The term “home team” will have extra meaning as the St. Paul Saints open their 2013 season Thursday night at Midway Stadium.
From St. Anthony to Edina to Rochester, nine players — more than one-third of the team — have Minnesota roots. That includes pitcher Mark Hamburger, who played for Mounds View High School and Mesabi Range Community College and makes his Saints debut against the New Jersey Jackals at 7:05 p.m.
Hamburger, who also played in the Twins organization after being signed out of a tryout camp in 2007, remembers his first visit to Midway Stadium as a 6-year-old, chasing a foul ball with his brother until his dad roared “No! … ”
As the boys hit their brakes, eight large men with bellies full of beer sprinted by and dived toward the souvenir.
“I got out of the way before the dog pile,” Hamburger said. “Those must have been the tailgaters.
“You’ve got cave men running around. You can get buzz cuts, and that was my thing when I was young. It’s a kids atmosphere.”
The team is stocked with an unusual amount of Minnesotans, according to manager George Tsamis. One was added only 24 hours before the first pitch. Mark Radmacher, a former Rosemount High School and Hamline player, will join the team as its third catcher.
Unusual aptly describes most of those players’ introduction to the Saints. Here is a look:
Donald Blunt, utility player, Richfield High School, Augsburg College
As a 12-year-old, Blunt remembers what happened in between innings rather than the game itself.
“Another version of professional baseball that’s not on television,” he recalled. “I thought it was … well, I guess I’m not really sure.”
He began to pay more attention while in college. Blunt attended the 2011 open tryout, got a call to join the team in July and has been a part of independent baseball since.
Dan Kaczrowki, second baseman, St. Anthony High School, Hamline University
With a driver’s license in hand, Kaczrowki never gave a thought to playing for the Saints when he and his high school friends went to games at Midway Stadium.
“It was great for high school kids ’cause it’s inexpensive,” he said.
Kaczrowki, after a brief Saints stint in 2009, is back in a St. Paul uniform for a second time in his career. After four seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, he hopes this stay is a short one, too.
Cole Nelson, pitcher, Edina High School