Every year, the St. Paul Saints hold open tryouts for potential players. Every year, most of them fall short. Every year, they come back.
The press release for the May 5th event is literally titled “Fulfill a Dream,” and there is a precedent for fighting the long odds. The Saints’ all-time winningest pitcher, Charlie Ruud, was discovered at an open tryout.
This year, on a crystal-clear Thursday morning, there were a good 40–50 dreamers queued up outside CHS Field before the gates even opened. The crowd was almost uniformly college-aged guys in baseball pants gripping bottles of water or ectoplasm-green Gatorade, but there were also a few outliers:
- An older gentleman in basketball shorts, flip-flops, and a beard good enough for middle-relief on the Oakland A’s.
- A super young kid getting dropped off at the park by his mom and dad, which may have been the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
- A purple-haired woman reading a thick sci-fi novel (here for moral support, not a “League of Their Own” scenario).
The gates opened and the players filed in. They wrote down their personal info at a card table and were told to keep two things in mind: Parking isn’t free at the Farmer’s Market across the street, and you’re only allowed to try out for one position.
If your breaking ball doesn’t break, you can’t just run over to third base and start fielding grounders. That said, if you want to take your busted-ass curveball over to Target Field, the 10–28 Twins staff may welcome you with open arms.
(The Twins have long held their own open tryouts, and while they have not found a career-wins leader yet, three players have made the major league team: Current Saints pitcher Mark Hamburger, Gary Serum, and Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters.)
Scott Bush, Saints’ senior vice president of business development, said that pitchers were most in demand this year. Even if they don’t make the team, manager George Tsamis keeps the names of the most promising talent in case a hole needs filling during the season.
Bush said the Saints used to hold these tryouts during major league spring training in Florida.
“Guys would come over from the next field after they got cut and try out with us.”
Even though they’re settled in at their shiny new digs in Lowertown, Bush said they still get plenty of interest from afar.
“We have people call us from out-of-state, asking if we’ll comp their travel expenses, or if we can put them up in a hotel,” he said. “That’s not quite how it works. They still come anyway.”
The players took the field and began stretching, running, playing catch, and eventually dividing up into their respective groups for the field staff.
Watching all this were a smattering of wives, girlfriends, and significant others, some enthusiastically supporting their partner, others asking for the stadium’s Wi-Fi password so they could get some work done on a Thursday morning.
About 75 hopefuls wanting to reach their dream. It’s tryout day. pic.twitter.com/Z3pnOhdTTA
— St. Paul Saints (@StPaulSaints) May 5, 2016
Kenzie Kramer was there for her husband, Ramon Moreno, who had most recently pitched in the lower levels of the Atlanta Braves organization. (Moreno’s younger brother, Rando, is a shortstop for San Francisco’s AA affiliate.) Kramer, a St. Cloud native, met Moreno while she was in the Peace Corps in Moreno’s native Dominican Republic. Kramer and Moreno moved to Minneapolis after he was released.
“The Braves let him go because he’s 26, and that really works against you when everyone else in rookie ball is 18 or 19.”
As the players ran through their drills under a cloudless blue sky, it was hard not to see why these guys would give this a shot. Who wouldn’t want to try and beat the odds when the prize was getting paid to do this, every day, all summer? Bus rides to Sioux Falls and Thunder Bay be damned—this really is the dream.
This was the second year Andy Herrmann of Hastings participated. He saw that I had a notebook, and asked if I was a scout. I told him I was just here to do a story on the open tryouts. I asked him what position he played.
“I’m a pitcher, but I wish I could do outfield too,” he said. “I’ve got a rocket for an arm.”
I asked him why he came back after not catching on last year. His answer was simple.
“I’ve loved baseball my whole life.”
After wrapping up preseason games on Tuesday May 17, the Saints final roster is set. Unfortunately for Hermann and the other open-tryout hopefuls, the dream of making the team will have to remain a dream—at least until next spring.
The St. Paul Saints open their season this Thursday, May 19, at CHS Field against the Gary Southshore Railcats.