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  1. There's been plenty of pomp and circumstance surrounding the marriage of the Minnesota Twins and St. Paul Saints. If there's any group that deserves more love in the relationship, it's the St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew. Mid-morning rays of the Minnesota sun christen the back of Marcus Campbell as he plays fetch with his dog Maverick. Birds are chirping, luscious green grass tickles the air with a carefree aroma, and there couldn’t be a worry in the world. A man, his dog, and... CHS Field. “Mav likes to run along the warning track with players. Last year he’d always run with Danny Coulombe, and he’s in the big leagues now,” Campbell chuckled while launching another saliva-glossed tennis ball towards the right-field corner of the Saints' ballpark. Maverick may serve as the unofficial conditioning coach for the Twins organization, Campbell serves as Director of Field Operations for the St. Paul Saints. And while fun moments with his shop dog make for moments of bliss and calm, Campbell and the hands of the Saints’ grounds crew have been nothing short of full in the inaugural season as Triple-A affiliates of the Minnesota Twins. Campbell, who has been with the Saints for a few years will tell you that this year has been pretty similar to prior years when St. Paul was an independent team. “I keep telling people that baseball is baseball. You might have better players but so does the other team. As far as operations go, not much has changed.” Don’t let the modest Minnesota-Crookston graduate fool you. This year has featured the most games, double-headers, and events that CHS Field has seen since its inception in 2015. Yet through all the late nights, early mornings, and constant demands, there couldn’t be a better team to garner CHS Field as one of the top facilities in all of professional baseball. Heck, they even have a bit of fun while doing it. Early to Bed, Early to Rise Walk through the back gates at CHS Field on a game day and you’ll catch nostalgia of a small town café crossed with a fully functioning hardware shop. A half pot of coffee sits on a counter below a TV with the news all in front of a lunch table filled with lunch bags, soft drinks...and more coffee. The caffeine is essential. After nights that keep Campbell and his team at the ballpark until unthinkable hours, the crew makes sure that 4-6 members are at CHS by 9:00 am the next morning to prep for that evening’s game. Day game? That’s a different story. "Turnaround games and doubleheaders are the most challenging days,” Campbell said. “We work all day for a 7 pm game, keep going until 2 am, and are back at 7 or 8 am for a 1 pm game. Lots of caffeine.” Regardless of the start time, the routine stays the same. Campbell’s right-hand man Cody Pamperin stirs a concoction of pearly-white paint that will be used to chalk the baselines. Cody and Marcus go back quite a ways. The two played college baseball together at Minnesota-Crookston and took different routes following graduation. A few years later Pamperin was on the job market and gave his old friend a call. “He had helped towards the end of season last year and was looking for work and I knew that he’d be a great addition to our team,” Campbell said. Campbell and Pamperin are short-staffed, as many of their interns have returned to college with the summer waning. The two and the rest of the full-time team start the day by patching both bullpens to mend the divots created by pitchers and catchers. When the clock strikes 10 am, Pamperin heads to the infield to garnish the mound with clay, a product that the crew purchased 40 pallets of last year. $11 per bag, you do the math. The top priority of every morning is keeping the grass lush and the infield moist; something that can be difficult during one of the driest summers in the past 30 years. “We’ve had to water quite a bit this season, even in our landscape areas,” Campbell said. “Normally we can get by with watering those just once a week but this summer it’s been 2-3 times a week.” Cody Pamperin waters the infield grass at CHS Field, something that is done every morning. (David Youngs) On top of keeping the field in top shape, the grounds crew also maintains all the flowers, plants, and greenery surrounding the ballpark. Not to mention the sidewalks, artscapes, and dog park that snuggle the boundaries of CHS Field. In fact, the acreage outside of the playing surface surpasses that of the field. After morning duties are completed, the mecca of ballparks takes place; mowing the outfield. After sharing childhood attempts to mow my backyard with the trademarked ‘crisscross outfield’ design (if you didn’t do this as a child you didn’t live) Marcus breaks down the process. And while the design was never mastered in my Fargo yard, Campbell delivers the process like he’s done it his whole life. “We change it up sometimes but it’s just a checkerboard,” Campbell said. “If you mow a pattern too much the ball will snake. We’ll test it sometimes by rolling a ball through the outfield. If the ball snakes, we‘ll change our pattern. The hallowed 'crisscross outfield' pattern. Often imitated, rarely duplicated. (David Youngs) In addition to mowing every day and testing the grass themselves, Campbell and his crew get constant feedback from Saints players on how the field is playing. "I’m posted in the dugout during the game so I communicate with the guys to see how the field is playing,” Campbell said. “We’ve changed things a few times from the feedback they’ve given us. There are certain things that I notice and things they notice because they’re the ones who are actually taking ground balls on the field.” As batting practice and first pitch approach the crew removes the tarp that covers home, still moist and freshly nourished from the night before. Tasks upon tasks keep the Saints crew busy until the last fan has left the stadium. Yet during the game, there’s