The St. Paul Saints won't officially start their season in their new Lowertown ballpark until Opening Day on May 21. But on Saturday, the public got a free sneak peek at live baseball at the stylish new venue under bright blue skies.

Taking the field were the Hamline University Pipers and the Concordia College Cobbers, christening the park with a doubleheader.

The Saints staged festivities before the game, which drew hundreds of neighbors, college students who came to cheer on their teams, and soon-to-be fans of the new CHS Field.

"Lots of people came out to check out the ballpark and take in a beautiful day," said Sean Aronson, the Saints' director of media relations and broadcasting.

The Saints branded Saturday's informal coming-out as the Running of the Pigs — named after the Saints' porky mascot. A kids' fun run sent young participants one lap around the running track that circles the ballpark.

The stadium lap was followed by a 0k. A zero k? "About 50 people lined up. The horn was sounded. And the race was over," Aronson said.

As Hamline took the field for batting practice, the team enjoyed an audience that it has rarely seen in recent years.

"I'd say 300 to 400 people were there. By comparison, about 50 people would show up when they played at Midway," Aronson said, referring to the old Midway Stadium venue in St. Paul.

But a crowd of 400 didn't leave much of a footprint in the new stadium's capacity.

The $60 million CHS Field seats 7,000.

Ginny Greene