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  • Forever a Saint: Saints Retire 15 in honor of Kevin Millar


    Theo Tollefson

    SAINT PAUL – 30 years after beginning his professional career with the Saints, Kevin Millar returns to his first baseball home to see his jersey number 15 retired.

    Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson

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    The St. Paul Saints cowboyed up the number 15 for all time in honor of 1993 Saint Kevin Millar. As the Saints celebrated their 30th year, Millar became the first player in Saints history to have their jersey number retired.

    “This year I have my jersey retired at Lamar University in June and we [Millar’s family] talked about coming out here in August and it's truly an honor. While you're playing, all I did was I love baseball, and I wasn’t the best player on the field. I just loved the game more than anybody. Now to look back and you don't realize, as a player, some of the lives that you touch along the way and the fans,” said Millar. 

    Throughout his professional career, Millar had three separate stints with the Saints. The first came in 1993. He was the primary third baseman for the team and played in 63 games hitting .260 with five home runs and 30 RBI. Millar’s '93 performance was impressive to the eyes of Saints co-owner Mike Veeck, who referred him to the Florida Marlins in a September scouting phone call. 

    On September 20, 1993, the Marlins purchased Millar’s contract from the Saints and the rest is history. 

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    Millar’s ties to the state of Minnesota date back further than his 1993 season with the Saints. Millar’s uncle Wayne Nordhagen, born in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, played eight seasons in the big leagues making his MLB debut with the White Sox in 1976. Nordhagen debuted with the same jersey number his nephew had retired Saturday evening. 

    Millar remembered the influence his uncle had on him as both a person and a ball player saying, “I looked up to him. He’s still doing great. Everybody always asked, who's your favorite player. As a Dodgers fan, it was Pedro Guerrero. But my uncle Wayne was always here for me. He would always tell me, do your push-ups and get your hands strong. When the White Sox would play the Angels, and he would not start, he was on the bench, so I wasn’t a big fan of Tony LaRussa for that.” 

    One of the highlights of that 1993 season for Millar was playingwithg his first Baseball Hall of Fame teammate, who just entered Cooperstown this year; Minnie Minoso. Minoso also played alongside his uncle Nordhagen during the 1976 and 1980 seasons. 

    In addition to Minoso, Nordhagen also played with Millar’s 1993 Saints teammate Leon Durham. For Millar, this was the next best thing to having his uncle as a teammate as Nordhagen retired after the 1983 season. 
     
    “Going full circle, you had Leon Durham who played with Wayne with the Cubs in '83 with him and Minoso who played with the White Sox, with uncle Wayne. I was always a fan of Minnie, and here he was playing a game for us, I think it was his sixth or seventh decade. That's what makes the Saints unbelievable is all the different and the cool stuff that they do. It makes it all fun. It's baseball and you're having fun,” said Millar. 

    Not only will Millar be a Saint forever, but he also leaves a legacy behind that helped pioneer a path to the Majors for independent league players who go undrafted. A recent example of this is Cold Spring, Minnesota’s own Joey Stock, who is currently a relief pitcher with the Boston Red Sox High A affiliate, the Greenville Drive. (Get to know more about Joey Stock here.)

    Stock was signed as an undrafted free agent after pitching the 2020 Northwoods League season with the St. Cloud Rox. 

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    With his jersey retired, Millar joins former Saints coach Wayne Terwilliger (number 22) and manager George Tsamis (number 5) as the third number retired in franchise history. Millar reflected on his last leg with the Saints as a player and coming back for the highest honor any sports franchise can bestow on a player. 

    “At 38, I knew I'd come back here and finish my career. Then seven years later getting back here at 45 years old hit a home run on the second pitch of my only at-bat. Doesn't make sense, but it happened. Now my jersey is retired and it's such a great honor. I'm so thankful, so blessed for this opportunity because I really truly believe that the Saints family is part of my family.”

     

     

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    3 hours ago, Chris Hanel said:

    "Not only will Millar be a Saint forever, but he also leaves a legacy behind that helped pioneer a path to the Majors for independent league players who go undrafted."

    That path being "cross picket lines to be a replacement player and forever be ineligible to join the MLBPA"?

    Thx for the reminder, Chris......yet another reason to admire Kevin Millar.  

    Congratulations on a fine baseball career, KM!!  Great that you have been able to come full circle in StP.

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    6 hours ago, Chris Hanel said:

    "Not only will Millar be a Saint forever, but he also leaves a legacy behind that helped pioneer a path to the Majors for independent league players who go undrafted."

    That path being "cross picket lines to be a replacement player and forever be ineligible to join the MLBPA"?

    Unions don’t always represent each players interest.  Unions are an organization with their own interests.  I can tell you how the teamsters threatened me with physical harm, when I worked for UPS in college for wanting to work and pay for school.  They even negotiated a lower wage increase in exchange for control of the pension.  UPS wanted the Pension to be a 50/50 thing to prevent corruption and mismanagement.  Unions aren’t the heroes you think they are.  

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    2 hours ago, BSLinPA said:

    Thx for the reminder, Chris......yet another reason to admire Kevin Millar.  