one member of the staff that manages to make ‘fun good’ through 280 characters. For the Fans Field Operations Manager may be an official job title for Erik Franke. More importantly? He’s the heart and soul of the St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Twitter. Inspired by his extensive background in fan relations and marketing Franke debuted one of the most interactive accounts in professional baseball earlier this season. Yet it isn’t just his experience in working social media and marketing at places like Harvard and UMass that prompted Franke to put pen to paper. It was a best practice for showcasing the work that his team does. After stints in collegiate athletics marketing and fan promotions, Field Operations Manager Erik Franke gets to channel his creativity through the St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Twitter account. (David Youngs) “So much of working grounds crew revolves around creating and showcasing the best product possible,” Franke said. “What better way to do that than a Twitter account?” From interacting with fans to showcasing new machinery to flat-out stunning shots of a pristine ballpark, Franke keeps one thing in mind when running the account. Fun. “Fan relations portion is so important and it’s been so fun interaction with fans through Twitter,” Franke said. “Sometimes I’ll just search ‘St. Paul Saints’ to see who is at the game so I can thank them for coming.” A Child’s Game Bound by the ‘fun is good’ mantra, the joy of the St. Paul Saints is perhaps perfectly personified by the Saints grounds crew. A group that crafts their skill to perfection, has fun doing it, and genuinely cares about the people that get to enjoy baseball with them. Franke first experienced the ‘fun is good’ culture as a Gameday Operations Intern in 2013 during his college days at St. Cloud State. Eight years later, the phrase couldn’t ring more true. “I knew how much fun the Saints were from prior experiences and it turns out that is just as true for the grounds crew,” he said. That doesn’t take away from the grueling hours, nasty elements, and ever-changing tasks that the team endures. For Campbell, it’s the people in the organization that leave him fulfilled at the end of the day. Not just his team, but everyone from the top to bottom, regardless of status. “One day Nick Gordon showed up on an off day at the box office to buy a ticket for a game,” Campbell recalls. “He could have just walked through the back door but bought a ticket to go watch his boys play but that just speaks for the type of guys in this organization.” And at the end of the day, Franke and Campbell just enjoy the pureness of being able to spend their days and nights around America’s pastime. “Watching the players, playing baseball my whole life, it doesn’t seem like work when you’re around a child’s game,” Campbell said. “You get to watch guys play a game that they love. There’s something about that that makes our job fulfilling.” And as someone who’s been to the coast and back, Franke couldn’t be happier to work for an organization that values the people. “There’s not one thing that makes the Saints special but there are a whole lot of small things the organization does on all levels,” Franke said. “We’re putting out a good product but at the end of the day, there are fans coming to these games. They're spending their money, time, and energy to be here. To make that experience the best that it can be is something that everyone in this organization understands.” The Saints begin their final homestand tonight against the Iowa Cubs at 7:05 pm. Purchase tickets here! And be sure to follow @STPGroundsCrew on Twitter! View full article
  2. Mid-morning rays of the Minnesota sun christen the back of Marcus Campbell as he plays fetch with his dog Maverick. Birds are chirping, luscious green grass tickles the air with a carefree aroma, and there couldn’t be a worry in the world. A man, his dog, and... CHS Field. “Mav likes to run along the warning track with players. Last year he’d always run with Danny Coulombe, and he’s in the big leagues now,” Campbell chuckled while launching another saliva-glossed tennis ball towards the right-field corner of the Saints' ballpark. Maverick may serve as the unofficial conditioning coach for the Twins organization, Campbell serves as Director of Field Operations for the St. Paul Saints. And while fun moments with his shop dog make for moments of bliss and calm, Campbell and the hands of the Saints’ grounds crew have been nothing short of full in the inaugural season as Triple-A affiliates of the Minnesota Twins. Campbell, who has been with the Saints for a few years will tell you that this year has been pretty similar to prior years when St. Paul was an independent team. “I keep telling people that baseball is baseball. You might have better players but so does the other team. As far as operations go, not much has changed.” Don’t let the modest Minnesota-Crookston graduate fool you. This year has featured the most games, double-headers, and events that CHS Field has seen since its inception in 2015. Yet through all the late nights, early mornings, and constant demands, there couldn’t be a better team to garner CHS Field as one of the top facilities in all of professional baseball. Heck, they even have a bit of fun while doing it. Early to Bed, Early to Rise Walk through the back gates at CHS Field on a game day and you’ll catch nostalgia of a small town café crossed with a fully functioning hardware shop. A half pot of coffee sits on a counter below a TV with the news all in front of a lunch table filled with lunch bags, soft drinks...and more coffee. The caffeine is essential. After nights that keep Campbell and his team at the ballpark until unthinkable hours, the crew makes sure that 4-6 members are at CHS by 9:00 am the next morning to prep for that evening’s game. Day game? That’s a different story. "Turnaround games and doubleheaders are the most