Posted by: gravessack | November 18, 2014

The Case For Minneapolis to Bid for The FIPFA World Cup

Dear Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority:

Minneapolis and MSFA, in conjunction with the MidWest Power Soccer Association (MWPSA), should bid on a future Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) World Cup. Power Soccer has grown dramatically around the World ever since Power Soccer Shop appeared right here in Minnesota, making specialty-designed chairs just for Power Soccer. If Minneapolis hosted the FIPFA World Cup, it would greatly improve the noticeability of Power Soccer.

The World Cup could be held at the newest Multi-Purpose Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. If we leave the stadium with the football configuration, there will be room to have 11 courts on the floor with fans being able to see all the action from the 65,000 seats. If you think 65,000 seats is to many for this particular event, the stadium can be transformed to accommodate several different events and if need be, it could be shrunken to around 20,000 seats just what you said the complex can do for Major League Soccer matches.

It might not be the big draw of a Super Bowl in 2018 or a Final Four in 2019, but it would be a powerful event creating awareness for athletes with physical disabilities from around the World. The FIPFA World Cup happens every four years and the United States have won it two times. In 2011 in Paris, the World Cup had 8 days of events (two days of preparedness, five days of competition with one off day). One of my dreams is one day an adaptive sporting event be held in a major stadium and this would be the ultimate event.

So, MSFA, please consider bidding for a future FIPFA World Cup to be held at Minnesota’s newest “people’s” Stadium. You have said that you wanted the new Vikings stadium to host a variety of events and adding this important event would prove that philosophy. I will even volunteer myself to be the driving force behind this cause. We can show the World that athletes with disabilities can play in the same arena as pro athletes!

Sincerely, Michael L. Sack

This is a diagram of what the FIPFA World Cup could potentially look like in the new Vikings stadium. Thanks to Steve Sack for creating this awesome floor layout.

 

Posted by: gravessack | November 16, 2014

A New Manager Is Just the Beginning

As many of you know, Paul Molitor was recently hired to be the new manager of the Minnesota Twins. What else does the team need to do to return to contention in the near future? Listen to a report that addresses this issue and more.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | November 11, 2014

Could Torii Hunter Land In Minnesota?

The World Series is done. The Twins have their manager. Now it is time to make the team better for next year. Obviously the Twins will be going after free agent pitchers James Shields and Max Scherzer. However there is already a little traction in landing a position player that we are very familiar with. His name: Torii Hunter. Yes, Hunter, although old to some people, could be in a Twins uniform next year.

There are a few reports out there that at least seven teams have contacted Hunter’s camp. Most of the teams happen to be from the AL Central, including the Twins and Royals. Torii has said he is interested in sticking with Detroit, but the Tigers haven’t made it clear if they want to sign him again. Hunter is waiting to see if the Tigers sign Victor Martinez before making a decision.

Hunter, who debuted with the Twins in 1997, has moved to the corner outfield positions the last few years due to his advanced age. Though his defensive ability is on the decline, Hunter still has an offensive attack. During his seven years in Anaheim and Detroit, the 39-year-old has 1,109 singles with 139 home runs and 599 RBIs. A five-time all-star, Hunter has won 9 Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers during his career. He has had multiple playoff experiences, which included his team losing in the ALDS to the Orioles this past season.

Just imagine. Hunter starting 2015 in right field with Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia in the other two outfield positions. Hunter would bat sixth in the line-up and would be a great mentor to Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. The Twins should sign Hunter on a two-year deal and release him when Byron Buxton appears sometime in 2016. That’s my plan at least! So Twins, please bring Torii back where he began his journey and send him off to retirement the right way because he still has it and will always be a Twin! And Torii, consider coming home where you became an all-star!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 2, 2014

We Love To Play: A Great Organization

On October 27, a story was aired on WCCO-TV featuring We Love To Play, a sports and recreation program for youth and adults with disabilities. For decades, there have been opportunities within the Minnesota State High School League for people with disabilities to play sports while in high school. We Love To Play was created in 1994 to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to continue to play sports and stay active after graduating. There are multiple sports played throughout the year, including adapted softball, football, soccer and floor hockey.

