Saints Named American Association Organization of the Year
It starts long before the season begins in May. The daily grind by the St. Paul Saints front office begins the moment the last out is recorded, through the cold, dark days of winter, and on into the blossoming of spring. Once the season begins it’s about making all that hard work come to life so that fans have the most entertaining experience possible. In 2019 that meant the City of Baseball Museum, a new group area on top of that with the SPIRE Sun Deck, hosting the league’s All-Star Game, promotions recognized both locally and nationally, and once again not just leading the league in attendance, but all of Minor League Baseball in percent capacity. All of this and more helped earn the Saints an unprecedented fifth consecutive American Association Organization of the Year honor.
The Saints led the American Association in attendance for the fifth consecutive season, drawing 394,970. They were over the 7,210 capacity in 40 of the 50 home games, drew more than 8,000 fans 24 times, and more than 9,000 eight times. The Saints set a franchise record with 10,631 on August 13 and for the first time in franchise history had 10,000+ in back-to-back games on August 13 and the 14th,when they drew 10,029.
In addition, for the fifth consecutive season, the Saints were tops in all of Minor League Baseball (roughly 350 teams) in percent capacity, 112%, eighth in average attendance (8,060), only behind seven Triple-A teams, and 26th in overall attendance. The 25 teams that outdrew the Saints played at least 20 more home games.
“To say that we are honored would be an understatement,” said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Derek Sharrer. “This recognition from our partners in the American Association is so meaningful, and truly appreciated. From the opening of the City of Baseball Museum in May, to the All-Star Game in July, to ending the season with a championship celebration, 2019 was a special season. We continue to be so thankful for the opportunity to do what we do in Saint Paul, in front of the best fans in baseball.”
While the Saints have reinvested in CHS Field each and every year of its existence, 2019 saw the most significant improvement to their spectacular home since the ballpark was opened in 2015. The Saints built the award-winning City of Baseball Museum and SPIRE Sun Deck down the left field line which opened up to rave reviews. The museum received the Ballpark Digest Award for Top Ballpark Improvement. The City of Baseball Museum is a 2,000 square foot museum that honors the history of baseball in Saint Paul with a focus on the tradition of the St. Paul Saints, which dates back to the late 1800’s. The museum has been incredibly well received in its inaugural season having been visited by more than 30,000 guests. The SPIRE Sun Deck, located atop the City of Baseball Museum, is a group area that offers amazing views, great food and drink, and provides the popular downtown rooftop experience inside at CHS Field. With room for up to 200 guests, the Sun Deck quickly became one of the most popular group entertainment spaces in a ballpark that features several.
For the second time in four seasons the Saints hosted the American Association All-Star Game. It was highlighted with an incredibly entertaining All-Star Monday that kicked off with a Celebrity softball game featuring Joe Mauer, Adam Thielen, and other Minnesota sports personalities, followed by the Jack Links Home Run Derby and finished off with a concert headlined by Drake White and The Big Fire. On All-Star Tuesday, players, executives and fans enjoyed a luncheon in a uniquely beautiful setting at the Best Jets International Hangar at Holman Field and were treated to an incredible panel discussion by former Saints Darryl Strawberry and Ila Borders and 26-year Major League umpire, Tim Tschida. On Tuesday evening the two-day celebration culminated with the game itself, which was played in front of a capacity crowd.
The Saints continue to be the industry leader with their off-the-wall promotions. All season long the Saints honored their history with a City of Baseball Museum Series giveaway from an 1898 St. Paul Apostles jersey t-shirt, to a 1945 Saints vintage cap, to a Lexington Park pennant. The two most talked about promotions of the season came on June 25 and July 16. On June 25 Saints President and Co-Owner Mike Veeck finally made up with disco. Nearly 30-years to the day that Veeck blew up disco records at Comiskey Park in Chicago, he embraced the disco era with an impassioned pre-game speech and a post-game 20-foot wide disco ball that hung over the right field area as fans joined him in their boogie shoes. On July 16, the Saints honored the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing. Fans received boxer shorts as they walked through the gates, with the moon on the rear end, and in the bottom of the fifth inning the entire ballpark took part in a ballpark wide “mooning.”
On the field the Saints claimed their first championship in 15 seasons, coming back from an 0-2 deficit in the North Division Championship Series, and winning the final three games at home before sweeping the American Association Championship Series. Of their six playoff victories, four were of the come from behind variety trailing in the seventh inning or later. The Saints finished with the best record in the league, and their second-best win percentage in franchise history, at 64-36.
CHS Field continued to be the talk of the Twin Cities and Minor League Baseball. The ballpark was used for much more than just Saints games. CHS Field played host to the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). Once again, CHS Field hosted several high school Section Tournaments as well as the State High School Baseball Tournament. Additionally, each St. Paul school was provided the opportunity to play a free regular season game at CHS Field. Numerous events were hosted by the ballpark including the Cat Video Festival, Beer Dabbler Craft Beer Festival, Grill Fest, AARP Movie Night, Bacon and Beer Classic, and the Get Lucky 7K races. The Securian Financial Club at CHS Field also played host to various events ranging from civic and community focused gatherings, to corporate meetings and celebrations, to weddings and Bar Mitzvah’s. Throughout 2019, CHS Field continued to be St. Paul’s front porch.
The Saints once again solidified their commitment to St. Paul and the greater Twin Cities community by participating in a number of initiatives and supporting hundreds of charitable efforts throughout the season, both out in the community and inside CHS Field. Each week, when the team was home, a player would go to a Saint Paul Public Library for the Reading Tree program where a local author, and a Saints player, would read from the author’s book to promote literacy. One of the biggest events in the area was the United Way Action Day where the Saints, along with numerous organizations, filled 40,000 backpacks that were given to underserved children. The Saints were also a part of Children’s Minnesota Star Studio, Sports Bingo. A Saints player appeared on local hospital programming with a co-host from Star Studios named “The Dude.” The program was broadcast throughout the St. Paul and Minneapolis Children’s Minnesota. During the season the Saints, along with their partner Walser Automotive, donated $500 each time the Saints scored five or more runs at home. The two organizations donated $11,500 to Fraser. Also, the Saints and MN Corn Growers teamed up to donate money each time an error was committed by the Saints or their opponent. The organizations donated $5,000 to the MN Bee Lab. The Saints and Cub donated $5 for every Saints hit during the season to the Ronald McDonald House. They donated a total of $4,665. Finally, the Saints and Innovative Office Solutions donated $5,000 to the InSports Foundation through their post-game tennis ball toss.
The Organization of the Year Award was voted on by 36 total members of the American Association: the 12 managers, each team’s Executive, and a media representative, usually the broadcaster, from each of the 12 teams in the league. This is the sixth time the Saints have earned the American Association Organization of the Year in the leagues 12-year history. They also won the award in 2009.
By Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints