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Charley Walters: Twins-Saints partnership talks quietly ongoing


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Very interesting article in Pioneer Press from Charlie Walters.

 

https://www.twincities.com/2020/07/11/charley-walters-twins-saints-partnership-talks-quietly-ongoing/

 

There’s been a few suggestions in the forums here on TD to this effect as well.

 

Would you attend more Saints games, were they AAA affiliate of the Twins?

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Interesting setup to have Triple-AAA ball that close, especially for rehab assignments. A-Ball in nearby Iowa. AA close to High A and training camp in Florida. Be a pretty good arrangement for Twins and players.

 

What is interesting with the cancelled minor leage season, and the supposed elimination of many minor league parks...teams have basically cut a good dozen players already from their system, and with the small draft class, even fewer prospects to deal with.

 

Not sure what major league's baseball intent will be for their proposed independent league for baseball castoffs and players on the cusp of maybe getting a minimum draft call, but not.

 

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Rochester has been pretty good to the Twins from everything I have ever seen and read, though I have read a few things here and there how the fan base hasn't exactly embraced the Twins organization due to geography. Swear I read somewhere how their store is filled with Yankee gear. (Ugh)! But I guess it makes sense.

 

From the Twins perspective, a good fan base and connecting flights sounds good. Any maybe it's just being in the Midwest and loving a Midwestern team all my life, as well as watching the great partnership between the Royals and their Omaha affiliate, but I've always wanted the Twins AAA team to be closer. In all my almkst 50yrs following the Twins, I think Toledo has been the closest AAA affiliate they've had.

 

The "conglomeration" of Ft Myers, Elizabethton, Pensacola and the GCL makes great sense for weather and proximity to one another and the Ft Myers facility. And the Kernels, despite distance, just seems like a perfect marriage you'd hate to breakup.

 

I never realized until I read a few things and actually looked online just how great the Saints facility was. That is a beautiful ballpark! And there are obvious changes being put in place to re-structure milb and the number of affiliates. (A different discussion, a different time, but one I'm NOT fully behind). But all of these changes WILL affect various cities/towns across the country including independent ball. So change is absolutely on the horizon.

 

With so much change in the air, and so many unknowns, it's very hard to speculate. But one thing that has to be asked: Do the Saints WANT to partner with the Twins and MLB? On one hand, they could reap huge benefits from an established fan base who would love to watch AAA baseball and current and future ML talent. On the other hand, would they see diminished returns because they lost a special niche no longer being "different" with a local fan base who will see those players with the Twins at some point down the road anyway?

 

If the Saints don't work out, for whatever reason...and it would be very cool if it happened...I offer up a second proposal. The Lincoln NE are part of the same independent affiliate. They have had great success. They play at Haymarket Park, home of the Husker baseball team, which is one of the TOP facilities in all of college baseball. It has been host to many regional and super-regional playoffs over the years. And there are obvious ties to Omaha and the CWS 45 miles down the road. And this is a state and fan base that loves amateur and semi pro sports without having a pro team of it's own.

 

If the Saints aren't interested, or don't trust being an affiliate just across the river from the ML team they would support, the Twins should look a little south to Lincoln and call the Salt Dogs their AAA home.

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I would absolutely attend more Saints games.  I suspect the level of attendance at the Saints games has a whole lot more to do with the price and the fun atmosphere.  If they don't mess with either of those as a Twins fan I would love it.  But definitely a hit to the players and coaches they draw from and the league they would be exiting.

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I would definitely attend more Saints games if they were a Twins affiliate.  Would love to have our top prospects that close.

 

 

I would absolutely attend more Saints games.  I suspect the level of attendance at the Saints games has a whole lot more to do with the price and the fun atmosphere.  If they don't mess with either of those as a Twins fan I would love it.  But definitely a hit to the players and coaches they draw from and the league they would be exiting.

I'm with both of these posts. There's no reason for the fun atmosphere to be compromised. The quality of baseball would be way better than we get with the has-beens, never-wases and never-will-bes that make up the current AAIPB. And we'd have a chance to see our top prospects in person instead of being relegated to reading third-hand information about them.

We've discussed this on a past thread but it's good news that this concept seems to have traction within the two organizations.

