A repeat of 2009 would make Dan Kaczrowski happy. The St. Paul Saints second baseman made his professional debut in a brief stint with the independent franchise four years ago and was back in uniform for Thursday night’s season opener at Midway Stadium.
Back then, he was fresh out of Hamline University and a shoo-in for the MLB draft. He spent a few weeks with the Saints until the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the 26th round.
He eventually rose as high as Class AAA. On Thursday, Kaczrowski was just thankful to have a starting job and be a part of the Saints’ season-opening 6-4 extra-inning loss against the New Jersey Jackals.
“Guys get that second chance here. There are guys here that should be playing Double-A and Triple-A. It does feel far away, but you never know,” said Kaczrowski, who was released by the Diamondbacks after last season.
The second baseman’s return to Midway Stadium went mostly unnoticed. He was 0-for-5 in the leadoff spot. He played mostly clean defense. His first at-bat was a sharply hit one-hopper right at the Jackals first baseman. One of his two strikeouts were with a runner in scoring position.
Kaczrowski is the first to admit his offense needs to improve if he’s going to get another shot in affiliated baseball. The last two years of his four in the Diamondbacks organization were as a utility player.
“I never felt super close [to the big leagues]. I still have a lot I need to work on,” he said. “I’ll play this year and see what happens. You hear stories of guys that shoot up real quick.”
Saints manager George Tsamis said Kaczrowski just needs at-bats and he’ll get that as the team’s everyday second baseman.
Saints starting pitcher Mark Hamburger had an impressive debut. He gave up two runs, seven hits, walked one, and struck out eight over seven innings for a no-decision.
The Saints scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game 4-4 and force extras, but the Jackals responded with two runs of their own in the 10th.
Jose Hernandez had a pair of doubles for the Saints.
Thursday’s season opener antics began well beyond the entrance to Midway Stadium. A woman in a tutu and knee-high striped shocks directed cars in the parking lot with twirls. Among the tailgaters were a group of older men playing cards out of the back of a Roadtrek 190-popular RV.
The Saints’ new pig, Mackleboar, also looked good in his debut, strutting behind home plate throughout the night in a Saints helmet.