Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Saints slugger Sheldon back for another summer

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: July 10, 2013 - 6:03 PM

The Oklahoma Sooners play baseball at a field named in honor of Dale Mitchell, a legend as a Sooners' hitter and a long-time big-leaguer after World War II.

Ole Sheldon was an Oklahoma hitting star early in the 2000s. He was having one of his best days at Dale Mitchell, with four hits against Texas Tech.

“And then I hit a shot to the left of the third baseman, he didn’t make the play, and I was thinking, ‘I’m 5 for 5,’ ‘’ Sheldon said.

Danielle Felton was the media communications coordinator for the Sooners, and also served as the scorekeeper for home baseball games. Her ruling: an error.

“I still complain about that call,’’ Sheldon said. “And Danielle says, ‘The third baseman had to make that play.’ She was a tough official scorer. Everything is called a hit now, even in the big leagues, and it drives her crazy.’’

Sheldon gets a chance to bring up this complain on the regular basis, since he and Danielle are now married and have a 2-year-old daughter, Collins. The Sheldons both teach in Belleview, Fla. school district.

“I was full-time for the first time, teaching economics, this past school year,’’ Sheldon said. “I wasn’t going to play ball this summer.’’

Sheldon was sitting in the home dugout at Midway Stadium. He’s back playing as a right-handed power threat for the St. Paul Saints. He first came to St. Paul for a month in 2009, and has been in the lineup on a regular basis since 2010.

What happened?

“George called and said, ‘What else are you going to do this summer?' ''Sheldon said. “And Danielle said, ‘Yeah, what else are you going to do this summer?'

“So, here I am.''

George would be George Tsamis, the manager and chief recruiter of players for the Saints of the independent American Association.

When Sheldon talks about his numbers in St. Paul, he says, “I hit 22 home runs and drove in 79 for George in 2010,’’ and he was able to produce this or that “for George’’ in ensuing summers.

Sheldon was a 14th-round draft choice for Houston in 2004 after his junior season at Oklahoma. He received $75,000 to sign. He spent five years in the Astros’ organization, where the minor league bosses said that a 6-foot-4 first baseman should be a power hitter, rather than the high average hitter that Sheldon was in his amateur days.

“I put my hands higher, loaded up and swung hard,’’ Sheldon said. “That’s still my deal.’’

Sheldon started at Greeneville, Tenn. in the rookie league in 2004. His team won the Appalachian League title and he had the title-winning hit. Four years later, Sheldon went 13, 55 and .282 at Class AA Corpus Christi, and was released by the Astros.

“That’s when I came to St. Paul for the first time in ’09,’’ Sheldon said. “I was signed out of here by Cleveland.’’

Sheldon spent the summer in the Carolina League with the Indians, was released again and came to the Saints in 2010. He participated fully for three seasons, but the teaching job caused him to miss the first month of this year's schedule.

He returned on June 8 as the Saints’ all-time leader with 60 home runs and 243 RBI.

“I didn’t have the usual spring training,’’ Sheldon said. “When I found out I was coming back, another teacher who had played some ball threw to me, and a couple of high school players.’’

Sheldon smiled and said: “The swing was a little slow when I got here.’’

The Saints are scheduled to play the second half of this season and 2014 in wornout Midway, then move to the new digs in Lowertown of St. Paul. This will be the greatest upgrade ever for a Twin Cities sports team – better than the football Gophers from the Dome to the on-campus site, better than the Twins from the Dome to Target Field, better than the Vikings from the Dome to whatever grandeur waits in the Taj Ma Zygi.

Sheldon is 30. Tsamis was asked if expected his all-time Saints slugger to make it to the new ballpark, if indeed it does open as the team hopes in 2015?

“That’s up to Ole,’’ Tsamis said. “I’ll have a spot for him.’’

Sheldon looked at George through raised eyebrows and said: “Maybe I can be the assistant hitting coach in the summer.’’

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