Heavy Hitter off the Field

Dave St. Peter is always swinging away for the Twins as its top executive.

Dave St. Peter is still having a ball.

Sitting high above the left-field corner of Target Field, St. Peter is reminiscing about his long tenure with the Minnesota Twins—from an intern in 1990 to the president and chief executive officer today.

The vantage point from the Carl R. Pohlad Conference Room (named in tribute to the team’s late owner) is ideal for reflecting on one’s baseball career. Peering through its windows from such a high perch offers a panoramic, almost omnipresent view of the ballpark. “There is a sense of pride about being part of the team, which helped make this a reality,” says St. Peter on Target Field, which opened in 2010 nearly 14 years after the Twins began its quest to replace the Metrodome. “However, there is also a responsibility to take care of it … to make it better,” he says.

St. Peter has never won a batting title like Minnesota native and first baseman Joe Mauer or hit 40 home runs like second baseman Brian Dozier. He’s never played baseball professionally. Nevertheless, he wields a hefty bat behind-the-scenes shaping the Twins. The 51-year-old Chanhassen resident was named team president in 2002 and was given the dual title of president and CEO in 2016. He oversees the team’s day-to-day operations, strategic planning and interaction with Major League Baseball. Specifically, St. Peter says he makes sure team owner Jim Pohlad is never surprised by any opportunities or challenges.

Derrick Falvey, the team’s chief baseball officer since 2016, reports to him (although St. Peter views it more like a partnership). “I love what baseball and the Twins mean to this community,” says St. Peter, who prides himself on being accessible to the team’s fan base. “That’s by far the most special thing about this job. Our job is to try to find ways to amplify that,” he says.

So, what makes a good leader? “Experience and smarts matter,” St. Peter says. “That said, integrity, humility and curiosity matter more.” St. Peter learned early in his career that it's more important in his role to love the game than to be a fan of the game. Baseball, after all, is a business. He views his role as being a good steward for the organization. “Sometimes that necessarily isn’t being a fan,” he says. “It’s doing whatever the job is that I was tasked to do. There’s a little bit of a difference there,” he says.

Early in the game

St. Peter’s love for baseball remains just as strong as when he was growing up in Bismarck, N.D. His father is a passionate fan of all sports, including baseball, a trait he passed on to his son.

“I love the life skills [baseball] teaches,” he says. “It’s a thinking person’s game. It also blends that with tremendous athleticism. I don’t think there is a sport harder than hitting a 98 mph ball that’s breaking away from you.”

St. Peter tried emulating former Twins’ hitters Tony Oliva and Rod Carew in American Legion ball (the state of North Dakota didn’t have high school baseball until recently). Like them, he hit left and threw right. “My dad is a diehard Yankees fan, so I tended to support the Yankees as a little kid,” he says. “I always tell people I’ve long been cured of that affliction.”

St. Peter wasn’t going to play sports at the University of North Dakota, but he still had a passion for them. He set his sights on a career as a sports information director. After graduating, he applied for internships with every professional sports team in Minnesota. He got one call back—from the Minnesota North Stars. “After two weeks, I decided professional sports is where I want to be,” he says of his time with the hockey team that moved to Dallas in 1993. “I loved the energy, the excitement, the high profile nature of it,” he says. After that ended, he accepted an internship with the Twins. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

St. Peter's progression up the ladder was steady. His work on the team’s long and challenging efforts to garner public funding to build what eventually was Target Field was “the biggest break of my career,” he says. The team, at one point, was rumored to be on the verge of contraction. “It allowed me to demonstrate my skill set,” he says.

Work-life balance

During home games, St. Peter likes to get out of his office at Target Field. “I’m looking at the way things are operating or frankly just watching the game,” he says. “I never want to apologize for that. That’s what is special about these jobs.”

St. Peter doesn’t spend as much time at the ballpark as he once did. He strives for a work-life balance for himself and those working for him. “The amount of work I put in the first 20 years of my Twins career, I can’t change now,” he says. “I can learn from that and hopefully stimulate an environment that today’s young employees, the next Dave St. Peters so to speak, are better off for.”

That gives him more time to spend with his college-age sons, Jack, 21, and twins, Ben and Eric, both 20. They enjoy watching sports, golfing, traveling and going to movies. St. Peter has tagged along with Jack, an avid hiker, on several trips.

St. Peter knows jobs like his are not a given to last forever. He doesn’t take that for granted.

He remains grateful for the impacts three men made on his career: Carl Pohlad, former team president Jerry Bell and former manager Tom Kelly. Pohlad was a “master business person,” Bell, a “classic statesman,” and Kelly possessed a strong work ethic, St. Peter says.

“Some of the fundamentals about being organized and prepared and being present (as a leader), I learned from Tom,” he says.

He’s built friendships over the years with just about every major player in the team’s history. When asked for a favorite, he names two Baseball Hall-of-Famers: slugger Harmon Killebrew, who died in 2011, and center fielder Kirby Puckett, who died in 2006. “Harmon was one of the best people you’ll ever find, and Kirby could light up a room,” he says.

St. Peter doesn’t have as many mementos from his life in baseball as he once did. He says his most cherished mementos are the memories “in my head. ... I’m less interested in a Joe Mauer  autograph than having comfort in knowing who Joe Mauer is as a person and how he has evolved as a player and as a dad and as a husband,” he says. “It’s more about the relationships and finding ways to nurture those. That’s what matters.”

Last season’s surprise playoff run is the latest addition to his Twins highlight reel. “It reminds everybody what it’s like to have a winning competitive baseball team deep in the season,” he says. St. Peter is optimistic this season's Twins will build on that success. He would gladly take two more World Series’ rings to the one he already has from 1991—one to give to each of his sons. “We’re going to need players take another step forward and not only sustain their play but, in some cases, get to another level,” he says.
 
“A kid’s game”

Next to a door leading to the Twins’ executive offices is a plaque. Below the team’s logo and catchphrase, “The Twin’s Tradition,” are four words: “Passion, Hustle, Heart, Fun.”

Those words define what it means to be part of the Twins organization, St. Peter says. In a lot of ways, “Fun" is the most important. “That’s a reminder that we’re blessed, we have a chance to work in a ballpark, we have a chance to play a kid’s game,” he says.

 Is the game still enjoyable for St. Peter? “It’s a business; there are difficult days, difficult decisions, there are tough outcomes,” he says. “But at the end of the day, this isn’t rocket science, and it’s certainly not life and death.  It’s baseball, and it should be fun.”