I have been a part of We Love To Play since 2011 and love the program because it is a great way to stay active and to build relationships. While it can get intense, we have a lot of fun! I would recommend We Love To Play to any youth or adult with disabilities who loves sports and having fun! In addition to the WCCO report, make sure to check out the We Love To Play website.

P.S. On an unrelated note, it has been announced that Paul Molitor is expected to replace Ron Gardenhire as manager of the Minnesota Twins. Click for more information. There will be an official announcement made on Tuesday.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 4, 2014

What’s Next for the Twins?

Although the Twins recently fired manager Ron Gardenhire (which I disagree with) and likely most or all of his coaching staff, the team needs to do more to be successful in the near future. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Get rid of Joe Mauer’s contract: I like Mauer and he is a good hitter, but the Twins need to get rid of his monstrous eight-year, $184 million contract. As unpopular as it may be, getting rid of him and his contract, which expires after the 2018 season, would save the team a ton of money. This would give the Twins even more freedom to sign high-quality pitchers, which they desperately need with or without Mauer. I would be extremely surprised if the Twins got rid of him, but it’s something the team needs to do moving forward.
  2. Don’t rush young prospects: Despite the success of Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas (who both came up from Double-A), the Twins need to be patient with their young prospects, especially with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano who are coming off serious injuries last season. I would love if these players came up sometime next season, but they need to show they can play well in each level of the minors first.
  3. Get a Spanish-speaking manager or coach: The Twins need a coach to interact with the Latino players on the team (Santana, Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia, for example). Having a Latino coach is more and more important as more of these players come to the majors. With the Twins likely having a remodeled coaching staff next season, I would say that this is very likely to happen.

Those are my ideas for the Twins. What are yours?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | October 1, 2014

Gardenhire Is Let Go After 13 Seasons

It was a day that some people hoped for and others not so much. On September 28, the Minnesota Twins completed its fourth consecutive season with more than 90 losses. Fans were getting anxious because it seemed like nothing was changing. As soon as the last Twins game was finished, all eyes were on the front office for an answer to that looming question: Would Ron Gardenhire be back for the 2015 season?

Monday morning came and went with us knowing that Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan were in a private meeting at Target Field. No news at 10, none at 11, none even at noon. Finally, just after noon, a news alert popped up: “Twins fire Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons.”

I have to admit that I was in complete shock because the Twins haven’t fired a manager in 28 years. Later at a press conference, Gardenhire and the Twins would say that it was a mutual decision between Gardy and Ryan. Ryan also shared that Gardenhire had been offered a new position in the Twins organization. At the press conference, Gardy put it simply: “I’m gone. I’m outta here because we didn’t win. That’s what it comes down to in baseball.”

As for the other coaches, Ryan said that they’re in “limbo” because their contracts expire December 31 and it is up to the new manager to bring in coaches that he wants. Because of this, Ryan is letting all of the coaches — including pitching coach Rick Anderson — talk to different teams that have interest in them. But, some coaches may be back as the new skip decides which coaches he wants on his staff. It should be noted that Ryan will be looking inside and outside of the organization for the right manager and that he professes to want a person like Gardy.

Gardenhire leaves the Twins after four poor seasons. He led the Twins to six division titles, and led his team to the ALCS in his first season in 2002 versus the Oakland Athletics. His final managerial record, however, was 1,068-1,039 and he had a 6-21 post-season record. Throughout his 13-year reign, Gardy has been ejected 73 times by umpires. Gardenhire will be missed for his sense of humor and his kind personality (though not always apparent to umps!). I know it was hard for Ryan to fire his friend and a person who was in the organization for 27 seasons as a player and coach, but I believe it is the right decision.

