MINNEAPOLIS -- Upon the franchise's relocation to the Upper Midwest in 1961, the Minnesota Twins were thus named because they represented the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. When the organization announced Wednesday that the St. Paul Saints had been invited to become the Twins' new Triple-A affiliate, those roots officially took hold across the Mississippi River for the first time in franchise history.
The Saints are set to make the transition from the American Association, a non-affiliated independent league, to a Twins affiliation for the first time since this edition of the franchise was founded in 1993 and wove its fun-loving brand of baseball into the fabric of the Twin Cities.
The partnership of the franchises could make for not only greater fan investment in the Twins' prospect pipeline, but also more impactful community and philanthropic initiatives considering both organizations' existing developmental commitments to their cities.
“The Minnesota Twins are ecstatic about the potential to form a partnership with the St. Paul Saints," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We have long admired the creative excellence of Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck and their team in making the Saints one of America’s most successful Minor League brands. We are incredibly excited at the thought of Minnesota baseball fans having the opportunity to watch their favorite Twins prospects as they wear the Saints' uniform and play at gorgeous CHS Field. Simply put, a Twins-Saints partnership would not only be historic, but a wonderful boon for baseball in the Twin Cities and beyond."
The Twins also announced the invitation of the Wichita Wind Surge to become the club's new Double-A affiliate and swapped the levels of their longstanding Class A affiliates, with the Cedar Rapids Kernels set to become the new Class A Advanced affiliate and the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels moving down to the Class A level as part of the widespread overhaul of Minor League Baseball.
The restructuring came at the cost of a longstanding relationship with the Rochester Red Wings, which had been the Twins' Triple-A affiliate since the 2003 season. Rochester was invited to become a Nationals affiliate, while Pensacola, the Twins' previous Double-A affiliate, could become part of the Marlins' organization.
The moves consolidate the Twins' development pipeline into a much tighter geographic footprint. The club's previous affiliation structure could have seen a prospect move from Tennessee to Iowa to Florida to New York to Minnesota as part of his journey to the big leagues. Now, the organization's Rookie-level and early development programming at its Minor League hub in Fort Myers will easily transition into Class A ball at that same facility, followed by an easier upward journey through the Midwest from Iowa to Kansas to Minnesota.
In fact, the Twins and Saints are poised to have the geographically closest relationship between a Major League team and its Triple-A affiliate in the Majors, with only 10.6 miles separating Target Field and the 7,210-seat CHS Field, home of the Saints. A player on a rehab assignment or a player transitioning from Triple-A to the Majors could now make a short drive down Interstate 94 and have a consistent housing situation instead of shuttling between Minneapolis and upstate New York.
"I could not envision a better setup for our club," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "The tremendous resources and proximity afforded by St. Paul and CHS Field would give us a chance to link our two highest levels of play. The brand new facility in Wichita and what we’ve learned about the rich history and passionate baseball fanbase there creates fantastic new possibilities in Double-A. The ability to continue relationships with the great organizations in both Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers would help to set the foundation for future big leaguers at the early stages of their journeys."
CHS Field has been a significant draw since it opened in 2015. The Saints have led the American Association in attendance in every season since moving to their current park, and they also led their league in attendance in 17 of their 27 full seasons played between CHS Field and their old home, Midway Stadium. The Saints should continue to be a significant draw among Twins fans in '21, when the organization's top five prospects -- shortstop Royce Lewis, outfielder Alex Kirilloff, outfielder Trevor Larnach, right-hander Jordan Balazovic and right-hander Jhoan Duran -- could all pass through St. Paul.
The Twins' potential new Double-A affiliate in Wichita also boasts a new stadium that hasn't yet seen a professional game. It was set to open in 2020, when the club was the Triple-A affiliate of the Marlins, but the Minor League season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The stadium will seat more than 10,000 fans and bring the Twins' Double-A affiliate closer to home than its past three stops in Connecticut, Tennessee and Florida.
Cedar Rapids first became part of the Twins' organization in 2013 and will become the Twins' eighth Class A Advanced affiliate. Fort Myers has been home to the club's High-A affiliation for 27 seasons, and it has been the Twins' Spring Training home since 1991. The Twins will continue to host a Short Season Rookie-level team in Fort Myers along with the club's Dominican Summer League at its academy in Boca Chica, D.R.