Posted by: gravessack | August 27, 2016

Twin Cities Sports Access

Two Men On recently interviewed reps from stadiums throughout the Twin Cities to get an idea of accessibility in each stadium and why the stadiums chose to include certain accessibility features.

As you may know from reading this blog, Target Field is very accessible. An interesting fact about Target Field, according to Senior Vice President of Operations Matt Hoy, is that the stadium has more than 750 wheelchair seating locations since the ballpark was designed to meet the previous ADA guidelines. Although the new guidelines do not require as many wheelchair seats, Target Field has chosen to not reduce the number of wheelchair spaces. Hoy said that the goal for Target Field, which has been nominated for local and national accessibility awards, was to “have the most accessible facility possible.” Click for more on accessibility at Target Field.

CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, also exceeds the number of wheelchair seating locations set forth by the ADA. Saints Executive Vice President Tom Whaley said the ballpark has about 110 wheelchair spaces and 180 semi-ambulatory seats “for fans that may not require a wheelchair, but for whom regular seats are not the most accessible.” CHS Field is in the process of installing cup holders in all accessible seats. Whaley said CHS Field is a significant upgrade over Midway Stadium, the Saints’ previous ballpark, where there amazingly were no elevators! Click for more on accessibility at CHS Field.

TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Gophers football team, has about 850 ADA seats. Assistant Director of Sales & Service Zach Duket said that fans can request electrical outlets for wheelchairs on game days. Duket said he would like TCF Bank Stadium to add railings behind the ADA seats on the concourse so that other fans can’t get too close to the ADA seats. This would be similar to Target and CHS Fields. Click for more on accessible seating at TCF Bank Stadium.

U.S. Bank Stadium, new home of the Minnesota Vikings, has about 700 ADA seats and electrical outlets in ADA areas to recharge scooters and wheelchairs. Read the July 25 Two Men On post for more on accessibility at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Have an opinion on accessibility at Minnesota sports stadiums? Please share!

Written by: Sam Graves

Interviews by: Sam Graves and Michael Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 13, 2016

New GM Must Make Bold Moves Right Off The Bat

The Twins suggested this week that their search for a new General Manager may leak into the offseason. Whenever the new GM is hired, given that the Twins are 394-532 since the beginning of 2011, he will be placed right in the middle of a disastrous era for the Twins. Undoubtedly, the new hiree should not be afraid to be bold, and sometimes cruel. It is the only way that the Twins will get back into contention! Here are three dramatic suggestions as to where he could start.

The incoming GM must let hitting coach Tom Brunansky and pitching coach Neil Allen go. Brunansky joined the Twins for the 2013 season, leading the team to just a .242 batting average that year. It was a little better in 2014, however it actually dropped seven points to .247 in 2015. Surprisingly, the batting average is back up to .257 so far this year, but the team has struck out 990 times with 365 walks. Brunansky was supposed to get the offense rolling and the fire power is still not where it needs to be.

Allen, joining Paul Molitor’s staff in 2015, has been credited in turning around Tampa Bay before moving north. Allen somewhat turned the Twins pitching staff around that year, as pitchers had a 4.07 ERA with 1,046 strikeouts. The staff this year has a 4.94 ERA, but disturbingly has given up 1,157 hits while recording 160 strikeouts. Of course in May, Allen was suspended for just over 45 days because of a DWI arrest before resuming his duties. He said that his five-week treatment at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation “saved his life.” Although Allen had a rough year and Brunansky has been trying, I feel that it is time to give new voices to the batters and pitchers. If you are wondering, I want to see Molitor return for at least one more year.

The most radical idea for the newbie that I have is that they should restructure Joe Mauer’s contract. When the new GM is hired, the 33-year-old will have 2 years, $28 million left on his contract. In recent years, Mauer’s stats have dipped since his August 2013 concussion. Since 2014, Mauer has never batted higher than .280 after having been above .305 for the most part of his career. His power performance has dipped as he has just 23 home runs and has struck out 282 times during that three-year time span. During spring training this season, Mauer said that his blurred vision is due to his concussions, but did not use that as an excuse about his performance.

Tweaking Mauer’s contract would free up money to sign actual top-tier pitchers. I would not mind at all if Mauer changes positions since Kennys Vargas and Byung Ho Park could handle first base. Mauer has not played up to his contract, and it would only make sense to find more money by offering Mauer less. Maybe like a three-year, $18 million contract remodel starting in 2017, perhaps?

If the new GM goes bold, it will show the fan base that he is serious about changing the Twins organization. It should be mentioned that the Twins have hired a search firm, Korn Ferry, to help out with the search and that Rob Antony in still in the running to be the permanent replacement. What do you want the new GM to tackle first?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | August 1, 2016

Twins Make Deadline Deals

In early July, then-General Manager Terry Ryan told the media that the Twins would be busy at the trade deadline. Coincidentally or not, he was fired two weeks after that statement and was replaced by interim GM Rob Antony. When Antony was handed the job, the Pohlad family gave him free rein to do whatever he felt necessary to improve the Twins before the non-waiver deadline, which was August 1 at 3pm. Here is a rundown of the Twins deadline deals.

  • On July 28, the Twins traded away their lone All-Star representative, shortstop Eduardo Nunez, to San Francisco for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia. During Nunez’s three-year tenure with the Twins, he batted .280 with 91 RBI and 118 stolen bases. Nunez became a trade piece after a good first half of this season, but he faltered after the All-Star break. Hard-throwing Mejia has never landed in the Major Leagues, but he is on the verge of joining the Twins. He has spent 6 seasons in the Minor Leagues, posting a 3.27 ERA with 462 strikeouts. Antony expects Mejia to report to Triple-A before debuting in the Majors in a couple of weeks.
  • On deadline day, the Twins sent Boston reliever Fernando Abad in exchange for flame-throwing relief pitcher Pat Light. Abad’s time in Minnesota was short but effective at times. During his 39 relief appearances this year, Abad held a 2.65 ERA with 29 strikeouts, finishing 8 games. Light has very minimal big league experience, pitching just 2.2 innings this season. The 25-year-old has spent the last five seasons in the Red Sox Minor League system. Light, who can throw a fastball 94-97 miles per hour, has a 4.40 ERA, 240 strikeouts, and a .419 winning percentage at Single-A and Triple-A. He will start his Twins career at Triple-A Rochester.
  • In a late stunning deal that was announced just 10 minutes before the clock struck three, the Twins received starter Hector Santiago and Minor League pitcher Alan Busenitz from the Angels. In order to get the pitchers, the Twins sent struggling starter Ricky Nolasco and pitcher Alex Meyer to Anaheim. Starting in 2014, Nolasco was supposed to be the ace of the pitching staff, but as soon as he started, he kept struggling and getting hurt just after showing promising results. Meyer got his feet wet in the Majors, but really did not have any spark that he was supposed to have. During Santiago’s 6-year career, he has a 3.68 ERA with 595 strikeouts, giving up 294 walks. This season has been great for him, as he is 10-4 with a 4.25 ERA. Santiago also has partaken in one All-Star game in 2015. Busenitz has never landed in the Big Leagues, spending 4 years in Anaheim’s Minor League system. He held a 3.55 ERA and struck out 216 during that span.

Let us hope this is just the start of the rebuilding process, as teams can still trade in August after players go through waivers. I’m sure that Antony is thinking about what the next General Manager would want – if it isn’t Antony himself.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 25, 2016

A Quick Preview Of Accessible Seating At U.S. Bank Stadium

On the dark, dreary morning of July 23, stadium officials welcomed fans to U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time. I have heard that sun shines bright into the stadium due to the ETFE roof, but the weather gods wanted me to wait to see the sun-lit field. Like many other people, I was amazed by the stadium’s design. I was busy looking at all the glass and bummed out about all the rain as I wanted to see Downtown Minneapolis through it. However, I saw some glimpses of the ADA seating.

