link. There's an old saying, "all politics is local," which surely has an analogy for baseball marketing: the city-by-city approach to looking at the question probably has to be done, to make sense of the situation. It's not for the Saints to solve the other cities' problems, but it seems that you do recognize that success can't be in a vacuum.

A slim chance equals a fat chance, yet a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.