By Sean Aronson/St. Paul Saints Media Relations
ST. PAUL, MN (September 14, 2017) – Since the gates opened at CHS Field in 2015 the St. Paul Saints have filled their ballpark to a higher percent capacity than any team, not just in the American Association, but all of minor league baseball. In 2017 they continued that attendance trend; received national attention for creative promotions and unforgettable baseball moments, and CHS Field was once again THE place to be on summer nights. It was because of this, and many other reasons, Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager, Derek Sharrer, was named the American Association Executive of the Year for the third straight season.
Sharrer, in his 14th season as General Manager of the Saints, encouraged the staff to keep the promotions fresh and unique while pushing the boundaries with partners in order to give them unique exposure.
For the second straight season the Saints had one game rained out, but still managed to lead the American Association in attendance by more than 185,000 fans. The Saints were over their 7,210 seat capacity during 46 of 49 home games, and had a season high 10,143 on July 2. There were 8,000 or more fans at 36 of 49 home games and 9,000 or more 10 times, including a record three straight from July 12-14.
“Although he may not always get the media attention he deserves, everyone in the League, certainly all of us associated with the Saints, know that Derek truly is our franchise player,” said Saints Chairman Marv Goldklang. “His work ethic, combined with his exceptional leadership and motivational skills, have enabled us to assemble a front office staff that is second to none in the industry, minor or Major League.
In addition, for the third consecutive season, the Saints were tops in all of Minor League Baseball (roughly 300 teams) in percent capacity, 115%, seventh in average attendance (8,295) only behind six Triple-A teams, and 25th in overall attendance (406,501). The 24 teams that outdrew the Saints played at least 20 more home games.
“While I couldn’t be more humbled by, or appreciative of, this recognition from my peers in the American Association, the credit for this honor truly belongs to our ownership, our staff, and the community that supports us,” said Sharrer. Success starts and ends with great people, and I continue to be blessed to work alongside the brightest, most creative, most dedicated, and most talented group of people in baseball.”
Saints promotions continued to gain regional and national attention and it began on Opening Night with a tribute to Mary Tyler Moore. The Saints welcomed local news personnel, as a tribute to Moore, honoring their hard work and dedication. Fans entering the ballpark received a tam hat, made famous by Moore in the opening sequence of the show, and at the end of the second inning fans tossed their tams in the air, similar to the way Moore did at the end of the opening credits.
“Any successful organization has an inherent humility,” said Saints President Mike Veeck. “Derek’s emphasis on the staff, willingness to share this award, underscores his leadership capabilities. He has an inherent ability to stay humble. I’m sure glad I answered his letter 20-some years ago.”
The Saints celebrated their 25th Anniversary season with a logo and commemorative uniform that was widely praised. The logo highlighted the most iconic image of the Saints 25-year history, the pig. The “STP” on the players caps was creatively used to form the shape of a pig. The pig image represents the four-legged swine mascot that delivers baseballs to the home plate umpire, which the team has had since day one. St. Paul has a rich history with pigs, which gave co-owner Mike Veeck the ball delivering idea prior to the team’s first season. Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, was the first person of European descent to live within the borders of what would eventually become the city of St. Paul. The city would be nicknamed “Pig’s Eye Landing” based on Parrant’s popular tavern.
The Saints also welcomed back former players from their very first season and it led to the most memorable moment in the American Association, and perhaps all of baseball, this season. Kevin Millar, who got his start in professional baseball with the Saints in 1993, donned the uniform one more time for the Saints. In an official at bat, on June 24 against the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Millar stepped to the plate with a runner on. The second pitch he saw, Millar drilled a two-run bomb over the left field wall. That moment went viral and was shown repeatedly on ESPN, the MLB Network and other outlets around the country.
Perhaps the biggest moment outside of the Millar home run came after the Monday, August 21 game. The Saints staff, grounds crew, and grounds crew of the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and University of Minnesota spent more than eight hours painting 56,000 Twister dots on the outfield. The Saints played the August 22 game, against Wichita, on the Twister board and then, following the game, all the fans in attendance came onto the field and took part in the largest game of Twister.
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 hosted both the State High School Baseball Tournament and the State American Legion Championship. 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, United Way Action Day, Beer Dabbler Craft Beer Festival, and Grill Fest. The Securian 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 2017, CHS Field continued to be St. Paul’s front porch.
This is the third time Sharrer has won the American Association Executive of the Year Award and the fourth time in his career, winning a similar honor when he was General Manager of the Fort Myers Miracle in 1998.
During Sharrer’s tenure with the Saints they have consistently finished at, or near, the top of the league in attendance. In 2006 the Saints were named the inaugural Baseball America Independent League Organization of the Year, for their history of excellence and role as trailblazers in the industry. Additionally, Sharrer was named to the 2007 Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Top 40 under Forty. Sharrer resides in Woodbury with his wife Kandice and two sons Sullivan (14) and Lawson (12).