There are plenty of accessible sections throughout the stadium, totaling 690 spots. That number excludes the 140 spaces in the suites, loge and club spaces, according to usbankstadium.com. ADA sections at U.S. Bank Stadium are very unique as each section is surrounded by glass. I have never seen that type of handicap seating in a stadium before! “We chose that {material} so people could see to the field no matter what height they were,” MSFA Communications Director Jennifer Hathaway explained.

I was a little surprised when I noticed that there were not any cup holders in the handicap sections. I have been to stadiums where it goes both ways. For example, Target Field has cup holders in those sections, while CHS Field does not. Hathaway told me that there are not cup holders in those sections at U.S. Bank Stadium “because they were not requested from our ADA committee.” She then added: “Of course if we determine that cup holders are needed at the ADA platforms, we will address the issue!”

As you can tell with that being the only thing that I found strange, I would say U.S. Bank Stadium was pretty darn sweet! As was the case after Target Field opened, I am confident they can improve the ADA seating even more at the gorgeous glass house if and when they need to. Without further ado, take your first look at an accessible section at Minnesota’s newest multipurpose complex.

Here is just one of the accessible sections at U.S. Bank Stadium. This section is on the 300 level.

Here is just one of the accessible section at U.S. Bank Stadium. This section is on the 300 level. Photo taken by Michael Sack

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 20, 2016

Thoughts on Terry Ryan and the Twins’ Future

As many of you know, the Twins fired general manager Terry Ryan on July 18. The move was hardly surprising given the fact that the Twins have a 34-59 record, worst in the American League. Ryan was fired following 2 stints as Twins general manager over 22 years. Prior to this season, I was completely in favor of the Twins keeping Ryan as GM. With this dreadful season, I was much less certain of Ryan’s future.

Ryan’s first stint as Twins GM (1994-2007) was largely a success. In 1996, Ryan made his first major move, trading Dave Hollins to the Seattle Mariners for David Ortiz (though Ryan and the Twins later failed to re-sign Ortiz, which turned out to be a big mistake). In 1998, Ryan sent Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees for four players. Two of those players were Christian Guzman and Eric Milton, both future All-Stars. In 1999, Ryan traded for future two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. Perhaps most important, these moves (and more) helped spark the Twins’ turnaround in the early 2000s and kept the Twins in Minnesota amid contraction talk. Without the help of Terry Ryan, the Twins may not exist today.

Ryan’s second stint as Twins GM (2011-2016) was far less successful. After replacing former GM Bill Smith (a tough job!), Ryan drafted star prospect Byron Buxton. However, the real trouble began when Ryan traded Aaron Hicks (for John Ryan Murphy, who has done nothing since the trade).Ryan then decided to put 260-pound Miguel Sano in right field, a position Sano had never played before and was terrible at. Also, I think Ryan was too old-school and unable or unwilling to adapt to the modern age of sabermetrics.

Going forward, the Twins need to hire a GM with no ties to the organization. The Twins’ history of promoting within the organization is fine once in a while, but sometimes a completely new voice is needed (especially after this season!). Read an article supporting this idea, as well as the consequences of the decision to keep manager Paul Molitor after 2016.

Ryan’s firing is just part of the solution for the Twins. How about getting rid of Joe Mauer’s contract and using the money to get at least one star pitcher? Please vote on the poll below asking whether you believe the Twins need to do more to contend than firing Terry Ryan. As always, feel free to comment!

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | July 18, 2016

BREAKING: Terry Ryan Has Been Fired

On July 18, the Twins announced that they have relieved General Manager Terry Ryan from his duties. The Twins owners informed Ryan last month that he would not be back in 2017, and he just decided to be let go now.

Fans have been clamoring for Ryan’s firing after the Twins lost 90-plus games from 2011-2014. After the 2014 season, the Twins fired Ron Gardenhire from their Managerial position. After Paul Molitor took over last year, the club won 83 games and went into the final weekend still in play-off contention. However, things have taken a turn for the worse this season, as the Twins currently have a 33-58 record going into tonight’s game versus Detroit.