challenging days,” Campbell said. “We work all day for a 7 pm game, keep going until 2 am, and are back at 7 or 8 am for a 1 pm game. Lots of caffeine.” Regardless of the start time, the routine stays the same. Campbell’s right-hand man Cody Pamperin stirs a concoction of pearly-white paint that will be used to chalk the baselines. Cody and Marcus go back quite a ways. The two played college baseball together at Minnesota-Crookston and took different routes following graduation. A few years later Pamperin was on the job market and gave his old friend a call. “He had helped towards the end of season last year and was looking for work and I knew that he’d be a great addition to our team,” Campbell said. Campbell and Pamperin are short-staffed, as many of their interns have returned to college with the summer waning. The two and the rest of the full-time team start the day by patching both bullpens to mend the divots created by pitchers and catchers. When the clock strikes 10 am, Pamperin heads to the infield to garnish the mound with clay, a product that the crew purchased 40 pallets of last year. $11 per bag, you do the math. The top priority of every morning is keeping the grass lush and the infield moist; something that can be difficult during one of the driest summers in the past 30 years. “We’ve had to water quite a bit this season, even in our landscape areas,” Campbell said. “Normally we can get by with watering those just once a week but this summer it’s been 2-3 times a week.” Cody Pamperin waters the infield grass at CHS Field, something that is done every morning. (David Youngs) On top of keeping the field in top shape, the grounds crew also maintains all the flowers, plants, and greenery surrounding the ballpark. Not to mention the sidewalks, artscapes, and dog park that snuggle the boundaries of CHS Field. In fact, the acreage outside of the playing surface surpasses that of the field. After morning duties are completed, the mecca of ballparks takes place; mowing the outfield. After sharing childhood attempts to mow my backyard with the trademarked ‘crisscross outfield’ design (if you didn’t do this as a child you didn’t live) Marcus breaks down the process. And while the design was never mastered in my Fargo yard, Campbell delivers the process like he’s done it his whole life. “We change it up sometimes but it’s just a checkerboard,” Campbell said. “If you mow a pattern too much the ball will snake. We’ll test it sometimes by rolling a ball through the outfield. If the ball snakes, we‘ll change our pattern. The hallowed 'crisscross outfield' pattern. Often imitated, rarely duplicated. (David Youngs) In addition to mowing every day and testing the grass themselves, Campbell and his crew get constant feedback from Saints players on how the field is playing. "I’m posted in the dugout during the game so I communicate with the guys to see how the field is playing,” Campbell said. “We’ve changed things a few times from the feedback they’ve given us. There are certain things that I notice and things they notice because they’re the ones who are actually taking ground balls on the field.” As batting practice and first pitch approach the crew removes the tarp that covers home, still moist and freshly nourished from the night before. Tasks upon tasks keep the Saints crew busy until the last fan has left the stadium. Yet during the game, there’s one member of the staff that manages to make ‘fun good’ through 280 characters. For the Fans Field Operations Manager may be an official job title for Erik Franke. More importantly? He’s the heart and soul of the St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Twitter. Inspired by his extensive background in fan relations and marketing Franke debuted one of the most interactive accounts in professional baseball earlier this season. Yet it isn’t just his experience in working social media and marketing at places like Harvard and UMass that prompted Franke to put pen to paper. It was a best practice for showcasing the work that his team does. After stints in collegiate athletics marketing and fan promotions, Field Operations Manager Erik Franke gets to channel his creativity through the St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Twitter account. (David Youngs) “So much of working grounds crew revolves around creating and showcasing the best product possible,” Franke said. “What better way to do that than a Twitter account?” From interacting with fans to showcasing new machinery to flat-out stunning shots of a pristine ballpark, Franke keeps one thing in mind when running the account. Fun. “Fan relations portion is so important and it’s been so fun interaction with fans through Twitter,” Franke said. “Sometimes I’ll just search ‘St. Paul Saints’ to see who is at the game so I can thank them for coming.” A Child’s Game Bound by the ‘fun is good’ mantra, the joy of the St. Paul Saints is perhaps perfectly personified by the Saints grounds crew. A group that crafts their skill to perfection, has fun doing it, and genuinely cares about the people that get to enjoy baseball with them. Franke first experienced the ‘fun is good’ culture as a Gameday Operations Intern in 2013 during his college days at St. Cloud State. Eight years later, the phrase couldn’t ring more true. “I knew how much fun the Saints were from prior experiences and it turns out that is just as true for the grounds crew,” he said. That doesn’t take away from the grueling hours, nasty elements, and ever-changing tasks that the team endures. For Campbell, it’s the people in the organization that leave him fulfilled at the end of the day. Not just his team, but everyone from the top to bottom, regardless of status. “One day Nick Gordon showed up on an off day at the box office to buy a ticket for a game,” Campbell recalls. “He could have just walked through the back door but bought a ticket to go watch his boys play but that just speaks for the type of guys in this