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May 17, 2018 - TCO

How the St. Paul Saints get ready for baseball season

Another baseball season is here! Opening Day for the St. Paul Saints in 2018 is Friday, and their home opener is Monday. As the Saints like to say, “Fun Is Good,” but fun also takes time in planning and preparation – and nobody prepares quite like this club!

Derek Sharrer, Saints executive vice president and general manager, describes the weeks leading up to Opening Day as the busiest time of the year, when every area of the organization overlaps and works together. There is marketing/promotional planning and execution, corporate partnership sales and fulfillment, ticket sales, and staff to hire and train. Plus, there’s the preparation of CHS Field, the field of play itself and filling out the team roster.

“It’s the time of year when it’s important for everyone to help each other do their jobs,” Sharrer said.

Twin Cities Orthopedics is the Official Sports Medicine Provider for the Saints, and they – along with the TCO physicians, athletic trainer and physical therapist who work with the team – bring you a peek behind the scenes at what exactly goes into prepping for a new season.

Ballpark

The Saints pride themselves on keeping their home, CHS Field, considered by some as one of the best ballparks in all of baseball, fresh for fans. Each year since the park opened in 2015, the team has invested in improvements – the addition of an auxiliary scoreboard on the left side of the ballpark, suite renovations, “drink rail” device charging stations to the base of the light towers throughout the concourse. Ahead of this season, the Saints have renovated their Craft Beer Corner to carry more great brews and provide more seating with views of the field. They also are unveiling a new kids’ play area with fun features and activities.

“There is plenty to do from a general maintenance perspective prior to each and every season, including cleaning, various building repairs, as well as field repairs and preparation,” Sharrer said, “but it’s these investments in improvements to CHS Field that add to our fans’ experiences that we take the most pride in.”

The ballpark is stocked with everything it needs to put on the great show that the Saints are famous for and the field’s grass, dirt, chalk and bases readied by the grounds crew.

Now for the actual players.

Players

The park and field are ready. Now all we need are ballplayers. The Saints invite 24-28 players to camp in early May and finalize their roster at 23 before hitting the road for the first game. Prior to camp, March and April are busy with the signings of hungry, talented players off the heels of Major League Baseball Spring Training.

“These are our guys, players with a ton of ability, with the drive to earn another opportunity with a major league organization and the will to win while wearing a Saints uniform,” Sharrer said. “We provide these guys with an exceptional baseball experience; incredible facility, great city, amazing fan support, and an opportunity to prove themselves and the promise that we’ll do everything we can to get them another shot.”

Team physicians

TCO’s Steven Meisterling, MD, and Andrea Saterbak, MD, are just as excited about Opening Day as the rest of the team. The pair of physicians meet with the players in early May and perform physicals to make sure they are ready to play.

“It’s exciting to see returning players and new ones,” Dr. Saterbak said. “You can see how they’re building the team.”

Drs. Meisterling and Saterbak also coordinate schedules to determine who will attend which games. Even though they have a job to do, CHS Field makes for one cool office for the physicians.

“My favorite part is the smell of the ballpark, the green grass,” Dr. Meisterling said, “the excitement of the fans and energy in the stadium.”

Athletic trainer

Jason Ellenbecker, ATC, begins his sixth season with the Saints and wastes little time preparing for each one, saying it begins as soon as the previous one ends. For him, two months before Opening Day is when the pace starts to pick up. Ellenbecker takes inventory to find out what supplies the team needs.

“You talk to the manager and see if there’s anything that he wants done differently,” Ellenbecker said. “Are we going to warm up our players differently? Do they want a different routine during batting practice?”

Ellenbecker also does his homework on the newly signed players, finding the little details that make the difference. He finds out if they missed time in previous seasons due to injury, where they previously played, where they went to college.

Ellenbecker prepares himself, physically, too. Since he is outside a lot in spring and summer, he makes sure to have allergy meds handy. He also hits the gym to get ready for the grind of being on his feet for several hours at a time each day.

Physical therapist

About one month before the season starts, Ellenbecker meets with the team’s physical therapist, Brett Petersen, PT, DPT, MS, to go over the current roster.

“We discuss what my role is for the season, things we can improve on and any additional therapy needs from Jason, Dr. Meisterling and Dr. Saterbak,” Petersen said.

‘Fun Is Good’

No team adds more fun to its game than the Saints – from the world’s largest pillow fight to the world’s largest game of Twister. They work hard and have fun doing it, all so fans, players and staff can have the best ballpark experience possible.

“Unquestionably, great people are what make working with the Saints so special,” Sharrer said. “From the people I work for and/or with, to the people who wear our uniform, to the people who cheer us on each and every year, the opportunity to work for this team, in this town, with these people has been a dream come true.”

“When you walk into CHS Field, you just feel like things are done right,” Ellenbecker said. “When you come to the Saints, this is a big deal. It’s different.”