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August 19th, 2021

It’s Thursday, August 19. What’s on the horizon?

Well, we have tickets to the St. Paul Saints baseball game on Saturday night, with our friends the Blakes. The Saints have been around for many years as an independent professional minor league team, playing at the Double-A level in a fully independent league, but they are now the Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, so that has changed things.

In prior years, the Saints were made up of guys who were still holding tight to the dream of “making it” in baseball, or who had been close and still wanted to take that last step, and even some guys who had made it to “the show” but didn’t stick and were looking to impress one more big league team. The franchise was known for putting fun before the game, although the players always took it seriously. The games were full of wacky promotions and funny schtick, and the club was very popular, especially after they moved into their amazing new ballpark in downtown St. Paul, CHS Field. It’s a minor league marvel and the Saints regularly fill it to its 8,500-fan capacity.

Beautiful CHS Field in downtown St. Paul

When the Twins broached the subject of the Saints becoming their Triple-A team beginning this season, there were plenty of reasons to do it and a few things to worry about. The Saints would have the very best of the Twins’ organization on the field and in terms of staff and support, with a few established big leaguers often in uniform if they were rehabbing from injury. They’d also be a 20-minute drive from Target Field, meaning guys could get called up to the big leagues and be there almost instantly. Triple-A teams are often in far-off places, and it usually would entail multiple flights with connections just to get a player to the bigs, or in reverse. The Saints are now the Triple-A team that is in the closest proximity to their big club. Call a player up at 4:00, and he can be in the starting line up for the Twins at 7:00.

But… ┬áThere were a few big nagging questions. Would the games have to be more buttoned down and “just baseball” if they became an affiliate instead of an independent team? Would the Twins give them that leeway? After some discussions, it was decided the move would be best for all. The Twins would let the Saints put on the same sort of fun and wacky events they’d always been known for, and the Saints would feature a whole new level of talent. It has worked well for everyone involved, and I’m really jazzed to see it all in action on Saturday, when they take on the Iowa Cubs.

Note about the Iowa Cubs. I don’t have the official stats in front of me, but they must be one of the franchises with the longest-running Triple-A affiliation in baseball. If not, they have to be close. They have been the Triple-A team for the Cubs since 1981 and have been in existence since 1969. They are also one of the few minor league teams that have not adopted their own nickname, instead using the name of their big league affiliate.

In 1971 and ’72, I spent the summers with my dad and his Denver Bears Triple-A team. I was a batboy and in seventh heaven (wherever and whatever that is – I assume it’s right between sixth heaven and eighth heaven.)

The Iowa team (I think they were the Iowa Oaks then? Maybe the Triple-A team for Oakland) was playing in the same stadium in Des Moines and part of the same American Association with the aforementioned Denver Bears. I went on the road trips with the team, so I have been the batboy in Des Moines, for the opposition. That was a long time ago. I was 15 in ’71.

We aim to have a great time at the Saints game. Photos will follow at some date.

By the way, in case you didn’t know these facts about our St. Paul Saints. 1) The primary owner of the team is Mike Veeck. Mike is the son of one of the greatest and most legendary Major League owners of all time, Bill Veeck. Zany and creative promotions run in Mike’s DNA, thanks to his late father. 2) One of his co-owners is Bill Murray, who has been known to hawk game programs outside the gate before games, whenever he’s in town.

And speaking of “some date” when photos will follow, there is a huge horizon on the horizon for me (get it?)

On Tuesday, I have a 9:00 am flight to Seattle out of MSP. It will be my first flight for about a year and a half, so I’m expecting lots of new experiences and procedures. Probably some stress, as well. I’ll get there early.

I’ll make a connection in Seattle, and then fly nonstop to Lihue, the biggest town on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and the location of the island’s international airport.

Just a random pic of Kauai from my last trip. This is Donkey Beach. It’s a nice long walk from the condo.

My sister Mary and her husband Lonnie will pick me up, and the next day I will drop them off at the same airport so they can fly to the mainland to spend nearly a month seeing many of their kids and grandkids. I will spend the same amount of time seeing the cats Maxie and Biscuit, while also going for long walks on the beachside trails, sitting by the pool, dipping my toes in the Pacific, and eating as well as I can.

I won’t return until September 20, so it will be nearly a month for me on the island. That will be a new record for this guy, but right now I’m guessing the laptop will probably be my closest companion when I am there.

Why? Because my publisher and I are starting the process of editing, formatting, and finalizing just how my book “How Far?” is going to look and read. It can be a process that can range from painstaking and slow, to rip-roaring and quick. Every day is a new day, and we still have things like the cover, the interior look, and the layout to work on even after we have all the words in the right order. There’s much to do, and I’ll be four hours earlier than my publisher so we’ll have to adapt to the time zones. Four hours isn’t much, in the big scheme of things, and being earlier is typically better than being later, so it should work out just fine.

One errand I’ll have to run is a trip up to the beachside village of Poipu, where there’s a nice upscale shopping area. In that shopping area, I hope there is still a fabulous jewelry boutique, because that’s where Barbara and her sister Kitty picked out my custom-made titanium wedding band (to replace my original gold one that had to be cut off) with crushed black pearl inlays. They found the store and were mesmerized by the selection, so they brought me back up there to see what spoke to me. I locked eyes on this black pearl beauty at once, and it was mine. Guess what? No, I didn’t lose it but that is much more possible now. I’ve lost about 10 pounds since my illness and hospital stay, and some of that is in my fingers, apparently. The titanium ring now slides off far too easily, and yesterday I actually found it in my towel after taking a shower. I never felt it slip off.

Another random pic from a previous trip. Kauai, where the mountains and the jungle come down to meet the ocean. It’s heavenly.

So, I’ll head to Poipu and hope the same woman is still running her jewelry shop. I’ll see if we can get this ring resized, but Barbara’s brilliant advice is for me to just pick out another new ring. Maybe slightly different than this one, in terms of the look of it. If it is fitted for my new weight and finger size, it can be my current ring and the titanium and black pearl ring can be my fallback if I gain weight again. I’m hoping to stay on this new diet regimen and avoid that rebound, but we’ll see. This will all be a moot point if COVID put the woman out of business. I’m worried about that, because she had a really cool shop and was incredibly nice. Also trustworthy, but that shouldn’t surprise me when it comes to Kauai residents. Back then, we paid her up front for the ring we picked out, and headed back to Minnesota. About a month later, the new ring showed up in the mail. There was never a doubt.

So, there will be a lot to do for nearly a month over there. Also nearly nothing to do. Both are great options. There will be walks, talks, and relaxation. There will be work on the book, and plenty of other stuff to write about. There will be Maxie and Biscuit, and as their surrogate human I’ll be loving on them, feeding them, rubbing them when they let me, and keeping their litter clean.

And there is the Pacific Ocean. It surrounds Kawaii like the most beautiful lei in the world. It’s a huge horizon. It circles the island and is always there.

Yes. I’m extremely fortunate to live in a family with a near-twin sibling who lives there and needs my help to get back over here from time to time. That time has been three years now, thanks to COVID. She needs to see her kids and their kids. I’m on-deck and ready to pinch hit.

I’ll do my best to blog from Kauai. See you then. And if you liked this blog installment and hope to read more from me while I’m on the Garden Isle, just click on the “Like” button at the bottom. If I get enough “likes” Maxie might actually sleep with me one night. We can only hope.

Aloha!

Bob Wilber, heading across the water soon.