    Congratulations on a fine baseball career, KM!!  Great that you have been able to come full circle in StP.

     

    7 minutes ago, Brandon said:

    Unions don’t always represent each players interest.  Unions are an organization with their own interests.  I can tell you how the teamsters threatened me with physical harm, when I worked for UPS in college for wanting to work and pay for school.  They even negotiated a lower wage increase in exchange for control of the pension.  UPS wanted the Pension to be a 50/50 thing to prevent corruption and mismanagement.  Unions aren’t the heroes you think they are.  

    Thank you for your SCALDING HOT TAKES on unions, which- while wrong, gross, and boot-flavored- have nothing to do with my point.

    Millar's 'legacy' as a 'pioneer' involved being a scab. That's not opinion, that's fact. That this article engages in revisionist history by completely ignoring that is dubious on the best of days.

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    Nice article. He was a good player and a great guy. Just frustrating that the Twins had him and Strawberry playing their backyard, and they signed and played well with other MLB clubs.

    Millar = one (1) season with the Saints, then 12 years in MLB playing for four teams. Plus a Boston WS championship.

    Strawberry = one (1) season with the Saints, then four more productive MLB seasons with the NYY's.

    Florida took Millar and the Yankees brought Strawberry back. Both had to be purchased, so it isn't as though the Twins couldn't have done so. We just never seem to be willing to roll that dice and do what needs to be done in player evaluations.

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    19 hours ago, Chris Hanel said:

     

    Thank you for your SCALDING HOT TAKES on unions, which- while wrong, gross, and boot-flavored- have nothing to do with my point.

    Millar's 'legacy' as a 'pioneer' involved being a scab. That's not opinion, that's fact. That this article engages in revisionist history by completely ignoring that is dubious on the best of days.

    Your calling him a scab is a negative.  I believe he was acting in his family’s best interests and I for one am glad players crossed the line.  That should have been inferred from my comment. I think that makes him more of a hero.

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    On 8/15/2022 at 11:13 AM, Kipp35 said:

    Nice article. He was a good player and a great guy. Just frustrating that the Twins had him and Strawberry playing their backyard, and they signed and played well with other MLB clubs.

    Millar = one (1) season with the Saints, then 12 years in MLB playing for four teams. Plus a Boston WS championship.

    Strawberry = one (1) season with the Saints, then four more productive MLB seasons with the NYY's.

    Florida took Millar and the Yankees brought Strawberry back. Both had to be purchased, so it isn't as though the Twins couldn't have done so. We just never seem to be willing to roll that dice and do what needs to be done in player evaluations.

    The Twins have signed many, many players out of independent leagues. Caleb Thielbar for one. Nick Anderson was. Several minor leaguers have. Of course, most won't get to the big leagues.  There aren't a lot of Strawberry's that sign into indy leagues. But there definitely are some guys who got big league time in them today. Most are there for a reason. But there are always exceptions. 

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    On 8/16/2022 at 5:22 PM, Seth Stohs said:

    The Twins have signed many, many players out of independent leagues. Caleb Thielbar for one. Nick Anderson was. Several minor leaguers have. Of course, most won't get to the big leagues.  There aren't a lot of Strawberry's that sign into indy leagues. But there definitely are some guys who got big league time in them today. Most are there for a reason. But there are always exceptions. 

    They were literally in the Twins backyard... shouldn't they recognize talent in, their own back yard? 

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    6 hours ago, Kipp35 said:

    They were literally in the Twins backyard... shouldn't they recognize talent in, their own back yard? 

    Strawberry... playing for the Saints in the mid-to-late '90s... Has offers from the Twins (during their horrible years) and the Yankees (during their WS streak)... who do you think he's signing with? I'm sure they recognized his talent. 

    Every team follows the independent league (Atlantic League, American Association, USPBL, all of them). Every team scouts every other organization's minor league affiliates. 

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    On 8/20/2022 at 10:27 PM, Seth Stohs said:

    Strawberry... playing for the Saints in the mid-to-late '90s... Has offers from the Twins (during their horrible years) and the Yankees (during their WS streak)... who do you think he's signing with? I'm sure they recognized his talent. 

    Every team follows the independent league (Atlantic League, American Association, USPBL, all of them). Every team scouts every other organization's minor league affiliates. 

    My point is, the Twins do not do a good job at, nor are they good at evaluating their own, current or league talent. 

    And, where are you finding the Twins offered Strawberry a deal? I have found nothing eluding to that or that they had any conversation with him (or Millar). The Twins drag their feet ALL the time. Just look at this offseason for an example of that. As other teams put their nose to the grindstone to get the players they needed before the lockout, the Twins did NOTHING except extend a guy, who was still under contract and not going anywhere, to a $100mm deal. A guy that misses 40-60% of ALL of his games. Glad we locked him down instead of going after some pitchers (other than Bundy!).

    This is the point that I was attempting to make. The Twins cannot and have never been able to properly evaluate talent. Until they do, they will not be able to complete. We can't sign the big names in their prime, and if we are not equipped to part ways with valuable assets at their peak, in order to better ourselves for the future, we will continue to be supporting a team that will play themselves out of the playoffs.

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