As the search for next manager continues, Ryan will be helped by the owners. He said that he will not be alone on this and that it could be a couple of weeks before a new leader is hired. There has been a few candidates already mentioned, so let’s do this. In the comment section, write down who you think will be the next Twins leader out of these five choices: 1. Ozzie Guillen (yes, that Ozzie) 2. Paul Molitor 3. Doug Mientkiewicz 4. Torey Lovullo 5. Joe McEwing. We’ll see who gets it right!

One more note: Gardenhire is looking forward to becoming a grandpa at the end of this month. So long, Gardy. It has been a pleasure!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 26, 2014

Mother Nature Says: “No Bonus For You!”

Weather can ruin a lot of things, but this one is a first. On Wednesday, Phil Hughes was starting for the last time this year and needed to pitch 8.1 innings to collect a bonus. Hughes was pitching great the whole game through the 8th until it started to rain. They played an inning in the rain, but the umpires decided to delay the game as soon as the Diamondbacks were done batting in the top of the 8th. Then things got interesting!

Hughes needed just one more out to reach 210 innings on the season, which would have given him a smooth $500,000. The sky was getting angry at that time and it poured and poured until there was standing water on the field. After a 66-minute delay, the field was still soaked as the Twins came to bat. It was not likely that Hughes was coming out to complete the game, but he was just one out away! Mother Nature was giving the Twins mysterious signals. In the end, the Twins sent out Jared Burton to save the game. Prior to the rain delay, Gardenhire had said that Hughes was going to go out to complete the game. It was not meant to be.

Hughes, clearly one of the Twins best pitchers this season, was asked by the Twins if he wanted to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend in Detroit to get his one out. Hughes graciously turned down that offer, effectively ending his season. Some people want the Twins to give Hughes that bonus, however Hughes didn’t think it was appropriate to take away innings from pitchers who are making way less money than him and his contract said 210 innings NOT 209.2 innings.

In his first year on the Twins, Hughes reestablished his all-star stuff while breaking a Major League record. Making 32 starts, Hughes was a machine, going 16-10 with an 3.52 ERA. Hughes had 186 strike outs with only 16 walks. Hughes was so dominant that he broke an all-time record with a 11.63 strikeout-to-ball ratio. Since 1901, Hughes is the only player to pitch more than 200 innings while allowing 16 or fewer walks in one season. Hughes’ season was just splendid. We will be lucky to have him as our ace for at least two more years.

And I predict that if it were up to Mother Nature, she would want the Twins to spend Hughes’ would-be bonus on adding a prime pitcher!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 21, 2014

Firing Gardy is Not the Answer

Many people would like to see Twins manager Ron Gardenhire get fired after this miserable Twins season, but I am not one of them. Here are a few reasons why owners shouldn’t let him go:

  • He is being blamed for too many problems. The Twins’ failure the past 4 seasons is due to several of the players, especially the pitchers, and their bad performances. Little (if any) of this is Gardenhire’s fault! Ultimately, it is up to the people who play the game to perform well, not the manager. Also, the Twins pitchers have the highest earned run average in the American League at 4.62. The pitchers are a large part of why the team’s not winning, not Gardenhire.
  • Are there better options? I don’t know all possible managers, but I’m not sure there are many (if any) better options to manage the Twins right now than Gardenhire. He has 14 years of managerial experience, and the Twins have won the division 6 of those years. Younger managers, such as former Twin Doug Mientkewicz, who is currently managing in the minor leagues, have little or no experience managing in the majors. Who is better than a manager with a lot of winning experience?
  • Rick Anderson needs to be fired, and the owners need to spend more money on quality players. Because Anderson is the pitching coach and pitching is the team’s main problem, he needs to be replaced before Gardenhire. Also before we blame Gardenhire, we have to acknowledge that team owners have largely been unwilling to sign high-quality players. My ideas? Free agent pitcher James Shields and outfielder Torii Hunter, who was a fan favorite until he left the Twins in 2007. Hunter is another upcoming free agent and has said he would like to end his career in Minnesota. Signing Phil Hughes and Kurt Suzuki last winter was good, but the team needs to sign more high-quality players before replacing Gardenhire. If the Twins are going to compete with teams such as the Tigers, who are not afraid to spend money on quality players, team owners need to spend more.

