Saints have some brotherly glove

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2012 - 6:37 AM

Tanner and Jon Townsend grew up together in Kentucky, but never played on the same team. The Saints are giving them that chance this season.

view larger photos

  

Tanner Townsend stepped in for batting practice Thursday at Midway Stadium and immediately felt a familiar stare to go along with a hot afternoon breeze.

But it wasn't his former Gary SouthShore teammates that got to the St. Paul Saints shortstop. Peering into the cage was his younger brother, Jon.

"I'm always more aware when he's watching," Tanner said of the brother who grew up five grades his junior. "And there has been a lot of watching."

This year, for the first time in more than two decades of playing organized baseball, they are scrutinizing each other as teammates.

Baseball-crazy youths in the small town of London, Ky., that otherwise bleeds Wildcats basketball blue, the two honed their skills years ago in the backyard with tennis balls. When it came time to play for keeps, logistics never matched up for the two to appear in the same game.

"I'd bug the heck out of them at practices," Jon said. "And we'd get to mess around and stuff. We had a lot of fun playing around, but that was the extent of it."

That changed Thursday in the Saints' 20th season opener against the RailCats, when the Townsend brothers were introduced as teammates.

"It's kind of funny that we had to wait this long," Tanner said. "It's been worth it. I have a lot of respect for my brother and this has been a lot of fun already."

Though Jon didn't play in the Saints' 5-4 loss because of bruised ribs suffered after he was hit by a pitch during the exhibition season, he did have a front-row seat for Tanner's three hits, including a fourth-inning solo home run. Just to be in the same batting practice as a fresh season loomed was satisfactory enough.

"I never in a million years thought this would happen," Tanner said.

After bouncing around with three different Atlantic League teams last summer following five strong years with Gary SouthShore, Tanner, 31, decided to call it a career.

Then Jon, 27, was released by the Anaheim Angels organization after hitting .262 in 53 games for Class AA Arkansas and Saints manager George Tsamis put in the first of two calls.

First Jon, also an infielder, signed with St. Paul on Feb. 23. Following an inquiry into a former foe by Tsamis, Tanner agreed to follow in little brother's footsteps 18 days later.

"Definitely something you don't get to see every day," said Tsamis, who said he hasn't played with or managed members of the same family since college. "I know they're both real excited about it, and we are in the clubhouse, too, because both guys can really play."

Tanner was named Northern League Player of the Year in 2008 after hitting .371 with 14 home runs and 84 RBI for the RailCats.

His offensive abilities are undeniable, and it turns out one of his biggest assets is guessing pitches.

"He'd make me pitch to him after he got picked up [by the Padres organization in 2002] and every time before I threw one he'd go, 'curveball,'" Jon said. "Drove me nuts, because he was always right."

Aside from usual sibling rivalry, it's about as close to actually fighting as the two came.

"Only because our dad would have let me have it," Tanner deadpanned.

At some point this season, relatives from southeast Kentucky will make the trek to St. Paul. If they want to see the brothers play together, plans better be made sooner than later.

"The next guy to get signed [by a major league team] will be our 100th, and Tanner told me it's going to be Jon," Tsamis said. "Both of them know what they're doing and they have each other's backs."

And if they get rowdy or lippy toward another?

"I don't see it happening," Tsamis said.

  • related content

  • Tanner (left) and Jon Townsend

  • ST. PAUL SAINTS OPENER GARY SOUTHSHORE 5, SAINTS 4

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close