Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter grew up in Twins territory, but the Bismarck native spent many of those years rooting for the New York Yankees.
"I liked the Twins back then, but I was a big Yankees fans because of my dad," St. Peter said. "I can say now that I've been successfully cured of that affliction. My love for the Twins began during my college days in 1987, when they won the World Series. It just rolled from there."
The 42-year-old St. Peter, who was in Bismarck on Monday to speak at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at the First Evangelical Free Church, has enjoyed good times as a Twins fan and as a member of the organization. Since he was named the team's fourth president in 2002, the Twins have won four American League Central Division championships and twice were named Organization of the Year by the Baseball America publication.
"We're very proud of what we've been able to accomplish over the years," said St. Peter, who worked his way up the organization after joining the Twins as an intern in 1990. "There are many reasons for that. One is stability. Since the (Carl) Pohlad family took over (in 1984), there have been very few changes in the front office. We've had only two field managers (Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire), and we have the longest tenured farm manager in the major leagues. And of course, we've been able to find good players and groom them. That's a credit to our scouts and our farm system. It's just been a lot of different elements working together."
St. Peter, who graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1985 and from the University of North Dakota in 1989, is proud of the fact that the Twins have thrived despite being in one of the league's smallest markets. They've lost a number of star players to free agency, or have been forced to let them go because of big-money demands. However, they've weathered the storm.
"We believe in our system. … Good players have moved on, but others have come in and stepped up," St. Peter said. "It's hard to let star players go, but in many cases there isn't much a small market can do to keep them. We've been able to overcome that with trades and player development … and with solid coaching and managing."
St. Peter said attitude also has been a key to success.
"To a lot of smaller market, low revenue teams, the season is over before it begins. … They're so weighed down with the thought that they can't compete with the bigger markets," he said. "That's not the attitude of the Twins. There's a commitment to putting together a team that can not only compete, but contend. We expect to put a winner on the field."
The defending Central Division champions are off to a shaky 15-17 start to the 2009 campaign, but St. Peter said it's much too early for Twins fans to be concerned.
"Nobody is pleased with where we're at right now," he said. "We've showed signs of being a very good offensive club, but we've been inconsistent, and we haven't pitched well. But the good news is we're only 32 games in. There's plenty of time to right the ship. We have the talent to do it.
"The Central Division is as balanced as everybody thought it would be," St. Peter added. "It's going to be a very exciting pennant chase, and we expect to be in the thick of it."
St. Peter said the team and fans are looking forward to the opening of the Twins' new outdoor stadium, Target Field, in 2010. The 40,000-seat facility will replace the enclosed Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins' home since 1982.
"The new stadium is about 60 percent complete now. … It's on schedule," St. Peter said. "We're very excited about it. It was a struggle for 10-plus years to get it approved, and now we're less than a year from beginning a new chapter of Twins baseball. It'll be a new experience for many of the fans. A whole generation of them have never seen the Twins play a home game outdoors. It'll be a very positive thing all around."
The extra revenue generated from the new stadium will come in handy as well.
"It should help us retain star players … or allow us to try to retain them," St. Peter said. "The players make the final decision whether to go or stay, but we'll be in a better position to persuade them to stay with us."