It’s easy to blame managers for their team’s poor performances. But the solution is more complex. Although I think Gardenhire likely will be fired following this season because of pressure from fans, I hope the Pohlads stick with him and would not be totally surprised if they do so.

What do you think about Gardenhire? Should he get fired after this season?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | September 20, 2014

Gardy’s Job Is Safe But Should It Be?

Being a manager in the Twins organization is pretty sweet. In the last 28 years, there have been exactly two managers who have led the Twins. The Twins gave the job in 1986 to Tom Kelly. When Kelly resigned in 2001, he had recorded eight straight losing seasons prior to his resignation —  the Twins didn’t have the nerve to fire him. Ron Gardenhire took over, and in the 12 seasons since he has been the leader, the Twins have won their division six times, making the ALCS only once in 2003. At the end of last season, the Twins front office surprised everyone by giving the longtime manager a two-year extension. Unless some unforeseen event occurs, Gardy’s job is safe for at least one more year; it shouldn’t be!

As you all know, the Twins do not like to shake things up. The Twins shocked everyone by firing or reassigning six coaches at the end of the 2012 season, but Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson survived. However, with young men knocking at the door and another 90-loss season, it is time to release Gardenhire and Anderson. Nothing has improved since the firings and things will remain the same until a drastic change happens. The Twins were hoping to improve without having to fire the beloved manager, but the Twins will have lost over 185 games in the past 2 years.

Over the past couple seasons, the Twins attendance has been dwindling. Some nights Target Field has looked so empty that there were more flies swarming by the lights than people in the stands. I remember in 2010 when Target Field was packed and fans were excited for the team. Nowadays, more people are staying away from Target Field even on sunny nights. Since 2011, the average attendance and season ticket holders have been dropping. According to twinstrivia.com, the average attendance at Target Field has dropped 9,000 fans per game and season ticket holders are down 8,000 since 2011. The Pohlads should look at these numbers at the end of this season. I argue that if Twins’ ownership makes the right decision at season’s end, the fans will come back and the team can be competitive again.

There is yet another benefit to make the change for a new coach. More than ever, the Twins have been bringing up their young prospects. Since Shortstop Danny Santana was called up in May for an injured player, he has kept his spot in the line-up. In 93 games this year, Santana has an .322 batting average with 23 doubles, 7 triples, and 7 home runs. Santana provides speed and production on top of the line-up. Meanwhile, on August 1, the Twins brought up first baseman Kennys Vargas. Vargas has been one of the best hitters in the majors since his call-up, batting .295 with 37 RBIs and 9 home runs in just 45 games. Although Vargas strikes out often (54), he is enjoyable to watch because when he connects, the ball goes far. A new manager could really connect with these guys and the players who will be joining the line-up within two years. Also, I believe young players could relate better to a younger manager and perhaps perform even better, too.

It’s time to act. As hard as it may be, it is time to release Gardenhire and Anderson. And how about making Doug Mientkiewicz the next manager of the Minnesota Twins?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | September 14, 2014

First Pitch!!

We did it!! Thanks to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and its CurePity Heroes campaign, “Two Men On” got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Twins-Angels game at Target Field on September 4! It was an amazing experience!

“Two Men On” and their families entered the stadium about 40 minutes before the game started. After walking around the warning track to near home plate, we waited about 20 minutes to throw out the first pitch. Now I know why pitchers can get pretty nervous right before they pitch a game!! Although we only met one current Twins player (Doug Bernier, an infielder and a September call-up, who was nice enough to catch our pitch), we did see former Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, who is now an announcer for the team!

One again, special thanks to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and its CurePity Heroes campaign for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible! Also, thanks to Bernier for agreeing to catch our pitch, and to the Twins staff, who also worked to make this possible. It was truly an honor!

Be sure to check out the video of “Two Men On” throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the “Two Men On” Facebook page and photos of the event in the “Photo Gallery!” Also check out an article recently written about “Two Men On.”

Written by: Sam Graves

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