Pretty much ever since the St. Paul Saints started eyeing a new ballpark, local baseball fans and media members have been wondering about a partnership between the Major League's Twins and the unaffiliated Saints of the independent American Association.
It was mentioned more than a decade ago (!) — March 16, 2010 — by RandBall blog commenter Clarence Swamptown in one of the many fine "Clearance Clarence" guest posts that made it to publication and wasn't placed in the recycle bin for libel concerns. (He wrote in that same post about being excited for the series premier of Justified, by the way).
In 2014, the possibility was acknowledged by both teams. This is from a Phil Miller story in June of that year: "There are aspects that make sense," Twins President Dave St. Peter said, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. "It's something that will require additional dialogue and I think those discussions will take place."
Said Saints GM Derek Sharrer, whose team moves into a new downtown ballpark next summer, "There's some excitement when you think about the possibility … but it is a lot of moving parts."
The late, great Sid Hartman went out on a limb with this jotting on May 24, 2015 shortly after the park opened: "Here is a prediction I'm going to make: The Saints, with their new ballpark CHS Field, will be a Class AA or AAA affiliate of the Twins within a five-year period. A handful of major league teams have a farm club near their major league club, but the nearest Twins farm club is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa."
And as it turns out, Sid might have come the closest to nailing the truth (and was spot on if we grant him a sixth year for the prediction).
Our own La Velle E. Neal III reports that the Twins have dropped Rochester as their Class AAA affiliate — and that a deal to put that team in St. Paul, as part of MLB's push to realign affiliates along more geographical lines, is in the words.
Clarence's hope was that it would be a Class A team, replacing Beloit (an affiliate that has since moved to Cedar Rapids). That was the level mentioned in that Phil Miller story as well.
From a fun standpoint, I agree. It would be a chance to see true prospects a few years before they were ready for the majors.
But from a logistical standpoint, putting the Class AAA team there makes more sense. Those are, after all, the players the Twins would be most likely to need on short notice to compensate for injuries, rainouts, trades, etc.
If those players wouldn't even have to change home addresses while shuttling between Class AAA and the majors — and would need just a normal commute instead of an early-morning flight from New York to make it to Target Field after a call-up — it would make life easier on everyone involved.
And the prospect of better geographical alignment overall for minor league affiliates makes sense — and could be a boon for those of us who like to travel to see lower-level games.
(Hand raised very high here).
As part of my annual Great Baseball Road Trip — an institution for 20 consecutive years before a forced COVID pause this summer — my friends and I have seen countless minor league games and have come to view them as preferable in many instances to the many MLB games we have also seen.
In our travels, we have seen affiliates of several teams, but we've built trips in part around Twins affiliates — seeing Class AA New Britain in 2005 as part of a larger Yankees/Red Sox trip, Class A Cedar Rapids a few times in the last decade during swings through the Midwest and Class AA Chattanooga in 2017 while also seeing games in and around Atlanta.
New Britain and Chattanooga are no longer affiliates, having been replaced by Class AA Pensacola — which, per a Baseball Digest report, is set to become a Marlins affiliate in 2021.
Could the Twins add St. Paul for Class AAA and another somewhat closer affiliate for Class AA? Could we dream of a driving road trip to see nothing but Twins minor league teams?
Ah, we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let's just think for a minute about the option of watching Twins minor leaguers at the jewel of a ballpark in St. Paul — about day-night light rail double headers and such.
It makes too much sense not to do it — which is why it's been talked about for so long and why it seems like it finally might happen.