The St. Paul Saints will resume playing baseball July 3, but until pandemic restrictions allow, they’ll do so playing most of their games across the border in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The American Association announced Friday that six of its 12 teams will play a 60-game season, using three hub cities to host games. One of those hubs, Sioux Falls Stadium, will serve as the home for the Saints and the Sioux Falls Canaries.
The Saints will play 42 of their 60 games in Sioux Falls to limit travel. Of the 42 games played in Sioux Falls, 24 will be between the Saints and the Canaries. The team will not be allowed to play at CHS Field in St. Paul until capacity restrictions for outdoor events have relaxed.
“We’re excited,” Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Derek Sharrer said. “We’re passionate about the fact that the American Association should play baseball this summer. We wanted to do everything possible to make sure of that and if that meant the Saints playing on the road for a period of time, we’re willing to do that.”
The league said it decided on the limited hub model to allow for “a meaningful season’’ to be played this year.
“We’ve had an ongoing open dialogue with the governor’s task force and understand that the dial may not be turned far enough to play at CHS on July 3,” Sharrer said. “We felt the best way was to play in a hub city outside of Minnesota with an understanding that the ultimate goal was to move back as soon as possible.”
Of the other four teams resuming games, the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks will play at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, N.D. The Chicago Dogs are paired with the Milwaukee Milkmen at Ballpark Commons, home of the Milkmen.
Sharrer said the team is ‘‘working with the Canaries to locate a suitable hotel to house the players in individual rooms. We don’t want anything too permanent because we want to be able to pack up and head home the moment we can play at CHS.”
Six of the association’s teams will not resume play this season because of the impact of COVID-19 in their communities, the statement said. The Cleburne Railroaders, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers and Texas AirHogs are expected to return to full operations for the 2021 season.
The league plans to release its game schedule on Monday. The schedule, with games played until Sept. 10, will allow any of the three road clubs to return home for games if local governmental restrictions allow for games with fans in attendance.
Each team and ballpark will have COVID readiness plans approved by local health departments and government. Ballparks will limit the number of fans and employ safe social distancing.
Plans call for an abbreviated spring training to begin June 25. The American Association will experiment with new roster rules in 2020, tweaking roster guidelines and holding a draft of players from nonparticipating clubs to allow the best possible talent available to play this season.
Sharrer added that the looming possibility that MLB-affiliated minor league teams could have their seasons canceled was not a factor in resuming the season.
“That didn’t go into the decisionmaking process,” Sharrer said. “What was most important from Day 1 was finding the best and fastest way to start playing again.”
The Saints said fans who have purchased tickets for the 2020 season will have the opportunity to exchange tickets for any game played at CHS Field this season or next.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen contributed to this article.