1974 was the year Dave St. Peter first stepped foot into Metropolitan Stadium and got a glimpse of the Minnesota Twins. Nearly every year after, his sports-crazed family would pile in their station wagon and take a trip from his hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota to see the Twins play at the old stadium and, eventually, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
These trips were an important time for family bonding, a chance for entertainment and an opportunity for a young St. Peter to interact with some of his favorite players and even get their signatures. However, those trips also catalyzed St. Peter’s future career in professional sports.
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Though St. Peter says baseball is the sport his father, a former Yankee fan who is now a fully converted Twins enthusiast, was most passionate about, he and his family of seven were just as passionate about football, golf and basketball.
“We loved all sports and had a passion for all sports. While I was growing up, my favorite sport depended on the season,” said St. Peter. “I liked whatever sport I happened to be playing at the time. However, I did have a love affair with baseball very early on. Some of the things that have benefited me today around the history, traditions and understanding
of the game were rooted in me at a very young age by my dad, grandparents and older brother.”
That love for all sports stayed with St. Peter through his time in high school at Bismarck’s St. Mary’s and into his collegiate days at the University of North Dakota, where he gained passion for a new sport, hockey.
“It was an unbelievable experience where I really grew up a lot socially and mentally. I really thought it was a great community to be a part of,” said St. Peter, “I loved the campus. I had a great experience in Grand Forks and I had a lot of fun. I met a lot of great people and made a lot of life long friends. I was able to find my niche and find my passion.”
St. Peter found that niche through a mass communications course he took midway through his freshman year. The class got him thinking about a possible career in mass communication, broadcasting or journalism. Around the same time, a friend of his on the football team brought home a football media guide.
“I thought it was a great book,” said St. Peter. “I had this passion for sports, history and statistics and the book put those things together. I found out the sports information office was responsible for [the books] and immediately realized that’s what I wanted to do. That I could build a career working in sports. UND gave me that first opportunity.”
Pretty soon after discovering the media guide, St. Peter began volunteering at the school’s Sport’s Information Center. He would later go on to write for the Dakota Student and work for the Grand Forks Herald before graduating in 1989.
Once graduated with a degree in Public Relations, St. Peter set out to start a professional sports career in any way he could. He found his opportunity with the Minnesota North Stars.
“I was fortunate enough to get an internship with the Minnesota North Stars fresh out of UND. That really gave me a feel for professional sports and ever since then, I’ve felt like professional sports might be where I belong. I then went on to get an internship with the Twins and I’ve been with the Twins ever since.”
While the internship with the North Stars was in Public Relations, the internship he took with the Twins at the beginning of 1990 was not. Instead, it was rooted in the marketing department with an emphasis on fan engagement. For the next year, St. Peter would work on initiatives like bat boy/girl programs and youth clinics.
“It really helped me out and made me more well rounded and gave me a different view of different roles within an organization,” said St. Peter while looking back on his internship with the Twins. “I had a really great experience with that.”
St. Peter’s internship with the Twins led to a full-time position where he was Manager at a Minnesota Twins retail store in Richfield, Minnesota. The only previous experience he had with retail was a high school job at Herberger’s.
St. Peter had to use every bit of knowledge from his previous retail experience while working in the pro shop.
“Honestly, I was green and I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, but I knew I had to do the best job I could in that environment,” said St. Peter.
During his first year with the pro shop, sales skyrocketed, but he admits he didn’t have much to do with it. They rose naturally with the team winning the 1991 World Series in thrilling fashion against the Atlanta Braves.
The 1991 Twins celebrate the team’s second World Series Championship after a game 7 pich-hit walk-off RBI single by Gene Larkin in the bottom of the 10th.
After the pro shop, St. Peter went on to work as the communications manager for the Minnesota Twins, where he handled PR for the operation’s business side.
