Twins games usually come with a roster change that offers a reminder of our big-league team's association with the St. Paul Saints that is now in its third summer.

"The Twins have the best Triple-A situation in the majors,'' Marv Goldklang said. "When both teams are home, they can call over to St. Paul at 5 o'clock and have a replacement there before the first pitch.''

Not much of an exaggeration there for Goldklang, the name partner of the Goldklang Group that owned the Saints from their inception in 1993 until reaching a sale agreement this March with Diamond Baseball Holdings.

The Saints are home this week vs. Louisville and are hosting a celebration before Saturday's evening game at CHS Field, not in honor of the convenient affiliation with the Twins, but rather the remarkable 28-year run in the weird world of independent pro baseball.

Four owners of those Saints — Goldklang, Bill Murray (yes, that one), Van Schley and Mike Veeck — have been invited to take a bow. The most meaningful of those should belong to Veeck, since he was the main promoter of those casts of castoffs that would somehow pack the house at motley Midway Stadium.

Saturday's true highlight will be when Darryl Strawberry arrives on the field for a ceremony to retire the No. 17 that he wore for 29 games in 1996 for the Saints.

Strawberry has been at CHS Field (opened in 2015) previously as a celebrity for an independent league all-star game, which is fortunate since seeing this Saints facility compared to what they played in at Midway could be a shock to a 61-year-old's system.

"That clubhouse at Midway was something,'' said Strawberry, laughing in a phone conversation this week. "We always had that good food spread — Wonder bread and peanut butter laid out on the table.''

You can make a joke about a retired number for someone playing 29 games, but remember a couple of things:

The object of a majority of athletes coming to St. Paul for minimal money was to get a minor league deal as soon as possible, and Strawberry, then 34 and with drug problems in his past, did hit 18 home runs with 39 RBI in 108 at-bats for the Saints.

Tom Keegan was a baseball columnist for the New York Post and made two trips to St. Paul to write multiple articles on Strawberry's new adventure.

"You know how a hitter kills a baseball and you say, 'I should step that one off,' '' Keegan said. "Darryl blasted one way out of Midway in right field. I went out there and did step it off … 514 feet, something like that.''

The back cover of the Post tabloid features a sports story. The right topic back there could sell a lot of papers to commuters.

As Strawberry ripped up Northern League pitching, Keegan was encouraged by his boss, Greg Gallo, to put the pressure on Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to bring back "Straw,'' the one-time Mets superstar, to New York.

"I wrote a column praising Darryl — how great his swing looked — and they moved that story to the front page with this huge headline: 'Sign Him, George,' " Keegan said.

That happened on July 4, but not before Strawberry gained appreciation for Saints ownership, staff and the fans that filled Midway.

"I can say those few weeks in St. Paul allowed me to just play baseball again, to enjoy baseball again,'' Strawberry said this week. "Mike Veeck and his family, the rest of the front office, our manager Marty Scott, a great man … they were loving people.

"The fans, too, and all the kids that were there. It was so different, because the fans in so many places back then could be insane.''

Strawberry, oft-injured and with cocaine issues on his résumé, was released by the Dodgers in 1994, was let go by the Yankees the next year, and couldn't find a job for 1996.

Goldklang, a minority partner with the Yankees, sought to bring Strawberry to St. Paul — seeking credibility for both the player and the team.

"We had a nice initial several years in St. Paul, with all the wacky promotions, but at some point, we needed to be taken more seriously for our baseball product,'' Goldklang said. "Kevin Millar and Rey Ordonez gave us some of that, but we knew Darryl was a player that could wow even our critics.

"Darryl was being assisted by an attorney, Eric Grossman … now a very important person on Wall Street. Eric saw the benefits of Darryl coming to St. Paul, with a low-pressure atmosphere, and Darryl decided to try it.''

He was paid $2,000 a month, compared with what was a big MLB contract in 1991 — five years, $20 million as a free agent to the Dodgers.

Strawberry tore up the independent pitching. On July 4, George signed him. He was at Class AAA Columbus for two games, then made a return to New York … and the tabloids.

The 1996 Yankees won their first World Series in 18 years, and Strawberry assisted considerably — particularly in the postseason. Later, he had a drug relapse, but Goldklang, Veeck and Keegan all offered the same opinion:

"Darryl always has been a good guy, at his heart.''

Strawberry also overcame colon cancer, and Darryl and his wife, Tracy, with a combined nine kids and five grandchildren, have a Christian ministry. It can be found at

"I've been a practicing evangelist for 17 years,'' Strawberry said. "I try to preach the Gospel in the manner that the late Billy Graham did for all those years.''

Veeck went to a ministry breakfast recently near his home in Charleston, S.C., with Strawberry as the main speaker.

"There were 1,200 people there, and Darryl was tremendous,'' Veeck said. "He makes 250 talks a year. And his story is truly inspirational.''

With a very positive chapter taking place in St. Paul.