Ryan’s tenure with the Twins has been sketchy. He took over as GM in 1994 and it took him seven years to get the Twins in the post-season. In 2008, Ryan traded superstar pitcher Johan Santana to the New York Mets for four players; that trade didn’t turn out. Trying to shore up his pitching staff in recent years, Ryan brought in Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Ervin Santana with no results. After Hughes produced a 16-win 2014 season, Ryan offered him a two-year extension. Soon after Hughes accepted that offer, he faltered and eventually had several injuries, including one that required shoulder surgery ending his 2016 campaign. Ryan’s latest failure was when he signed Korean slugger Byung Ho Park in December. Park had a fantastic start this year, hitting 12 home runs in 61 games. However, he really failed during the last weeks with the Twins, before being sent down to Triple-A on July 1.

Ryan’s several blunders with how he handled the Twins organization eventually cost him his job, although he managed to keep chugging along way longer than anybody had expected. In the meantime, Assistant GM Rob Antony will take over the position on the interim basis.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | July 2, 2016

Soccer at Target Field…What??

Although Target Field is a baseball stadium, there are plenty of non-baseball events there. On June 25th, Target Field hosted its first soccer match, played between Minnesota United FC and Club León. Although Minnesota lost 4-2 it was a lot of fun to see soccer being played at Target Field.

As you can imagine, the field looked much different than usual (see photos below). Workers put sod over the base paths, so that the field covered part of the infield and the entire outfield. All the fans sat in the first deck of the stadium. I sat in the first row along the first-base line, right behind one of the goals! There was a group of Club León fans sitting behind me which was entertaining, as they were very lively!

I am not sure if Target Field is planning to host another soccer match, but I was impressed by the overall experience. All the fans appeared to be close to the action. I was also impressed by how Target Field could be transformed into a soccer field in just a little more than 24 hours. Click here for a news story on the transformation. Also, be sure to check out the photos below. With the Twins playing so poorly this season, it might be the Target Field highlight of the year!

IMG_3452

MN United FC vs. Club León, June 25, 2016

MN United FC vs. Club León, June 25, 2016

MN United FC vs. Club León, June 25, 2016

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | June 25, 2016

The Wheeling And Dealing Begins

On your mark, get set, GO! After a really rough 23-50 start, oft-criticized Twins General Manager Terry Ryan is doing something rare for him, deciding to start making trades several weeks prior to the August 1 trade deadline. Ryan, in part because his job is undoubtedly on the line, is feeling immense pressure this year from the fans and upper management to improve this ball club. This first trade could be a sign of what is to come in the next five weeks.

On June 24, the Twins decided to part ways with outfielder/DH Oswaldo Arcia by sending him to the Tampa Bay Rays. In exchange, the Twins are receiving the dreaded player-to-be-named-later (PTBNL) or cash. Arcia’s four-year stint with the Twins was a rocky one. In his tenure in Minnesota, he was shuffled back and forth between the Twins and Triple-A. Arcia could not find his groove at the Major League level. In 251 games, Arcia batted .240 with 40 home runs and 120 RBIs. The 25-year-old, however, struck out a total of 305 times during that span. In the end, despite Arcia’s potential, he got lost in the mix as prospects were starting to come up and his numbers were going down.

The Twins have a habit of agreeing to take a PTBNL and then sending him to the Minors for a while, or just to trade the player in a different deal. That type of deal must change so the Twins can bring in proven players to improve the play and get better. If Ryan keeps his strategy going and gets a below average player in return for Arcia, the Twins’ attempted turnaround will continue to be slow and even put more doubt on the decision makers in the executive offices.

It has been reported that what the Twins receive from Tampa Bay may depend on how well Arcia plays down there. It will be interesting to see who the Twins get in return. Let us hope it is someone who can help the team in the immediate future. Is it too much to ask for a starting pitcher or even a closer in return?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | June 8, 2016

Coming Next Week: USPSA Conference Cup Series

The championship season for Power Soccer is upon us. The United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA) has four divisions that all conclude the year with national tournaments this month. Power Soccer teams have to play at least 12 games during a season, which started in September, to qualify for the Cups. This will be the first year that the top 3 conferences will have their respective Cups at the same location within a five-day period.