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My only complaint about Saints games at CHS right now is the price. I can see MLB for nearly the same cost and the quality is significantly better. 

 

Anyway, yes, I would be more interested in the Saints as an affiliate.

 

But I think losing their "independence" would hurt the Saints' brand significantly. I question if it would be a good deal for them. I imagine it would give them more league stability but take away some of the quirky decision making ability that makes that franchise so unique.

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If the Saints don't work out, for whatever reason...and it would be very cool if it happened...I offer up a second proposal. The Lincoln NE are part of the same independent affiliate. They have had great success. They play at Haymarket Park, home of the Husker baseball team, which is one of the TOP facilities in all of college baseball. It has been host to many regional and super-regional playoffs over the years. And there are obvious ties to Omaha and the CWS 45 miles down the road. And this is a state and fan base that loves amateur and semi pro sports without having a pro team of it's own.

If the Saints aren't interested, or don't trust being an affiliate just across the river from the ML team they would support, the Twins should look a little south to Lincoln and call the Salt Dogs their AAA home.

I can understand how a Twins fan in Omaha would love to have their AAA team in Lincoln. But realistically, I think the chance of a Twins AAA team succeeding there is infinitesimal. In business terms Lincoln is really part of the Omaha market and it's in the heart of Royals territory. I just can't see Twins executives giving the OK to go that way.

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Rochester has been pretty good to the Twins from everything I have ever seen and read, though I have read a few things here and there how the fan base hasn't exactly embraced the Twins organization due to geography. Swear I read somewhere how their store is filled with Yankee gear. (Ugh)! But I guess it makes sense.

From the Twins perspective, a good fan base and connecting flights sounds good. Any maybe it's just being in the Midwest and loving a Midwestern team all my life, as well as watching the great partnership between the Royals and their Omaha affiliate, but I've always wanted the Twins AAA team to be closer. In all my almkst 50yrs following the Twins, I think Toledo has been the closest AAA affiliate they've had.

The "conglomeration" of Ft Myers, Elizabethton, Pensacola and the GCL makes great sense for weather and proximity to one another and the Ft Myers facility. And the Kernels, despite distance, just seems like a perfect marriage you'd hate to breakup.

I never realized until I read a few things and actually looked online just how great the Saints facility was. That is a beautiful ballpark! And there are obvious changes being put in place to re-structure milb and the number of affiliates. (A different discussion, a different time, but one I'm NOT fully behind). But all of these changes WILL affect various cities/towns across the country including independent ball. So change is absolutely on the horizon.

With so much change in the air, and so many unknowns, it's very hard to speculate. But one thing that has to be asked: Do the Saints WANT to partner with the Twins and MLB? On one hand, they could reap huge benefits from an established fan base who would love to watch AAA baseball and current and future ML talent. On the other hand, would they see diminished returns because they lost a special niche no longer being "different" with a local fan base who will see those players with the Twins at some point down the road anyway?

If the Saints don't work out, for whatever reason...and it would be very cool if it happened...I offer up a second proposal. The Lincoln NE are part of the same independent affiliate. They have had great success. They play at Haymarket Park, home of the Husker baseball team, which is one of the TOP facilities in all of college baseball. It has been host to many regional and super-regional playoffs over the years. And there are obvious ties to Omaha and the CWS 45 miles down the road. And this is a state and fan base that loves amateur and semi pro sports without having a pro team of it's own.

If the Saints aren't interested, or don't trust being an affiliate just across the river from the ML team they would support, the Twins should look a little south to Lincoln and call the Salt Dogs their AAA home.

Love Lincoln, with lots of fun memories.

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I can understand how a Twins fan in Omaha would love to have their AAA team in Lincoln. But realistically, I think the chance of a Twins AAA team succeeding there is infinitesimal. In business terms Lincoln is really part of the Omaha market and it's in the heart of Royals territory. I just can't see Twins executives giving the OK to go that way.

Generally agree with you. Might be weird having not only 2 AAA teams 45 miles apart, but also ALC affiliates. But the Salt Dogs seem to do OK for themselves. Clearly a second choice, but fits the profile for a closer proximity AAA team for the Twins with great facilities and good track record.

