A new era for St. Paul Saints baseball officially kicked off Wednesday with a long-awaited, much-anticipated announcement: The independent-league club is now the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
As part of a wide-scale reorganization of the minor leagues with an eye on geographic alignment, Twins have extended affiliate invitations to the Saints, moving their top affiliate from Rochester, New York, to St. Paul; the Wichita Wind Surge (Double-A), the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kernels (High-A) and the Fort Myers, Fla., Mighty Mussels (Low-A).
The Twins also will continue with a short-season rookie level team based in Fort Myers and one in the Dominican Republic.
“These potential affiliations — both new and sustained — put us in prime position to continue to build on our recent major league success,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said in a release. “I could not envision a better setup for our club.”
It’s a similar tune to the one the Twins were singing this summer, when they used CHS Field in Lowertown as their alternate training site and were highly complimentary of the Saints throughout.
For the Twins, having their Triple-A group so close by affords them flexibility with roster-making decision, cuts down on travel costs and allows more player development and front office staff the opportunity to easily see prospects play.
With the partnership, the Twins will be the closest MLB team to their Triple-A affiliate, just under 11 miles.
“We have long admired the creative excellence of (Saints owners) Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck and their team in making the Saints one of America’s most successful minor league brands,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said in a release. “We are incredibly excited at the thought of Minnesota baseball fans having the opportunity to watch their favorite Twins prospects as they wear the Saints uniform and play at gorgeous CHS Field.”
According to the Saints, the Twins now have a stake in the franchise, though the majority ownership still sits with Goldklang, Veeck and actor Bill Murray.
For the Saints, the new arrangement will provide them with better ballplayers and will expand the fanbase to Twins fans eager to watch future stars at CHS Field. The Saints remain committed to providing fans with the same quirky, fan-friendly in-game experience at an affordable cost.
“Our fans have been the lifeblood of this organization since 1993,” Veeck said in a release. “Marv, Bill, and I wouldn’t have done this deal without their blessing. When we moved into CHS Field, they had one ask and that was not to change our identity. We made that promise in 2015 and we’re making that promise now.”
In Wichita, the Twins would be the beneficiaries of a brand-new $75 million stadium. Riverfront Stadium was originally built to lure a Triple-A team beginning in 2020 before the Minor League Baseball season was wiped out due to COVID-19. The Wind Surge were the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate last year, though never played a game at the new ballpark.
“The Twins are a first-class organization recognized in baseball circles for having a great minor league system,” Wind Surge partner and CEO Jordan Kobritz said in a release. “Our state-of-the-art stadium will provide one of the best fan and player experiences anywhere in Minor League Baseball. After we review the Player Development License, we look forward to finalizing a partnership with the Twins.”
The Twins have been partnered with the Cedar Rapids Kernels since 2013, though next year will see the Kernels moving up a class to High-A. The Mighty Mussels, with whom the Twins have been affiliated with since 1993, will shift to Low-A.
“We look forward to hopefully collaborating with the ownership groups, management and communities for each of our minor league affiliates as we all together develop future generations of Minnesota Twins,” Falvey said.