There are two baseball clubs that rock the Twin Cities each summer. There is the team which is struggling to find the win column and the team across the river that can’t seem to lose. What you may not know is that these teams have been sending some players back and forth. Three notable players who boarded the Saints-Twins train are utility man Nate Hanson, outfielder Mike Kvasnicka, and pitcher Mark Hamburger.
Hanson, a former Golden Gopher, received the call he had been waiting for when the Twins selected him in the 28th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hanson, now 29, started his quest to MLB with Elizabethton (Rookie League) in 2008, where he batted .215 with 8 RBIs and 2 home runs in 29 games. Until 2014, Hanson moved all around the Twins farm system, never having his dream realized. Seeking better opportunities, Hanson joined the Saints, an independent team from the American Association, in 2015. He played just 19 games before rejoining the Twins, playing for Rochester for the rest of the season. For Rochester, Hanson batted .262 with 4 RBIs in 17 games. He rejoined the Saints this past season and is currently listed on their roster for 2017.
Twins fans will most remember Kvasnicka – not for making the big club but for what happened during a minor league game. In August 2014, Kvasnicka and then-top prospect Byron Buxton collided in the outfield, giving Buxton a significant concussion. After being drafted in 2010 by Houston in the Amateur draft, he joined Houston’s Single-A team in Lexington, batting .248 with 19 home runs and 112 hits in two years. Right before the 2013 season, the Astros traded Kvasnicka to the Twins for pitcher Gonzalo Sanudo. He was assigned to Fort Myers, where he played 69 games in 2014. Kvasnicka jumped up to Double-A in 2015, where he hit .257 in 112 games. When the 28-year-old was released by the Twins, Kvasnicka stayed close and joined St. Paul last season. In 70 games, he batted .290, smacking 10 long balls. Kvasnicka is currently listed as a Club Director, as well as Hitting and Fielding Coordinator, for the Northstar Baseball Club of Minnesota.
Hamburger signed with the Twins in 2007 and has played on numerous minor league teams in Texas, Houston, San Diego, and Minnesota. He also played in Puerto Rico in 2010 and Venezuela in 2013. Unlike with Hanson and Kvasnicka, Hamburger had a taste of MLB in 2011 with Texas, posting a 4.50 ERA with 6 strike outs in 5 appearances. He joined the Saints in 2013, starting 21 games while recording 120 strike outs. Hamburger rejoined the Twins in 2014 for almost two years, playing for New Britain and Rochester, before setting out to play in Venezuela and Mexico for winter ball. In 2016, when he settled back in Minnesota, Hamburger pitched very well for the Saints, ending the season with a 12-6 record and a 3.29 ERA. The 29-year-old starter is expected to be in the Saints rotation next year (if he doesn’t actually run for St. Paul Mayor!).
There are other players with ties to both teams; including Caleb Thielbar, who recently signed with Miami, and Brandon Kintzler, who is still in the Twins organization. It would be curious to see if the Saints become a Twins Minor League Affiliate someday to keep this train rolling!
Written by: Michael L. Sack