St. Paul Saints manager George Tsamis is an affable fellow, calm and easygoing, with the confidence of a man comfortable in his surroundings.
But his lips tighten noticeably and his approach less breezy when the recent history of the Saints is mentioned. The Saints (59-41 in 2018), for whom Tsamis is entering his 16th season, have made the American Association playoffs in three of the past four seasons but have not won a league title since 2004, when they were part of the old Northern League. He doesn’t bother to hide the irritation.
“We’ve come close many times, but we have not won enough championships,” he said. “It’s a fact and it hasn’t been good enough.”
The Saints opened practice Saturday with an all-team workout at sun-soaked CHS Field. With nearly half the roster returning from the 2018 team that lost to the Kansas City T-Bones in the league finals, another title run is expected.
“In organizational ball, the minor leagues is not that much about winning,” Tsamis said. “It’s more about player development. In this league, and I tell the guys when they come here, it’s about winning. And that’s the way it should be.”
Among the newcomers to the Saints organization is reliever Mitch Brown, a 25-year-old righthander from Rochester who was drafted out of Century High School by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the 2012 MLB draft.
Brown’s contract with the Indians organization concluded after the 2018 season. He spent the past two seasons with the Akron RubberDucks of the AA Eastern League before becoming a free agent.
Brown said that, while getting picked up by a major league organization is the goal, he’s pleased to be playing with a team close to home.
“I have a good buddy, Matt Meyer, who played for the Saints and he had a great experience,” Brown recalled. “He said ‘If you want to keep playing, this is a good, high level of baseball.’ It’s an opportunity to be closer to home and continue playing.”
Brown and his wife recently purchased a home in Rochester. When he makes his CHS Field debut, it will be the first time he’s pitched in Minnesota since his high school days.
“I’ll be able to see family a little bit more and it will give me a rare opportunity to play baseball a little closer to home,” Brown said.
The Saints open the season May 16 against the Milwaukee Milkmen.
• The Saints will host the American Association All-Star Game at CHS Field on July 23. They last time they hosted the All-Star Game was in 2016.
• Nominations for the Saints’ popular and long-running “Name The Pig” contest will be accepted until May 12. The name of the 2018 ball-pig was “Porknite.” Suggestions can be made by going to startribune.com/NameThe Pig
• The City of Baseball Museum will open May 16. The museum is located on the CHS Field concourse down the third base line. It will honor the history of the St. Paul Saints dating to the 1800s.
• Minneapolis lawyer Joshua Schaub begins his first year as American Association commissioner. Schaub is co-founder of DaBeauty League, the local summer hockey league that draws a professional and college players. Schaub takes over the longtime league commissioner Miles Wolff.