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Familiar Face Back At Helm For Saints As Gardenhire Returns For Fourth Season Joined Again By Larson and Smarslok, Three New Members Join Staff

January 22, 2024

ST. PAUL, MN (January 22, 2024) - Since becoming the Minnesota Twins Triple-A affiliate in 2021 the St. Paul Saints have known just one manager. That familiar face will once again call the shots from the first base dugout at CHS Field as the Minnesota Twins announced the 2024 Saints

ST. PAUL, MN **(January 22, 2024) - **

Since becoming the Minnesota Twins Triple-A affiliate in 2021 the St. Paul Saints have known just one manager. That familiar face will once again call the shots from the first base dugout at CHS Field as the Minnesota Twins announced the 2024 Saints coaching staff and it will once again be led by manager Toby Gardenhire. He will be joined by two returning coaches: Bench Coach Tyler Smarslok, his fourth season, and Pitching Coach Peter Larson, his second. Along with those three the coaching staff will welcome two promotions from Double-A Wichita with Hitting Coach Shawn Schlechter and Pitching Coach Dan Urbina. The rest of the staff is made up of five returning members and one making his professional baseball debut. Strength & Conditioning Coach Stephen Hopkins is the new face to the group and he’s joined by Lead Athletic Trainer Ben Myers, his second season with the Saints, Assistant Athletic Trainer, Taylor Carpenter, second season, AAA Clubhouse Manager/Assistant, Baseball Operations Matt Tramp, fourth season, and Coordinators, Baseball Technology Lincoln Ficek and Alek Hughes, both returning for their third seasons.

The 41-year-old Gardenhire led his team to the best record in the West Division in 2023, going 84-64. Despite not making the playoffs because of a change in the International League playoff rules prior to the season, it was the third best record in the International League and the best winning percentage in his managerial career. Overall, Gardenhire is 225-202 in his three seasons as manager with the Saints and 376-323 in five seasons as a manager. During the last three years, the Saints are tied for the seventh most victories in the International League. Gardenhire earned his 200th victory as manager of the Saints on July 30, 2023. Last season the Saints tied a modern-day Minor League record (stats going back to 2005) with 14 grand slams. No Major League team has hit more than 14 grand slams in the Modern Era (since 1901). The Saints also went 47-27 at home, a .635 win percentage, the fifth best in all of Minor League Baseball.

Gardenhire, who was scheduled to be the manager in Rochester in 2020 before the pandemic eliminated the season, spent two seasons as a manager in the Twins system in 2018 and 2019. He guided the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels to a playoff berth in 2018 after winning the second half Western Division title. Overall, the Kernels went 77-62, fourth best record in the 16-team league. The Kernels swept their quarterfinal series, 2-0, over the Beloit Snappers (Oakland Athletics) before losing 2-0 to the Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals) in the semifinals.

The following year, Gardenhire was promoted to High-A Fort Myers where he was named the Florida State League Manager of the Year and once again earned a playoff berth. The Miracle won the first half title and finished 74-59, third best record in the 12-team Florida State League. The league, however, cancelled their playoffs due to Hurricane Dorian.

This is Gardenhire’s ninth season as a coach or manager in the Twins organization. He assisted the GCL Twins in 2016, began the 2017 season as the third base coach for the Red Wings before finishing the year as the hitting coach for the GCL Twins.

Gardenhire began his coaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where he amassed an 81-117 record in five seasons (2012-16) and helped guide the Blue Devils to a 2014 WIAC tournament berth, their first in seven years.

Gardenhire has spent his entire professional career with the Twins organization. In addition to seven seasons as a coach or manager, he played seven seasons in their Minor League system. He was originally drafted by the Twins in the 38th round in 2002 out of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, but did not sign. In 2005, he was selected in the 41st round by the Twins out of the University of Illinois. Gardenhire played at every level from the Rookie Appalachian League up through Triple-A. In 533 games he slashed .232/.292/.274 with 156 runs scored, 44 doubles, three triples, and six home runs.

The 2024 season is Larson’s sixth in the Twins organization and second with the Saints. The Saints were tied for the third fewest home runs allowed in Triple-A (147), fourth best ERA (4.59), and a franchise record 1,354 strikeouts in 2023.

