Bases loaded, one out, a long shot to center right, fielded on one bounce. One run Sioux Falls Canary scores but with a great throw to third the St. Paul Saints turn a double play, third to second, inning over. Jake turns to me and says “THIS is why we’re American… baseball.”
We are in the new 7,200 seat CHS stadium in Lower Town, downtown, St. Paul (Minnesota). The field takes advantage of a natural bluff. You enter on the uphill side. When I first came to St. Paul, in 1964, the Gillette razor and Diamond match companies sat on this site. The stadium is full with families, like ours, Suzi, Brian, Liz, Liam, a few cousins and two year old Fiona at her first baseball game. I am not sure she knows what she is watching but she cheers on cue. Liam is wide eyed and open mouthed as a foul ball soars over us.
The stadium is not one of those retro ballparks. It’s modern, with a natural wood looking ceiling on covering part of the grandstand and a lawn in the outfield for picnics. I like the fact that the largest farmers’ co-op in America got the naming rights.
Ownership of the team includes Mike Veeck, son of the legendary baseball showman Bill Veeck, and Bill Murray, quite a showman himself. The Saints are known for outrageous stunts that even go beyond the outrageous stunts at most minor league parks. My favorite is the annual “Atheist night” The “Saints” become the “Aints” wearing special uniforms with the scarlet “A” prominent and the slogan “We Ain’t Saints” written “we sAINTs” I want to go just to get the baseball cap. Each year it’s a fundraiser, last year it was “Leave your soles at the gate” or “Soles for Souls.” collecting shoes for homeless. This year it will be “Food for thought.” collecting food for a local food pantry.
We were not there for food for thought but I did enjoy a donut dog, a hot dog with strawberry ketchup and bacon served on a bun made with donut dough. Bacon is important to the Saints. Their mascot is a pig in a pink tutu and strips of bacon run back and forth in front of the Saints’ dugout.
There are all sorts of races between innings, one was an eyeball race, blue vs brown. We watched a stretcher race sponsored by a local hospital. Teams start at the third base line, pick up a patient on second and get him to the hospital near first, hopefully without dumping the patient.
The grounds crew are guys dressed as gals. They’re called the drag queens.
Cheerleaders in strange costumes frolic on top to the dugouts. And there was pretty good baseball, although the Saints… lost.