FARGO — The American Association is set to lose its most recognizable franchise.

The Minnesota Twins have invited the St. Paul Saints to become the Major League Baseball franchise's Triple-A affiliate, the Twins announced Wednesday, Dec. 9, starting for the 2021 Minor League season.

The Saints have been a member of the American Association, which includes the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The Saints have played in the independent league since 2006.

“The overall feeling is that we’re really excited for them, but sad to see them go,” RedHawks general manager Matt Rau said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for that organization. While it stings a little to lose a member and a great member like the Saints, it’s really a feather in the hat of that organization. That proves how well they have been run over the years.”

The Twins also extended invites to the Wichita Wind Surge (Double-A), Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A) and Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Low-A).

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“The Minnesota Twins are ecstatic about the opportunity to form this partnership with the Saint Paul Saints,” Twins President and CEO Dave St. Peter said in a news release. “We have long admired the creative excellence of (Saints owners) Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck and their team in making the Saints one of America’s most successful minor league brands. We are incredibly excited for Minnesota baseball fans who can now watch some of their favorite Twins prospects wearing the Saints uniform while playing at gorgeous CHS Field. Simply put, this historic Twins-Saints partnership is great for baseball in the Twin Cities and beyond.”

The American Association has 10 members after St. Paul's impending move. Earlier this offseason, the league also announced the Texas AirHogs terminated their American Association membership. The Chicago Dogs, Cleburne Railroaders, Gary SouthShore RailCats, RedHawks, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs, Milwaukee Milkmen, Sioux City Explorers, Sioux Falls Canaries and Winnipeg Goldeyes are the current league members.

The league had 12 members last summer, but only six of them operated due to the coronavirus pandemic. The RedHawks and Saints were among the group that played the abbreviated 60-game regular season.

"The American Association is probably still under the best footing it’s been in years," Rau said. "Being one of the only leagues that operated during the pandemic shows the strength of these organizations that we’re able to join together and accomplish something even in the toughest times."

The Saints thanked the American Association and its members on their Twitter account.

Part of that message read: "We've been rivals on the field and friends off of it. Numerous times we've posted sarcastic tweets at your expense. Today is not one of those days. We will miss all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Rau said the league could operate with its current 10 teams or there is potential to expand in the future with the Major League Baseball overhauling its Minor League system. Chicago and Milwaukee have been added to the American Association since 2018.

"The American Association is still looking to grow and expand and that hasn’t changed with this (Saints) announcement," Rau said.

The Saints have operated since 1993 and have played 28 seasons in independent baseball. The partnership between the organizations gives the Twins a minority stake in the franchise, but the majority ownership remains with Saints Chairman, Marv Goldklang, President, Mike Veeck, and Team Psychologist, Bill Murray, according to Saints release.

“Our champion Saint Paul Saints have provided all of us with a fun, family-friendly baseball experience like no other for nearly three decades,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “This incredible evolution benefits our entire community and region.”