They've shaken hands in friendship over the Mississippi River for 60 seasons, on uniform sleeves and beer cups and a giant Target Field sign looming over center field.

On Wednesday, Minnie and Paul, long a symbol of Twin Cities baseball, came to life.

The Twins and St. Paul Saints, nominally competitors since the Saints were reborn in 1993, announced a new 10-year agreement to join forces Wednesday, with the Saints leaving independent baseball in order to become the Twins' Class AAA affiliate.

"While [it's] monumental for the Twins' player development system," Twins President Dave St. Peter said in a video news conference with Saints owners and executives, "it's absolutely historic for Minnesota baseball fans."

That's because no other major league team has ever kept its best prospects closer than the 10.6 miles between Target Field and CHS Field, giving Twins fans a chance to watch future stars hone their skills, and Saints fans a chance to watch their favorites graduate to the majors. It will even be possible for a player to be in the lineup for both teams on the same day.

And the Saints' irreverent slogan, "Fun is Good," figures to find a new audience as well.

"Our fans have been the lifeblood of this organization since 1993," said Saints President Mike Veeck, who made unusual promotions, like a pig as a mascot or an umpire-free night, their standard. The team's owners "wouldn't have done this without their blessing. When we moved into CHS Field, they had one ask, and that was not to change our identity. We made that promise in 2015, and we're making that promise now."

The Twins made that promise, too.

"I have no desire to change the personality of the club at all," Twins owner Jim Pohlad said. "Because I like it."

The Twins love the changes that MLB's total restructuring of minor league baseball, which will limit each franchise to four affiliates and a rookie-level team at their spring training site, has brought them.

In addition to switching their Triple-A affiliate from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Paul, they formalized their intention to make the Wichita Wind Surge their new Class AA team, ending their two-year ties with Pensacola, Fla. That's a real coup for the Twins, since Wichita this year completed a brand-new ballpark, Riverfront Stadium, which was supposed to house the Marlins' Class AAA team. Cancellation of the season because of COVID-19, and the realignment of the minor leagues, forced the Wind Surge to accept a demotion to the Class AA Texas League instead.

Minnesota will also retain its ties to the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels and Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, though their leagues will swap levels, with the Midwest League becoming an advanced-A league and the Florida State League dropping to low-A.

But the day's biggest news, and perhaps a future competitive advantage for the Twins, was the marriage of Minnesota's top two teams.

"This is something we feel is going to be a significant benefit to our club," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations. "I envision a day when we're off at the major league level, and the Saints are playing across town. It's a real easy jump to get over there and spend some time with the staff, and Rocco [Baldelli, the Twins' manager] feels that way, too."

The Saints are expected to join the International League in a reshuffled Triple-A structure, too, probably in a new still-to-be-announced division that figures to include nearby teams such as Iowa (Des Moines) and Omaha.

Saints owner Marv Goldklang, who owns two other affiliated teams, helped revive independent baseball, along with Veeck, as a fan-friendly alternative to the affiliated minor leagues nearly three decades ago, and "part of our heart and our legacy is wrapped up in [it]," he said.

But operating an independent team, even with the advantage of an exceptional ballpark like CHS Field, is an ambitious challenge compared to the guaranteed money and support of affiliated baseball, particularly during a pandemic.

"When the opportunity presents itself to combine two iconic brands, two great organizations in the same market, it was something that we absolutely could not say no to," Goldklang said.

"I don't view this as leaving" independent baseball, Veeck said. "It's taking what we learned and applying it in a different arena."

MLB levied a fee for joining its club, though Goldklang said reports that the Saints were charged $20 million to upgrade to Triple-A were not accurate. Confidentiality agreements with MLB prevented him from saying how much the Sants paid, or whether Pohlad contributed to the payment. Pohlad confirmed, however, that he is now a partial owner of the Saints.

The Twins and Saints plan to work together on promotions, scheduling, perhaps broadcasting agreements, too. An occasional exhibition game between the two teams is even possible. On the baseball side, Twins doctors and training staff can help treat minor league players' injuries, their coaches can work with rising prospects, and statistical analysts can evaluate their development. And top prospects, rather than traveling back and forth to upstate New York, can live in the Twin Cities all summer.