The St. Paul Saints held their “Nopening Day” on May 19, a virtual celebration of what would have been their 2020 season opener had the coronavirus not rained on their parade.
They played their home opener on July 7 not at their lavish downtown St. Paul home, CHS Field. Instead, they were 250 miles to the southwest in Sioux Falls Stadium, a venue reminiscent of Midway Stadium, as part of a two-team hub with the hometown Canaries.
Finally, on Tuesday night, the Saints will be back in St. Paul to open a six-game homestand by facing the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. It will be in front of a maximum crowd of 1,500 to maintain social distancing, and fans are required to wear masks unless they are at their seats or eating or drinking.
“St. Paul is a special place,” Derek Sharrer, the team’s general manager, said with a sense of relief and excitement after a month away from home.
Before Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game, the Saints will celebrate their 2019 American Association championship, something that’s been on hold in this truncated, 60-game, six-team season.
Because of state limitations on outdoor gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saints determined that relocating to Sioux Falls — where the league would chip in on the team’s expenses — would make more sense financially than playing in front of a few hundred at CHS Field. When restrictions were eased on July 22, the Saints found out they could play in front of 1,500, with six sections of 250. It wasn’t the 2,000 they had hoped for to break even financially, but it was close enough, Sharrer said.
“We feel the best path forward is to open the gates under those guidelines, do our job well, entertain people safely, and hopefully the dial turns as the summer moves forward,” Sharrer said.
The Saints are 12-15, including 5-7 as the home team in Sioux Falls. They sit in fifth place in the league standings and have 18 home games remaining.
They’ll have their promotions team in full force with a Welcome Home theme for Tuesday’s home opener, a Herb Brooks bobblehead giveaway on Wednesday, a Frontline Workers Appreciation Night on Thursday and a Friday night featuring fireworks and the music of Bob Marley.
As of Monday afternoon, there were tickets available on the Saints website (www.saintsbaseball.com). The game will be broadcast on KFAN Plus (96.7-FM).