Prior to joining the Saints, Larson spent 2022 as the Pitching Coach at Wichita, 2021 as Pitching Coach for Low-A Fort Myers and 2019 as minor league rehab pitching coach. He was slated to be the pitching coach for Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2020 before the cancellation of the minor league season. Prior to joining the Twins, he spent four seasons with Fordham University (2018), University at Albany (2017), Siena College (2016) and King University in Bristol, TN (2015). Larson also spent 2015 as pitching coach for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League. His 2018 Fordham pitching staff set a school record with 536 strikeouts in 495.0 innings and posted a 3.36 team ERA.

Larson graduated from Ferrum (VA) College in 2009, where he helped the Panthers to USA South conference titles in 2005 and 2007. He played a year of professional ball, pitching in the independent Can-Am League in 2011.

The 49-year-old Urbina enters his sixth season in the Twins organization and first with the Saints. He spent the last three seasons as Pitching Coach with the Wind Surge. He helped guide the team to the most victories, third best ERA and strikeout to walk ratio, and tied for the third best WHIP in that span.

Prior to his time with Wichita, Urbina served as pitching coach for the club’s FCL affiliate in 2021 and DSL affiliate in 2019. He was slated to be part of the GCL Twins coaching staff in 2020 prior to the cancellation of the minor league season. Urbina was a pitching coach in the Pittsburgh organization for 18 seasons, first with the VSL Pirates (2001-11) and then with the DSL Pirates (2012-18).

Urbina also pitched three minor league seasons (1995-97) in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

The Burnsville, MN native, Schlechter, grew up a Twins fan and enters his fifth season in the organization, first with the Saints. In 2023, he spent his first season at Double-A as the Hitting Coach with the Wind Surge and helped the offense finish third in the Texas League in average (.259), total bases (1955), slugging (.425), and OPS (.772).

Schlechter was the Hitting Coach for High-A Cedar Rapids in 2022, FCL Twins in 2021, and was scheduled to have the same role in 2020 before the cancellation of the season.

Schlechter spent eight years at North Iowa Community College, first as a player and then as a coach. During his tenure working with NIACC hitters (2013-19), four of his players were picked in the First-Year Player Draft. During the 2020 baseball pause, he joined members of the Twins’ player development staff and Play Ball! Minnesota in a series of online Virtual Academy webinars, aimed at helping young athletes with proper fundamentals and form. The webinars were targeted at different age groups and covered a wide range of topics.

Smarslok, 31, enters his fourth season with the Saints and moves from Defensive Coach to Bench Coach. Smarslok is no stranger to making in game decisions, having taken over for Gardenhire in 2022 when he and his wife had their first child, and again in 2023 for a handful of games. He once again shined as Defensive Coach in 2023 as the Saints were tied for the fifth fewest errors (98), tied for sixth in fielding percentage (.981), and seventh in double plays (137). Under Smarslok’s guidance, the Saints set a franchise record with 11 consecutive games without an error in 2023 and tied their best fielding percentage.

Smarslok spent each year since he graduated from Kean University, in 2015, as a collegiate coach. He served as an assistant coach for Marist, Seton Hall University, Heidelberg University, and Claremont-Mudd Scripps. He operated as the volunteer assistant at Seton Hall in 2019 where he was the infield coach, responsible for the players’ development and in-game alignment. Smarslok was a three-time DIII College World Series participant, an All-Conference, and National Rawlings Gold Glove recipient in his time at Kean University. He helped lead the Cougars to two NJAC Tournament Championships.

The 33-year-old Myers begins his sixth season in the Twins organization and third with the Saints. He began his time in 2018 as the Athletic Trainer at Low-A Cedar Rapids. From there he moved to High-A Fort Myers in 2019. His responsibilities shifted in 2020 due to the pandemic. He was sent to Target Field handling Covid cases and his experience doing that put him in the role of Infectious Control Prevention Coordinator in 2021 through the All-Star break. Following that, he became a roving Athletic Trainer, working with all the Twins affiliates.