 

Of course, being that Twins fan in Omaha it wouldn't exactly stink either. Lol

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Should St. Paul become the Twins AAA team, I think it would be great in some ways and bad in others. Good for players - they don't have to move! They can go up and down, just take an Uber ride across town if they get called up. Super easy and strategic for the Twins, no more "he's on the plane from Rochester and maybe will make it to the ballpark by the 7th inning".

 

On the other hand, let's say you're struggling and get sent down. Instead of taking a flight and getting to clear your head, you're right next door. I know if my work demoted me, I'd probably prefer to take a flight to Rochester to work with teammates there rather than just go down the hall and see the same folks on the elevator each day.

 

Also, something about killing independent baseball in the cities seems wrong.

 

 

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I would think a logical backup plan to St. Paul would be Sioux Falls over Lincoln. 

 

It's still relatively close, pretty strong Twins territory, it's a growing city, it's proven it can be a baseball city with the Canaries, and they already have an NBA G-League team.

 

I'm also not sure, but I thought at one time MLB had something in the rules about there needing to be a certain distance between the big league team and its affiliates. I could be mistaken, or maybe that rule is going away due to their cutting teams and push to keep things more in line in terms of geography.

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W/ MLB cutting minor league teams & draft drastically reduced, Independent teams will have to carry the slack. Higher caliber of players will flood the Independent leagues. Hopefully new Independent teams will spring up especially if the Saints transform into a affiliation of the Twins. & what will happen to Veek? 

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I would think a logical backup plan to St. Paul would be Sioux Falls over Lincoln. 

 

It's still relatively close, pretty strong Twins territory, it's a growing city, it's proven it can be a baseball city with the Canaries, and they already have an NBA G-League team.

 

I'm also not sure, but I thought at one time MLB had something in the rules about there needing to be a certain distance between the big league team and its affiliates. I could be mistaken, or maybe that rule is going away due to their cutting teams and push to keep things more in line in terms of geography.

 

While a Twins affiliate in Sioux Falls or Fargo would be fun for us fans in the western part of the Twins footprint, looking at the American Association attendance stats, I think a local AAA affiliate is St. Paul or bust.

 

https://ballparkdigest.com/2019/09/23/2019-independent-baseball-attendance-by-league/

 

Sioux Falls averages 2.4K fans per game, Lincoln and Fargo average 3.4K and St. Paul draws 8K.

 

If these changes turn into a waterfall effect and the Twins look to keep the affiliates local down the road, A or AA clubs might be a great fit though.

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While a Twins affiliate in Sioux Falls or Fargo would be fun for us fans in the western part of the Twins footprint, looking at the American Association attendance stats, I think a local AAA affiliate is St. Paul or bust.

 

https://ballparkdigest.com/2019/09/23/2019-independent-baseball-attendance-by-league/

 

Sioux Falls averages 2.4K fans per game, Lincoln and Fargo average 3.4K and St. Paul draws 8K.

 

If these changes turn into a waterfall effect and the Twins look to keep the affiliates local down the road, A or AA clubs might be a great fit though.

 

The only reason I even thought about it was that I thought there was some sort of rule in place regarding proximity between the parent and farm clubs. If that's not a thing, then St. Paul would be the obvious choice.

 

I do like the idea of lower levels ending up there though. Although it's pretty slick with A and AA being close together down south.

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Other than St. Paul the only metro areas in the upper Midwest that will work for a AAA franchise are Des Moines and Omaha. The populations of other locations are just too small and/or do not have enough Twins fans. Sioux Falls, SD, Lincoln, NE, Madison, WI, and Rochester, MN are all non-starters. Des Moines and Omaha are not going to flip from the Cubs and Royals unless the parent clubs decide to get out, and that is extremely unlikely.

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Other than St. Paul the only metro areas in the upper Midwest that will work for a AAA franchise are Des Moines and Omaha. The populations of other locations are just too small and/or do not have enough Twins fans. Sioux Falls, SD, Lincoln, NE, Madison, WI, and Rochester, MN are all non-starters. Des Moines and Omaha are not going to flip from the Cubs and Royals unless the parent clubs decide to get out, and that is extremely unlikely.