“In many ways, that was kind of a dream job because I could put some of those communications skills to work,” said St. Peter. “I did a lot of writing. I was able to be a spokesperson for the team, and it ended up connecting me to the ballpark effort, which really launched in 1995. It gave me access to our ownership, our team president and Major League Baseball, which let me build relationships, demonstrate my skillset and build trust within the organization. I think that ultimately propelled me forward in ways that I could have never imagined.”
From there, St. Peter would go on to work as Director of Communications, VP of Communications and Senior VP of Business Affairs. As Senior VP of Business Affairs, St. Peter went out of his comfort zone again, just like he had with the retail store.
“That was a huge leap for me because I’ve never really had that sales background,” said St. Peter.
St. Peter was finally named team President in 2002; “CEO” was added to his title in 2016.
“I think people ask me all the time what my favorite thing about my job is, and by far, my favorite thing about my job is the emotional connection that our fans have with the Twins,” said St. Peter. “It’s powerful and I see it in a lot of different ways. Every game we play, we have youngsters that are coming to their first game. I got a letter from a shut-in in Ely, Minnesota that listens to every single game on the radio. I see the look on a young girl’s face when Max Kepler visits a children’s hospital. That emotional connection to the Twins and our history drives me every single day.”
The Stadium Building Experience
In 2010, the Twins opened Target Field, a stadium costing $545 million, after a 16-year effort that included numerous failed plans to win public favor.
“It was the greatest challenge of my professional career, to be part of the group that was seeking approval for a workable and viable ballpark deal,” said St. Peter. “It was incredibly difficult. It was humiliating at times, but it also was incredibly rewarding at times. One of the things I enjoy the most is that there were so many doubters over that decade that questioned the need for a ballpark and people that questioned the funding plan for the ballpark. Those people are hard to find these days. People universally now appreciate Target Field for not only what it has meant to the Twins, but also what it has meant to downtown Minneapolis and really all of Twins territory. It’s a place that really everybody is proud of.”
Tips From Dave St. Peter
"There are certain fundamentals that I subscribe to that have been central to any success that I have had."
- Relationships – Life requires an investment in your fellow man. What I mean by that is you have to engage with each other. For me, that meant building relationships with the people I worked with and the people I worked for. I didn’t do that via text. I didn’t do that via Twitter. I did it via one-on-one conversations. I still think that is probably the biggest advantage that those who are good at it have over others. The ability to develop relationships and the ability to develop trust are very important.
- Communication skills – The ability to write is very important. One of the things I’m most concerned with when I look at younger people today is that we’ve taken an entire generation and taught them to write in 140 characters or less. That is a concern. The writing skills that I learned at UND have propelled me forward in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.
- Urgency – Having urgency is important. I think all of us that grew up in North Dakota have a certain level of humility and a tremendous work ethic. I also think urgency comes along with that. What I mean by that is you can be anywhere along the spectrum between Type A to pretty laid back, but there are times in life that require urgency. There are times to demonstrate that something is important to you. I see a lack of urgency with some young people. I want to know that it matters to somebody.
- Working smarter vs. harder – One of the things I’m really trying to do inside the Twins organization right now is creating a culture that’s rooted in work/life balance. When I got into baseball, you were expected to be at the ballpark. Everybody was going to be here. That isn’t the way it is today. I think that’s asking a lot of somebody over the course of time. Especially if you want to continue maintaining your relationship with your spouse or your children or with your family members or friends. Our people here are accountable for their jobs and they have to deliver on that, but we’re in a mobile society today and we’re working remotely now and we have that trust in our employees that they can deliver on those metrics that are most important to the company without being at every single game.That work/life balance is important. I didn’t subscribe to that before. It’s one of the reasons that I think I lost the marriage that I had for 20 years, not the only reason but one of the chief reasons. I wasn’t as present in that relationship as I could have been because I was always at the ballpark and always working. I look back on that with regret. Hopefully, others coming here after me have that flexibility that I didn’t feel like I had at the time. When I started my journey as a pro shop manager, I wasn’t sure how it would go. So, I controlled what I could control and what I could control was how hard I worked and how I treated people.
Was that early love of baseball a reason you ended up with an internship with the Twins?