Myers began his college career at the University of Kentucky for two semesters. He then transferred to Eastern Kentucky University from 2009-13 and got his degree in Athletic Training, becoming certified in 2013. Myers did an internship with the GCL Astros in 2012. He earned his master’s at the University of South Carolina in Athletic Training and worked with the University of South Carolina Softball team from 2013-14. After working at a local high school in 2015, Myers was hired by the Astros and worked for their GCL team from 2015-16 and with the Rookie level Greenville Astros in 2017.

The 26-year-old Carpenter is in her third season in the Twins organization and second with the Saints. She was the Assistant Athletic Trainer with the Wind Surge in 2022. Prior to her time with the Twins, Carpenter spent three years at Florida Gulf Coast University as a Resident Athletic Trainer and Graduate Assistant working with Men’s Soccer and Women’s Swimming and Diving.

Prior to FGCU, Carpenter completed her athletic training internship at nearby Ave Maria University. During her time at Ave Maria, she served as the athletic trainer for women's volleyball, men's soccer, women's basketball, and women's lacrosse. Carpenter completed her clinical experience at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, registering over 1,500 hours from November 2017 to March 2018.

Carpenter graduated from Wisconsin Oshkosh in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in athletic training.

Hopkins joins the Minnesota Twins organization for his first year in professional baseball. No stranger to athletics, he spent nearly a year-and-a-half at K27 Performance, a sports gym in Frisco Texas, as Director of Training and an Elite Performance Trainer since September 2022. He’s worked at RedLine Athletics as a Director of Performance (2021-22), owned his own business helping train athletes (2020-22), a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Elite Performance Training (2019-21), Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Greenhill School (2017-19), and a Sports Performance Coach at Michael Johnson Performance (2017).

In 2017, Hopkins received his Strength and Conditioning graduate certificate from Georgia Southern University in May, 2017 and became a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association in August, 2017.

Hopkins is a graduate of the University of Michigan where he played three seasons at running back/fullback for the Wolverines. He was a part of the 2012 Sugar Bowl winning team, a 23-20 victory over Virginia Tech. Hopkins was a three-star recruit coming out of Marcus (TX) HS where he rushed for 5.010 yards and 61 touchdowns and rated as the 50th best running back in the nation.

The 34-year-old Tramp begins his fourth season as the Saints Clubhouse Manager. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota native began his clubhouse duties with the American Association’s Sioux Falls Canaries, the same league the Saints were in prior to becoming the Twins Triple-A affiliate, from 2009-10, 12-13. He spent one season with the New York-Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays, the Low-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, in 2011. Following his time with the Canaries in 2013, Tramp was the Visiting Clubhouse Manager for the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros in 2014. He went on to work as the Clubhouse Manager for the Biloxi Shuckers, the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, in 2015. He joined the Twins organization in 2018 and was the Fort Myers Miracle Clubhouse Manager for two seasons. Tramp and his wife Amanda spent the winter living in Minnesota.

The 27-year-old Ficek returns for his third season with the Saints and fourth with the Twins organization. He was a Minor League Video Intern in 2021 before being hired full-time. Ficek began in baseball with the Tampa Bay Rays as a Minor League Intern in 2020. He graduated from Ohio State University in 2018 where he was a Student Assistant responsible for filming, editing, and processing all practices and games for coaches’ review. Ficek was a Production Intern at ESPN following graduation in 2018 and worked as a Baseball Operations Intern at Inside Edge, Inc. in Bloomington, Minnesota in 2019.

Hughes, 33, begins his third season with the Saints and second in a full-time role. In 2022 he was an intern in the Twins organization in the baseball technology department, primarily with the Saints. Hughes was a US Military Academy at West Point graduate in 2014 and was a Field Artillery Officer in the US Army from 2014-22. He received his Master of Business Administration from Webster University in 2021. His first job in the sports world was with the Philadelphia Eagles, in 2022, working on data insights and research.

The Saints begin the 2024 season at CHS Field on Friday, March 29 against the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Guardians) at 6:37 p.m. Season and group tickets are on sale along with a special spring ticket package for the first 21 home games of the season from March 29-May 5. For information, contact the Saints office Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. or visit