The newly AAA-crowned Saints suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season courtesy of an Iowa Cubs team that did just about everything right both on the bump and at the plate. And while there were moments of brilliance from the Saints, the night on the field belonged to the I-Cubs.
Results matter, don’t get me wrong. Yet the true winners of the night were the Twins organization, CHS Field, and the all-encompassing atmosphere of having fans back at one of the greatest experiences in the sport of baseball.
I had the pleasure of taking it all in from the press box area, the concourse, and everywhere in between. Here’s what stood out to me.
Fun is Gooder than Ever
One of the primary concerns for baseball fans following the merger of the Saints and Twins partnership was that St. Paul would be saying hello to ‘traditional corporate baseball’ and goodbye to their ‘Fun is Good’ mantra.
Tuesday night did a hell of a job proving that worry wrong.
From the crazy promotions in-between innings to constant interaction between the PA announcer and fans to the genuine kindness of the Saints staff, it was impossible to be in a bad mood after entering the gates of CHS Field on Tuesday evening.
By now you’ve probably seen the ‘crazy yet normal’ promotion schedule that the Saints have posted for the month of May. That’s great and all, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun at CHS Field. Whether you’re a senior citizen catching up with old pals or a parent taking your child to their first baseball game, there’s something for everyone.
The Saints have remained committed to keeping ticket prices affordable and many are available for upcoming games given the recent expansion of capacity. The team may look different, but the organization has stayed true to it’s roots, creating one of the best summertime experiences in all of the Upper Midwest
Fan Knowledge is Increasing
Rochester proved to be a great organization for the Twins to partner with, yet many fans in Twins Territory were unfamiliar with core names at the AAA level until they arrived up with the parent club.
That wasn’t the case with fans on Tuesday night. After a few innings, I ventured down to the concourse to observe the game from a different perspective and chat with fans of all ages.
Conversations ranged from the resurgence of household names like Brent Rooker and Randy Dobnak to the organization brining up IF Yeltsin Encarnacion earlier that day.
Bottom line? There were very few “Who the hell is that guy out there?” conversations.
Part of this comes from having guys like Dobnak, Rooker, and Jeffers on the Saints squad. These three have each had their own fair share of success at the big league level and have been commonplace names for Twins fans.
Yet there’s no denying that perhaps the biggest reason is that the Saints are indeed just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Target Field. As cliche as it sounds, fans want to get to see the next Byron Buxton’s, Max Kepler’s, and Nelson Cruz’s. When those guys are playing just down the road, there’s going to be a naturally tendency to invest in those players more than if they were still out in New York.
It’s a beautiful thing.
DSP and Falvey in the House
As a disgruntled and lost young journalist I happened to cross paths with Twins President Dave St. Peter and Director of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey on the suite level of CHS Field (shockingly, the suite wasn’t for me).
It may seem obvious that the big dogs would attend the home opener for a new club in their organization. Yet the gesture demonstrates the support that the Twins have shown towards the Saints in this time of transition.
It would be easy for the Twins to command the Saints to abandon their old ways and take form as a typical AAA ballclub. Yet besides location, one of the best dynamics of this transition has been the hands-off, servant leadership that the Twins have shown to the Saints.
Thoughts and Prayers to St. Peter, who has been drilled at least a hundred times with the question “Will the Saints still be able to have fun?” Each time he’s answered with grace, assuring fans that the Saints will continue to ‘be themselves’ and hey, the Twins might even learn a thing or two from them.
Bravo, Dave, Derek, and company.
Six Game Series
Given the unique year that it is, the Saints season will consist of six game series. Tuesday marked the first of six games that the Saints will host against the I-Cubs. While unorthodox, the format gives fans more consistency when it comes to purchasing tickets. It also gives fans the opportunity to familiarize themselves with members of the Saints and their opposition.
Tuesday brought in ‘old friend’ Andrew Romine and well-known players Cameron Maybin and Ian Miller. Similar to the Twins in the Central, it will be fun to see the Saints build rivalries with other Triple-A East squads.
Shots, Shots, Shots!
As Minnesota inches closer to having enough vaccinated to ‘move forward,’ the Saints are doing their part. The team offered COVID-19 vaccinations for fans two hours prior to Tuesday night’s home opener.
As a reward for getting vaccinated, each individual who took part in the event was gifted four regular season tickets to any game of their choice during the Saints 2021 season.
No-one wants the stands packed again more than the Saints, Twins, and every other team in professional baseball. Kudos to the Saints for taking the initiative to help reach that goal as soon as possible!