The USPSA MK Battery Conference Cup Series will be held at the Turnstone’s new Plassman Athletic Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on June 17-21. The Championship Series will consist of 22 teams with three separate tournaments: Premier (10 teams), Champions (6), and Presidents (6) Cup. Each tournament will last three days, with the Premier Cup getting things started Friday, June 17.

Three Minnesota teams will be competing — 2 in the Premier Cup and one in the Champions Cup. Representing Minnesota in the Premier Cup will be the Minnesota Magic and the Minnesota Shockwave. The team that I play for, the Minnesota Northern Lights, are getting prepared for the Champions Cup.

Power Soccer is a sport for athletes with physical disabilities. Teams have 4 players in motorized wheelchairs on the court at one time – normally 3 forwards with a goalie. Games have 20-minute halves. Each player tries to control, pass and shoot an oversized soccer ball to score between goal posts.

For 42 hours of solid action, tune in here. You can find the schedule here.

***The Founders Cup, the lowest level of Power Soccer, was held in Wooster, Ohio, on June 3-4. The Madison Marauders beat River City, from the St. Louis area, by a score of 6-2 to win. NEP out of New Hampshire took third place, winning 5-3 against ASPO from Ohio.***

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

Posted by: gravessack | June 1, 2016

Exclusive Interview with Actor Micah Fowler

Two Men On recently had the privilege of interviewing Micah Fowler (pictured)Fowler, Micah, star of the upcoming comedy TV series “Speechless” (see May 18 post). Two Men On sincerely thanks Mr. Fowler for his willingness to be interviewed. We would also like to thank Rachel Altman, Ellen Gilbert and other Paradigm Talent Agency staff for making this exclusive interview possible. The interview transcript is below.

Two Men On (TMO): How/why did you decide to audition for “Speechless?”

Micah Fowler (MF): My agent called with the audition. After reading JJ’s scenes, I loved the humor and so related to the character. I really wanted to audition to have the chance to bring some of my own personality and humor to the role. I was excited because the scenes seemed like they were taken from moments of my life!

TMO: Where did the idea for “Speechless” originate? Do the writers have disabilities? Did you have input on ideas for the show?

MF: Our writer, Scott Silveri, grew up with a brother who has Cerebral Palsy and he wanted to show the humor in all the relatable situations his family faced. I live this everyday, so if something doesn’t feel genuine or real, then I feel comfortable speaking up. I am so grateful that our creative team is so responsive to input the cast has.

TMO: Since you have a disability, what barriers (if any) have you faced in the acting profession?

MF: There is a lack of opportunities for disabled actors due to the misconception that actors with disabilities can only play characters with disabilities. Even a majority of characters with disabilities are cast with able-bodied actors. Therefore, I do not get the chance to audition as much.

TMO: Did the writers of “Speechless” specifically want an actor/actress with a disability to play J.J.?

MF: Scott Silveri, our writer, envisioned an actor with a disability portraying JJ from the beginning. It was really important to him. The Network and creative team seemed totally committed to that idea as well.

TMO: Have you acted in other TV shows? If so, which one(s)?

MF: When I was younger, I did some work on Blues Clues and Sesame Street.

TMO: If you have acted in other movies, which role(s) have you had?

MF: I played Barry in the feature film Labor Day, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin a few years ago.

TMO: What have you enjoyed most about being part of “Speechless?”

MF: I’ve really enjoyed how close the cast family became during the shooting of the pilot. We have such a blast filming and there are so many laughs and funny moments that aren’t even scripted.  I also love that I get to be an inspiration to others both with and without disabilities. Oh and I am just so happy and grateful that I can be a part of making Scott’s dream come to life.

Thank you Mr. Fowler and Paradigm Talent Agency for making this wonderful interview possible!

Written and interviewed by: Sam Graves

 

 

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