organization.” And at the end of the day, Franke and Campbell just enjoy the pureness of being able to spend their days and nights around America’s pastime. “Watching the players, playing baseball my whole life, it doesn’t seem like work when you’re around a child’s game,” Campbell said. “You get to watch guys play a game that they love. There’s something about that that makes our job fulfilling.” And as someone who’s been to the coast and back, Franke couldn’t be happier to work for an organization that values the people. “There’s not one thing that makes the Saints special but there are a whole lot of small things the organization does on all levels,” Franke said. “We’re putting out a good product but at the end of the day, there are fans coming to these games. They're spending their money, time, and energy to be here. To make that experience the best that it can be is something that everyone in this organization understands.” The Saints begin their final homestand tonight against the Iowa Cubs at 7:05 pm. Purchase tickets here! And be sure to follow @STPGroundsCrew on Twitter!
  3. Again, fortunately for the Twins, they haven’t needed to rely much on the alternate player pool to this point. Byron Buxton dealt with a small injury to start the year and Josh Donaldson is currently resting himself back to health through a calf issue. Other than that, though, Rocco Baldelli’s group has experienced a pretty clean bill of health. While it’s not just injury that provides reason for promotion, the Twins record speaks to a team currently getting the job done, even if not all facets are currently clicking. Looking to continue developing their top talent, as well as having ready to go veterans at their disposal, the group working out at CHS Field across the river has an incredible amount of talent for Minnesota. There’s isn’t an open door to fans here and checking in isn’t done simply by reading through a box score. Looking to get multiple perspectives I caught up with top prospect Royce Lewis, as well as veteran outfielder Lane Adams. For a prospect like Royce, development and inching closer to the big leagues remains the goal. Without a traditional season he noted that while there’s hurdles, “any opportunity to get on the field with my brothers is a great place to continue learning.” Game action would certainly be the most optimal way to continue progressing on his developmental path, but Lewis said, “this feels like an extended Spring Training that has been going on all year.” He went on to note that “CHS Field is beautiful and nicer than many of the those I’ve played at in the minors.” In short, while it’s different, there’s still plenty of opportunity to get work in. Checking in with Adams to get a more in-depth perspective on what actually takes place at the field, I asked what a typical day looks like in St. Paul. He broke it down like this, “There’s typically three groups of position players. The first group, which is the group that hits BP on the field first will stretch at nine while the other two groups stretch at 9:30. After the 9:00 stretch that same group will go to the batting cages and get there cage work in. The other two groups will stretch while the first group hits in the cages. After the cage work is over for the first group the 2nd group goes into the cages while the first group hits on the field as third group gets in there live defensive work. The 3rd group will then go to the cages then group 2 will go from the cages to on field hitting. After all the groups have gone through cages, BP, and live defensive reads we’ll usually do additional defensive work. After BP and defensive work, we’ll jump right into playing a live simulated game. Games haven’t been longer than 4 innings. The length of the games depends on the available arms for that day.” In other words, there’s a bit of everything and it works quite similarly to Spring Training on the back fields down in Fort Myers. Days are packed with lots of action and activity, allowing these guys to be as much ready to go should their number be called by the Twins. Lane noted that his process hasn’t really changed and that “We get plenty of swings and defensive work just like you would in a normal season setting.” So, while how things happen plays out differently, it isn’t that the preparation is lacking for anyone. When talking about what may be different with this type of scheduling, Adams offered up something that I think the Major League clubs could voice as well, and probably felt during their intrasquad Summer Camp action. “It can be a bit of a grind to really focus and concentrate during the simulated games. As hitters we have to force ourselves to mentally bare down in our at bats. The days and routines can become monotonous if you let them. Not having the adrenaline from live games and atmosphere is definitely noticeable.” I don’t think anyone would prefer the way of the world amidst COVID but understanding that you have to take the punches and roll with them is a must. Lane said the #MNTwins have done a great job walking the line between managing workloads but also staying on top of safety precautions and making sure that everyone is in the best situation to succeed. Focus can’t be easy at all when your manufacturing a different reality, but Lane clearly knows how to keep it light and do his best in that department. If you think hitting in a regularly scheduled big league game is tough, this quip provided quite the laugh. “Trying to hit Duran’s 99mph sinker at 10 in the morning with no adrenaline is definitely an uphill battle, but we’re all happy to be here and we’re making the most of it.” We’ll have minor league baseball back soon. We may have fans in the stands, and we’ll all get through this. That doesn’t mean the unprecedented nature of what we’ve endured thus far is any less interesting or different to say the least. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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