It would be completely understandable if longtime St. Paul Saints manager George Tsamis were bitter. After giving his blood, sweat and tears to the organization for nearly 20 years, the team’s announcement that it’s becoming the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate more or less means he’s out of a job.
No, the 53-year-old fan favorite will no longer manage the Saints. Although the position still hasn’t been officially filled, the Twins will likely use someone from their organization. Tsamis does not appear to be part of the Saints’ plans, not on the field, anyway.
But Tsamis had no interest in talking about himself during a phone interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Wednesday afternoon. He wanted to keep the focus on the fact that Class AAA baseball, he believes, will be great for the Saints and St. Paul.
“I’m so happy for everyone,” he said. “It’s going to be such a great thing. It’s not about me right now.”
It’s never been about Tsamis. He’s made sure of it.
After a playing career that included a starring role in the Little League World Series as a kid in the late 1970s, refining his pitching skills in the minor leagues in the late 1980s, and eventually making it to the big leagues for one season with the Twins in the early 1990s, Tsamis found his true calling as a manager.
His career started with humble beginnings as the manager of the Waterbury Spirit and the New Jersey Jackals. He found a permanent home with the Saints in the early 2000s and has been a fixture in the community ever since.
“I’ve been in St. Paul for the last 18 years,” Tsamis said proudly. “Maybe the nicest place in the country. There are so many great people. I’m going to miss it.”
Asked about some of his best memories of his Saints tenure, Tsamis again sidestepped a chance to to put himself in the spotlight. In fact, it took some serious prodding for him to bring up any of his personal accomplishments. He he led the Saints to a pair of championships, most recently after the 2019 season; helped them transition from the old Midway Stadium to the new CHS Field; and won more than 1,000 games along the way.
But he would rather talk about his players. Caleb Thielbar and Brandon Kintzler, for instance. Both pitchers came to the Saints needing a lifeline and parlayed their experience into a second chance in the big leagues. Or in Thielbar’s case, a second chance, a third chance, and a fourth chance. He has played for the Saints at three different points throughout his career and returned to the big leagues each time, recently earning a new contract with the Twins.
“I’ll never forget stories like that,” Tsamis said. “You have guys come here and keep playing and never give up and then get the opportunity to get back to where want to be. That’s what it’s all about.”
He also made sure to mention getting to work with World Series champ Kevin Millar for a game on June 24, 2017. Long before he helped the Boston Red Sox break the curse, Millar was a scrappy player with the Saints simply trying to find a route to the big leagues.
In true Saints fashion, they brought Millar back as a part of a promotional event celebrating 25 years in St. Paul. Millar, then 45 years old, smacked a home run on the only pitch he saw.
“Everyone thought, ‘Oh. He’s definitely going go to strikeout,’ ” Tsamis said. “He took batting practice with us and it was line drives all over the place. Then, of course, his only swing of the game he killed that ball. I was so happy for him. That was such a happy moment in my managing career.”
There are so many big moment that stand out for Tsamis, though he also made sure to soak up some of the more mundane moments — like getting to CHS Field a few hours early and appreciating the moments of serenity before the hustle and bustle commenced. Or leaving the stadium after a day at arguably the most beautiful office in the Twin Cities.
When Tsamis walked off the field at CHS Field a few months ago, he had no idea it would be the final time. While he’d heard the rumors that the Saints might become the Triple-A affiliate for the Twins at some point, he wasn’t sure what to expect in the end.
“It’s tough,” he said. “We knew the possibility was there. We waited to see what was going to happen. This is how it turned out.”
Tsamis quickly returned the focus back to the positives of the situation. There will be time for nostalgia later.
“It’s going to be a great thing for everyone,” he said. “It’s going to be a great thing for the Saints. It’s going to be a great thing for the Twins. It’s going to be a great thing for the City of St. Paul. I’m very happy for everyone. I’m just going miss being on that field and being at that stadium.”
What’s next for Tsamis? He wouldn’t say for sure, though it sure sounded as if he will find a way to stay in the game.
“I’m so thankful for the Saints and everything they’ve done for me,” he said. “We will see what happens here. Hopefully, we will have some things figured out in the next few weeks.”