I bet St Cloud or Fargo could support a triple A team. Both support Northwoods League, which is much inferior ball (but still great fun). Both would need significant field improvements, however...
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More than likely would need to be in the PCL given travel scenarios. Don’t see it happening any time soon.

 

Also, I don’t see the AAA affiliate being in the region as much of an opportunity to see ‘top’ prospects. Look at the 2019 Red Wings leaders in games played/pitched, and look at the careers of the core players on the major league squad...not many games played at the AAA level (other than rehab). I’d call it more of an opportunity to see ‘emergency veteran depth’ and ‘stalled’ prospects. I’d much much rather have the A+ or AA affiliate.

 

Also, would hate to see independent ball lose the stage that the Saints are providing.

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I bet St Cloud or Fargo could support a triple A team. Both support Northwoods League, which is much inferior ball (but still great fun). Both would need significant field improvements, however...

Respectfully, no way. The median AAA team averages about 6,900 attendance per game. To match that, 5% of the population of Fargo-Moorhead or 10% of the population of St. Cloud would have to go to EVERY game. Moreover, the ticket price would be significantly higher because Northwoods League players are not paid.

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Respectfully, no way. The median AAA team averages about 6,900 attendance per game. To match that, 5% of the population of Fargo-Moorhead or 10% of the population of St. Cloud would have to go to EVERY game. Moreover, the ticket price would be significantly higher because Northwoods League players are not paid.

Ticket price would be higher, it doesn’t mean they won’t pay it.

 

The SCSU Men’s Hockey Team draws 6,000 per game. The UND men’s hockey team draws 10,000 per game, NDSU draws 5500 per men’s hockey game. They draw in people from outside the city itself.

 

Sure, different sports, but similar demographic to own sport season tickets. Prices for the tickets are similar, and number of games played are slightly shorter in hockey, but still 50 game season.

 

The St Cloud Rox was the AAA affiliate for the Twins in the 70s for a few years.

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Ticket price would be higher, it doesn’t mean they won’t pay it.

The SCSU Men’s Hockey Team draws 6,000 per game. The UND men’s hockey team draws 10,000 per game, NDSU draws 5500 per men’s hockey game. They draw in people from outside the city itself.

Sure, different sports, but similar demographic to own sport season tickets. Prices for the tickets are similar, and number of games played are slightly shorter in hockey, but still 50 game season.

The St Cloud Rox was the AAA affiliate for the Twins in the 70s for a few years.

None of those sports plays a 65-game home schedule. And you wouldn't have students attending (at reduced ticket prices) because they wouldn't be there and because it's not a school sport. If you look at the populations of the current AAA franchises there is none anywhere near as small as F-M and St. Cloud is about half the size of F-M. It's wishful thinking to consider those locations for AAA and business people know wishful thinking doesn't translate into revenue.

And BTW the St. Cloud Rox you speak of were the equivalent of modern-day low-A or maybe rookie league and ceased to exist after 1971. Here's a link to the history of the Twins' minor league franchises. 

https://twinstrivia.com/twins-minor-league-history/

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Other than St. Paul the only metro areas in the upper Midwest that will work for a AAA franchise are Des Moines and Omaha. The populations of other locations are just too small and/or do not have enough Twins fans. Sioux Falls, SD, Lincoln, NE, Madison, WI, and Rochester, MN are all non-starters. Des Moines and Omaha are not going to flip from the Cubs and Royals unless the parent clubs decide to get out, and that is extremely unlikely.

Good point. Madison WI has tried getting Indy baseball going for years, with several teams coming and going but nothing sticking. I personally covered the Madison Black Wolf for a season for the local rag back in the day, stadium was a ghost town.

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I'm not convinced. The examples I can think of with the AAA team in the same Metro area (Atlanta/Gwinnett, Texas/Frisco) are considerably larger Metro areas with larger populations within an hour or two's drive. 

 

As to minor league affliliates driving major league fandom, I suspect it makes less difference than we think. There's a really cool Web site that shows fan affiliation by ZIP code, at least as measured by Facebook: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/24/upshot/facebook-baseball-map.html?_r=0#8,40.074,-96.760. In Omaha, for example, the Royals don't show up in the top three favorites, despite being the KC AAA team for more than 50 years and being the closest team geographically. One has to go south of Lincoln a bit before the Royals start to register. 