When I made the decision that I wanted to pursue a career in sports, more specifically, sports communication at the beginning, I was very flexible in terms of where I was willing to accept that opportunity from. Frankly, I really started out thinking that I wanted to be a sports information director on a college campus. To me, still to this day, that almost seems like sort of a dream job. I almost think I ought to go back and do that someday. With that job, you get to work with all of the sports rather than just having to pick one lane.
What did you learn from that pro shop experience?
I learned a lot about hiring and firing people. I learned a lot about really understanding the importance of customer service and engaging with our customers. I had to grow up a fair amount and I think it gave me something to add my arsenal, so to speak. I had a communications background, I had some marketing background, I had a lot of writing background, but I didn’t necessarily have that management background. I think it served me well over the years.
When you’re making hiring decisions, do you think it’s important to have people immersed in different parts of the organization throughout their careers because of your experience?
I think diversity in one’s path is incredibly helpful. I think the more hats one can wear over the course of their journey, especially early on, the more dynamic they become as an employee and as a potential future leader. I’m not sure I set out to do it that way, but it happened that way. It certainly gave me perspective in much more of a 360-degree view of how things can work together and the importance of collaboration and teamwork. From a management perspective, I think it gave me a chance over the years to understand how those different components line up on an org chart and how you want to build a team to have certain individuals to compliment others.
Is your current job your dream job?
I never set out to be the President of the team. I just wanted to carve out a career in professional sports. I still, to this day, have to pinch myself every once in a while because of where I’m sitting. The dream was to work in sports, and I get to do that. I work with really great people. I think the beauty of being in a leadership role is the ability to have a bigger impact. Yes, you can have a bigger impact on the organization. Yes, you can have an impact on fans and stir that emotional connection. However, I think what’s most rewarding for me today is the impact I can have on people inside our organization. The career path we can provide for the next Dave St. Peter. That’s what inspires me every day. How we can make our organization better. How we can make our people better and put them in positions to achieve their dreams.
What are your game night responsibilities?
When there is a game night, there are a lot of people in the ballpark that I can interact with. There are partners here. There are season ticket holders here. There are sponsors in the building. There are a lot of great fans here. So, I get a chance to walk around and interact with a lot of people and have a lot of opportunities to do different things with the media. There’s a job responsibility that comes with game day, but it’s not work. I’m at a beautiful ballpark watching a first-place team. That’s not work. That’s a blessing.
As a business leader, how do you account for some of the weak spots that young people might have today when building your organization? Do you have to look for certain things in the hiring process or is it about the development of the employee once they’re in the organization?
I think it’s about a combination of things. You certainly look to provide development opportunities, but it’s also important to look at some of the things that are there with young people and not just what is missing. The new generation has so many advantages and are so much smarter when it comes to technology than my generation was. They communicate in different ways. They see the world in different ways. Their demand for diversity in people and thought goes well beyond my generation. Their expectations around our world and around sustainability and the future are much more advanced than it was in my time.
So, I think you try to create a culture that allows young talent to thrive. If you don’t and you sit around and commiserate what’s not there, you’re not going to be able to attract talent. You’re not going to be able to evolve as an organization.
We have a responsibility to provide development opportunities as well. We look to take a young person’s skill set and hopefully give them a broader view of the world while also giving them more tangible skills. I think organizationally we’re better off today because of the way young people see the world. Our younger employees are pushing the organization to be more progressive, more diverse and more balanced.
What are some of the developmental opportunities you do offer employees?
I think it starts with a plan. Every player that plays for the Twins, especially in our minor league system, has a development plan that helps them work on the things they need to get better at. If you work in the box office or if you work in the Twins’ marketing department, you also have a development plan. It might be learning Spanish, working on writing skills, working on public speaking skills or working on working across departments more effectively. There are specific tangible objectives for everyone in the Twins organization.
I think it’s rooted in treating all employees the same by treating them as people, and trying to find ways to support their journey. We try to take a snapshot in time and take stock of where they’re at while trying to lay a path forward.