A familiar name will man the dugout for the St. Paul Saints in their first season as the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate.
The Twins and Saints announced Tuesday that Toby Gardenhire, the son of longtime Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, will manage the Saints in 2021 as they move into affiliated ball.
“I’ve played in the Twins organization all the way up and then I started coaching. Getting a chance to coach with the Twins was kind of a dream, too, so every level that I’ve been able to go up has just been a really cool experience for me,” Gardenhire said. “… I just feel very lucky to be where I’m at with the Twins organization and then getting the chance to come to St. Paul was just the icing on the cake for me.”
Gardenhire, 38, played in the Twins’ organization from 2005-11 before becoming a coach at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He was hired by the Twins in 2016 and has been working in their minor league system since then.
In 2020, Gardenhire was set to manage the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings before the Minor League Baseball season was wiped out due to COVID-19. Instead, he spent the summer helping run camp at CHS Field, the Twins’ alternate site.
Gardenhire will have a chance to reunite with some of the players he coached in 2019, when he was leading the then-Class-A Advanced Fort Myers Miracle. In addition to prospects on their way up, he’ll also have a mix of minor league veterans and those who are up and down between Minneapolis and St. Paul throughout the year, providing a unique challenge as a manager.
“The dynamic in Triple-A is a lot different than the dynamic in A-ball where you just have a bunch of kids who have never been to the big leagues and they’re all just trying to get there,” he said. “…Luckily, I’ve been up there before and have a pretty good understanding of what these guys need. I’m just going to try to get them all back to the big leagues so they can get up there and help the Twins.”
The return to St. Paul is a welcome one for Gardenhire, who has memories of losing to Joe Mauer and Cretin-Derham Hall at Midway Stadium, the Saints’ old park, while he was at Roseville Area High School. Some of his former teammates went on to play for the Saints, as did some of the players he coached at Stout.
“To me, it’s a full circle-type thing because I feel like I’ve always kind of been associated with the Saints and always got a chance to be around them,” Gardenhire said. “It’s a really neat thing for me to get back in the ballpark up in St. Paul.”
Gardenhire will be joined in St. Paul by hitting coach Matt Borgschulte, pitching coaches Mike McCarthy and Cibney Bello, infield coach Tyler Smarslok, trainer Jason Kirkman and strength and conditioning coach Jacob Dean.
Ramon Borrego will lead the Twins’ Double-A affiliate during their first year in Wichita, while Brian Dinkelman will return as manager of the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels and Aaron Sutton will lead the Single-A Fort Myers Mighty Mussels.