Reusse: Talent up, fun down with Saints since Twins takeover

The St. Paul Saints operated in two independent pro leagues in two ballparks: the second version of Midway Stadium from 1993 to 2014, then the exceptional CHS Field from 2015 to 2020.

The attendance was remarkable, first jamming the beloved dump that was Midway and then being awed at co-owner Mike Veeck's magic trick of getting civic leaders and the Legislature behind the idea of revitalizing Lowertown with a new and costly stadium for his slapped-together ballclub.

During those 28 summers, there were reports that as many as 50 people in a single night could be drawn to the ballyard by the quality of talent on display, and the other 5,000 to 9,000 were there for the laughs, the camaraderie and the beverages.

Major League Baseball's takeover and downsizing of the minor leagues took place for the 2021 season, and the Saints' owners, the Goldklang Group, decided to accept the Twins' offer to become the Class AAA affiliate.

This has turned out to be a greater favor to the Twins than to Saints loyalists — those folks dating to Midway and having enjoyed the ballclub as a uniquely summer attraction:

Forty-some home dates, starting in mid-May and ending on Labor Day.

This season, the Saints were scheduled to open at home on March 29, six days before the Twins would be back at Target Field. There are 75 home games, with the season stretching through the third week of September.

At least the Saints were getting the stability of major league affiliation.

Yeah, right.

Manager Toby Gardenhire and his staff were tasked with sifting through 83 pitchers and position players during the 2023 season.

Entering this weekend, the Saints were 40% of the way through the 2024 schedule, and that number was at 51 players.

Obviously, the manager is too busy introducing himself to new athletes to take the time to get into an inflated sumo suit and wrestle at home plate with the opposing manager, as could occur at Midway.


You get that year's pig — the wonderfully named Ozempig for this season — wandering around some, and Seigo Masabuchi still belting out tunes from atop the dugout, but not much else when it comes to chuckles.

There was a Thursday doubleheader of seven-inning games vs. Syracuse, due to a rainout Tuesday. The crowd was about 300 when Adam Plutko (a Cleveland pitcher when they still were the Indians) threw the first pitch at 5:07 p.m.

The attendance was eventually announced at 6,325.

One night earlier, there was a Saints lineup front-loaded with names that did not require hardcore status as a Twins follower to be intriguing:

Edouard Julien, leading off, playing second; Austin Martin, next, center field; Matt Wallner, hitting third, right field, and Brooks Lee, hot prospect, making his 2024 Saints debut, fourth, shortstop.

Julien saw a first-pitch fastball and homered into the left field bullpen — same stroke as April, when he was doing that with some frequency for the Twins.

The top four all had a hit in a 5-1 victory. And they were the first four hitters again for Thursday's first game, a 5-3 Saints victory.

Julien went 1-for-3 with a single. He also could have run harder to first on a groundout up the middle, at least in the opinion of press box observers.

Martin walked once, Lee was in on a couple of nice plays and Wallner hit a long home run to right field (and another in Game 2).

Louie Varland was another source of interest as the starting pitcher for the second game. "He's been throwing well, but working on a changeup has cost him a few outs," Gardenhire said.

Varland threw 10 pitches for three strikeouts in the top of the first. He threw 36 pitches, gave up five runs (including a three-run blast to left-center by Pablo Reyes) and faced 12 batters in the second.

Final: Syracuse 9, Saints 4.

All of us together, in TV-free Twins Territory: Bring up Louie and put him in the bullpen.

Other quick verdicts:

Julien's going to need some Saints time. Martin can do what Willi Castro does when needed. Lee has the arm to be a big league shortstop and promise with the bat. Wallner looks like he could be getting one of those grooves that sluggers find on occasion.

And, of course, "Sing-It Seigo" is always a must-listen at a Saints game.