 

As to those mentioned, the Lincoln and Sioux Falls Metro areas rank between 152 and 182, and neither have populous outlying areas. FWIW, Cedar Rapids is between them, so if you're going to consider either of the former, you might as well consider the latter, and I don't think that's realistic. 

 

By population, if you want a larger Midwestern city that's under-represented in the MILB scene, Grand Rapids is a better choice. It's the 51st-largest market and currently only has a Class A team. It also has significant outlying population and frankly, a fair amount of wealth/opportunity for corporate sponsorship. 

 

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Respectfully, no way. The median AAA team averages about 6,900 attendance per game. To match that, 5% of the population of Fargo-Moorhead or 10% of the population of St. Cloud would have to go to EVERY game. Moreover, the ticket price would be significantly higher because Northwoods League players are not paid.

Concur. Reno is possibly the smallest AAA metro area and the region's population is about 575K. After the initial excitement of having a new team they seem kind of marginal, with the second lowest attendance in the PCL in 2019. They thought the casino resorts would get them over the hump, but the casinos themselves are hurting and I don't think that panned out

 

Fargo and St Cloud weigh in at about 200K in regional population.

 

AAA should be located in a population center of around a million to be viable, absent heavy subsidies.

 

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I bet St Cloud or Fargo could support a triple A team. Both support Northwoods League, which is much inferior ball (but still great fun). Both would need significant field improvements, however...

 

If there was a Twins affiliate in Fargo, I am confident they'd draw more than the 3.4K per game they currently do. However, the AAA affiliates are pretty much in all of the metro areas that would be considered next-in-line to support an actual MLB club. Charlotte, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Columbus, Nashville, Memphis, OK City.

 

Fargo also has the issue that 80% of the town clears out for the lake on the weekend, so there's not a ton of room for additional draw.

 

Madison is a strange case though. The metro is the same size as Des Moines, and with the lack of similarly sized metros in the upper Midwest, you'd think they'd be a hot territory for the AL/NL Central teams to fight over as an affiliate. But as far as I know they've only ever had the Muskies, which was only an A ball club and they up and moved 30 years ago.

 

 

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....

 

Madison is a strange case though. The metro is the same size as Des Moines, and with the lack of similarly sized metros in the upper Midwest, you'd think they'd be a hot territory for the AL/NL Central teams to fight over as an affiliate. But as far as I know they've only ever had the Muskies, which was only an A ball club and they up and moved 30 years ago.

 

Hypothesis: Madison is a university town, so demographics may skew younger than typical baseball fans. There's also more coming and going in university towns, so there's less opportunity for longer-term allegiances. And having grown up 15 minutes from Iowa City and now living near Notre Dame, I'm guessing that primary sports allegiances in Madison are to the Badgers, which is a very difficult nut to crack. 

 

There's also two other major league teams (three, if you count the White Sox  :banghead: ) within a 2:30 drive to compete with. 

 

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Hypothesis: Madison is a university town, so demographics may skew younger than typical baseball fans. There's also more coming and going in university towns, so there's less opportunity for longer-term allegiances. And having grown up 15 minutes from Iowa City and now living near Notre Dame, I'm guessing that primary sports allegiances in Madison are to the Badgers, which is a very difficult nut to crack. 

 

There's also two other major league teams (three, if you count the White Sox  :banghead: ) within a 2:30 drive to compete with. 

Further, census numbers include students, so a significant chunk of Madison's population isn't even there in the summer.

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Good point. Madison WI has tried getting Indy baseball going for years, with several teams coming and going but nothing sticking. I personally covered the Madison Black Wolf for a season for the local rag back in the day, stadium was a ghost town.

A long time ago Madison had a low A ball team, the Muskies. Was affiliated with Oakland and had Conseco, that good shortstop and several other of the great A's from the late 80's.  

 

Team never made a penny and after several years was sold and moved to Michigan. Owned a small piece of that team and to be honest, we probably could have done a better job of marketing and managing the team. 

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