Did Target Field Redefine The St. Paul Saints?

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — In the 1990s and into the new millennium the St. Paul Saints were, in many respects, the only outdoor game in town.

But times have changed with the Minnesota Twins going outdoors at Target Field. So is there still a reason to journey to St. Paul for baseball?

The pied piper of St. Paul baseball is still excited about his team. But even Saints president Mike Veeck realizes there is competition across the river.

“The one thing that the Twins definitely have done is they took every group in Minnesota that we had counted our own for years and had them come out and see the new building last year,” Veeck said.

But you have to have context to understand it. By minor league standards, St. Paul is still a peril.

“It’s probably the best place I’ve played so far in the minor leagues. I mean, just keep doing what they’re doing here,” said Saints pitcher Caleb Thielbar

The fans still come out. Maybe not quite as many but they come for the same reasons that made this game work in St. Paul.

“I think it’s just a better atmosphere overall. I’ve been to a few Twins games and Twins are good, they’re fun to watch but things are a little expensive and there’s something just nice about minor league ball,” said Saints fan Jim Howland.

It seems this group of fans has matured with the times — no longer is a hot dog and nachos considered gourmet.

“We do a lot of smoothies … non-fat lattes,” said concession worker Phil Condon.

Adjusting to life for a kid who grew up without roots, living in 17 difference places during his childhood, is nothing new to Veeck. Each day a different challenge but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“It’s not hard to compete against. That would be easy to say and I’d be copping a plea. I mean the Twins have the best ballpark in the country and that’s a formidable task but we market a whole different product. We sell fun, they sell major league baseball,” said Veeck.

His long-term solution is to change Midway Stadium; he’d like his own new ballpark. He, like many others, is having a difficult time getting a listen from a capitol that is now shut down.

“It suddenly makes the ballpark pursuit not as important … we’re the only operators in the country who have no leverage. It’s not like we’re going to threaten people, ‘Hey, we’re going to move to Burnsville if we don’t get a new ballpark,” said Veeck.

For many the natural is partnering with the Gophers, a program that wants its own digs with schedules that don’t conflict.

“We spent two years courting them and never say never, it’s never too late. It makes the most sense. I think maybe they’re too far down the track, we’re certainly not but it makes more sense than anything,” said Veeck.

On this day, the world feels right with blue sky and baseball — the way it’s supposed to be with a decent team and a decent price.

But the reality is it’s a new day and the Saints hope they have a future that resembles the past.

“We had 18 glorious years of being the only game in town outside and now we’ve got to earn our stripes and I like the challenge. I think its fun,” said Veeck.

More from Mike Max
  • Swamp Fox

    The Twins may have the best “Major” league baseball stadium in the country at present but because it costs more to see the Twins where do be see baseball when money is tight and the family wants to see a baseball game? That’s simple. See the Saints play and enjoy the resulting fun.

    No, I don’t work for the Saints nor am I anti-major league ball. I am a Twins fan who loves baseball but can’t afford to see Twins games at Target Field all the time. Instead, I go to Midway Field and see the Saints and have fun doing so.

    When I was a youngster, living in Cleveland, the Indians were owned by Bill Veeck [Mike Veeck’s dad]. Going to the ball park to see the Indians was not only a special occasion but lots of fun because one never knew what to expect besides watching a ball game.

    Bleacher and/or cheap seats, on special days, with a hot dog, bag of peanuts or Crackerjacks, and a soda [or beer] was $2.50! Also, one never knew what shenanigans or comedic antics would occur anywhere on the field, bullpen, or dug-out for crowd pleasing entertainment. Rain or shine there was never a dull moment. Going to a Cleveland baseball game was always an adventure for fun as well as baseball. The St.Paul Saints are the same way.

    Not too long ago I went to a Toledo Mud Hens minor league game in downtown Toledo. Folks in suits rubbed elbows and shared lines with neighborhood kids and folks in bib-overalls. Most of the Mud Hens’ outdoor ball field is below street level with seats tiered around the field. There even is an open section, on the elevated street level,in portable personal seats/chairs, behind a steel-barred fence where people can the game outside the park seats for free!!! For those Mud Hen fans that’s hometown baseball! And it’s fun. The surrounding local businesses and city would agree.

    If St.Paul along with the Saints can build a new multi-use Saints stadium in Lowertown St.Paul the results will be beneficial for all concerned. The Twin Cities could have two baseball entities that will be the envy of the US. Another example to make the TC’s proud. Baseball in the Twin Cities can be fun and both the Twins &/or the Saints can continue to make it so by pleasing those interested in the sport.

  • Joe

    A new lower town ball park for the Saints would be a great thing for St. Paul. It might also be a great investment for one of St. Paul’s fortune 500 companies. they can even attach their name to the park.

    • Swamp Fox

      Great Idea! Hope the city and Saints are listening!

  • O

    GO TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mark

    “But you have to have context to understand it. By minor league standards, St. Paul is still a peril.”

    Did you really mean pearl or is it in peril?

  • KeepItReal

    I am anti-major league. The game is way past its prime and continues to loose fans and revenue because it is boring, boring, boring. It is a minor league sport in peril and by 2020 will have contracted 4 or 5 teams.

    • Mr Mr

      Real – you really have no idea what you are talking about. just yesterday you pretty much posted you don’t understand the game. if you like Saints “baseball”, then you really do not understand the sport because that is baseball. That is a bunch of men who can’t even make the real minor leagues and are hanging on to a slim slim chance of fulfilling a dream. I’d rather go see Billy Elliott than see a Saints game

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