(photo courtesy of city pages.com)
The St. Paul Saints are synonymous with independent baseball. They have built a great reputation since their inception in 1993 as one of the premier teams not affiliated with Major League Baseball. What is it that makes the Saints so special? How have they built this reputation? I gained some insight on this matter when I spoke to Sierra Bailey, the team’s current Marketing and Promotions Director.
Growing up, Sierra played many sports, focusing on basketball and volleyball by the time she was in high school. Her father coached her in basketball and coached her brother in baseball, so her family was constantly at games and tournaments. Sierra decided to attend the University of Minnesota to gain a degree in physical therapy, but she changed course to sport management as a sophomore. She was interested in the business side of sports, and her dream was to one day work for her beloved Minnesota Twins. Needing to pad her resume, she took an internship with the St. Paul Saints while she was completing her studies.
“It was the first time I had ever had the Saints experience and just completely fell in love with the whole aspect of the entertainment side. It’s not just about the baseball. It’s about all the other fun stuff that goes on during a game.”
Sierra was able to live out her dream of working for the Twins as an intern in 2010, the team’s first year at Target Field. From there she was able to land internships with the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA and the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. She appreciated that baseball provided a more laid back environment than basketball and that, outside of the MLB, baseball games are largely the most affordable live entertainment experience in a given community. After completing her 4th internship, Sierra received a call from Scott Bush, the St. Paul Saints’ Assistant General Manager at the time, asking if she was interested in running promotions for the team that Summer. Sierra knew that she wanted to return to a job in game entertainment and had been waiting for an opportunity she was passionate about. So, she saw this as a good fit. She took a full-time role with the Saints in 2015 and has been with the team ever since.
According to Sierra, the Saints strong brand and reputation has been built from the top. Team owners, The Goldklang Group and Mike Veeck, bring experience and leadership to the team, and that trickles down to a staff that feels like a family. There is care and consideration displayed in every aspect of the team. Sierra claims that the Saints staff does not compete with other teams. They compete with themselves, attempting to learn and improve every season. The Saints mission is to never get bored or complacent with what the experience they are providing for their fans.
“The people are #1. It’s not the entertainment. It’s not the promotions. If you make them feel like they’re important to your organization, then they are the ones who are going to support you. If we don’t have fans, what’s the point of having games?”
The fans aren’t the only ones who are invested in the St. Paul Saints experience. Sierra feels like a big part of the team’s decision making process and feels comfortable taking risks to improve the game experience. She has remained with the Saints for as long as she has because she loves the challenges that come with being a part of a small, tight-knit team that have to work together and get involved in every aspect of the club’s operations, from sales to pulling tarp and everything in between.
“I just feel really fulfilled with being able to walk in there everyday knowing that what I am doing matters.”
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Sierra has always felt comfortable and can speak of no issues regarding her gender when it comes to her career. She believes that the recent presence of women in player development roles is leading us towards more women on the field in professional baseball. Afterall, the first woman to pitch a professional baseball game against men, Ila Borders, was a member of the St. Paul Saints.
Sierra feels that she is busier right now than she would be if the season had started as scheduled. Everyday, news is coming in regarding the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and contingency plans are ever changing. The Saints are preparing for the possibility of games being played at CHS Field, but in the meantime, they are opening up the ballpark for youth baseball camps and are even turning the park into a restaurant.
“Whatever industries are open right now, we want to be a part of, so we can just open the gates. That’s all we want to do.”
It is clear that “the people are #1” is more than just an expression to Sierra Bailey and the St. Paul Saints. It is what they live and breathe.
You can follow Sierra on Twitter @Sierra_Bailey and the Saints @StPaulSaints. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the latest entries in this blog! Thanks for reading!