Posted by: gravessack | April 20, 2016

Target Center Accessibility

I am a big fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves (even though they are not a great team). I attend many Timberwolves games each season. Although I like going to Wolves games there are some drawbacks.

The biggest drawback of going to Timberwolves game at Target Center is the accessibility. The accessibility in Target Center is decent. However, there are many accessibility flaws. The main issue in my opinion, since I have a visual impairment, is if I want to sit in the accessible seating I have a hard time seeing what is going on in the game because the seats are up so high and I have to look down.  Also, when I look down the big scoreboard is distracting.  Another issue is makes it hard to go is that it is so dark in the hallways and on the second level of the arena.

Another big issue of the accessibility of Target Center is that it only has two public elevators. I find this irritating because it takes a long time to get downstairs after a game.  It also takes forever to get down because the elevators are small.

This year Target Center got the green light for renovations. There are a few things that need to be improved in the renovation. The first thing is that they need to add more elevators so more fans who need them can get up and down faster. Target Center should have accessible seating somewhat closer to the court so fans who sit there do not have to strain their necks. Target Center also needs improved lighting throughout the arena.  I believe the renovations will make Target Center more accessible and improve the fan experience

P.S. This post is part of a social media campaign launched by my friend Sam Graves and me to increase awareness of accessibility issues at local sports arenas. We hope to get at least 50 votes on the poll below! Also, feel free to share your experience regarding accessibility at Target Center!

Written by Peter Froehlich (Guest Blogger)

Posted by: gravessack | April 18, 2016

Xcel Energy Center: ADA-Friendly?

On April 5, I went to the Minnesota Wild game at Xcel Energy Center. Although the arena is fairly accessible (for example, I had an unobstructed view of the game since I was able to pull my wheelchair up right behind the seat railing), I noticed a couple major accessibility flaws.

First, since the elevators to the skyway can be crowded before game, I decided to go up the ramp leading from the parking ramp to the skyway level. Once I arrived at that level, I saw that there were four or five steps! What’s the point of having a ramp that goes to a place that there are stairs! Ramps are ADA-friendly; stairs are not.

A second major access issue at the arena is that it is not made clear (to me at least) that there is an elevator inside the arena that goes to the skyway. I found this out when I thought I needed to go all the way around the arena to get to the skyway after the game. A Xcel Energy Center employee said that was the case. Right then, I saw an elevator that went to the skyway! When you have an elevator, you need to tell people in wheelchairs!

Although Xcel Energy Center offers numerous ADA services, including accessible seating on all levels as well as accessible concession stands, the arena has some major accessibility flaws, especially for people who use wheelchairs. While I had a fun time at Xcel Energy Center, this experience is an example of people not understanding what being truly accessible means.

P.S. This post is part of “All Access MN,” a social media campaign launched by my friend Peter Froehlich and me to increase awareness of accessibility issues at local sports arenas. We hope to get at least 50 votes on the poll below! Also, feel free to share your experience regarding accessibility at Xcel Energy Center! Watch for an upcoming “All Access MN” post on accessibility at Target Center!!

Written by Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 31, 2016

A Follow-Up: Sano’s Struggling So Here’s An Idea

Twins’ second-year player Miguel Sano is slated to open the season in Baltimore on Monday, April 4, as the right fielder. The Twins have stuck to their word since December when they announced that Sano would make a transition. During spring training, the Twins brought in a bunch of outfielders to look at and presumably came up with the top four—Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia and Sano.

I think some players deserved more consideration. For one, Carlos Quentin had a decent spring, batting .250 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in 36 at-bats before he was cut. It is hard to compare since he was let go, but Quentin was actually outperforming Arcia at the time he was sent packing. Arcia, who had to make the team since he is out of options, has 54 at-bats while averaging just .204 with 6 RBIs. It seems silly that the Twins gave the struggling player a roster spot while not offering the more deserving player, Quentin, the fourth outfielder spot. The Twins just did not want to give up Arcia for some reason and that could prove costly!

Second, and more startling, Quentin’s performance could have landed him with the spot Sano won. This spring, Sano has struggled, making some glaring mistakes, such as overrunning the ball, taking bad routes to the ball and not running fast enough. His stats in the field perhaps do not tell the full story. Sano has started 17 games in right field the last month, racking up 1 error. Sano is weighing in at 270 pounds after trying to lose weight off-season. At his current weight, he likely will have a slow reaction time and probably won’t be leaping over walls or diving, like his mentor Torii Hunter once did. The encouraging part, though, is that Sano really wants to learn the outfield ropes and demonstrate his ability no matter his size.

By the way, former Twins star David Ortiz does not think Sano should play the outfield, as he recently said in an Star Tribune article: “The outfield is not for big guys. When a big guy dives for a ball, the whole stadium shakes. Every time a big guy is running and then dives in the outfield, he’s going to feel that for a long time.” Personally, like Ortiz, I wanted the Twins to try Trevor Plouffe in the outfield, however the team never let him test it out in March.

The Twins should not wait to long to make a change if Sano falters. The club has players waiting in the minors. With the addition of Byung Ho Park, the Twins could afford to move Joe Mauer, who is batting .282 with 8 RBIs this spring training, to right field. Sano could move to first base and share the duty with Park, who is tearing the ball apart in his first month with the Twins. The Twins always could bring up Kennys Vargas if need be. Another option: put Plouffe in the outfield and Sano back at third. After getting a sample of Sano in the outfield, this scenario would make me more comfortable with the outfield line-up.

The Twins, who are on a seven-game winning streak, are about to start this experiment for real. We may see bloopers, we may see great catches, but most of all, let us hope and pray that the Twins have a contingency plan!

Written by: Michael L. Ssck

Posted by: gravessack | February 20, 2016

Nolasco Cannot Start!

Throughout this offseason, and especially in the last few weeks, there has been debate as to whether Ricky Nolasco should be a member of the Twins’ starting rotation on Opening Day. He should not and here is why:

  • Ever since signing a 4-year, $49 million contract with Minnesota in November 2013, Nolasco has been a huge bust. In 2014, he went 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA. Last season, he was 5-2, but had an extremely high 6.75 ERA (he was injured for most of the season)! The Twins should put him in the bullpen in 2016, as he could be effective for an inning or two, but he should not start! Answer the poll below asking whether Nolasco should start in 2016!
  • The Twins should instead insert Tyler Duffey into the starting rotation. In the second half of last season, Duffey basically came out of nowhere and went 5-1 with an impressive 3.10 ERA. After pitching terribly in his major league debut, Duffey didn’t lose a game. Click for more on why Duffey is ready to be a full-time starter in the majors. Do you think Duffey should start in 2016?

On Opening Day, I think the starting rotation should look like this: 1. Ervin Santana, 2. Phil Hughes, 3. Kyle Gibson, 4. Duffey, 5. Tommy Milone. The Twins could replace Milone with Jose Berrios later in the season, but Berrios should start the season in the minors. Please comment on who you think should be in the starting rotation on Opening Day and make sure to participate in the poll!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 17, 2016

A Pretty Bland Starters Race

This is the week where true baseball fans get giddy as players start to appear at their respective team’s spring training site. Where the sun shines longer, grass gets greener (well, not in the north), and the bats start smacking baseballs, the national pastime is back in full force.

The first full-squad workout for the rejuvenated Twins is February 27 in Fort Myers, Florida. We all know that there is competition for two outfield spots, but for a healthy pitching core, there’s not much to the starting pitching race. Yes, I know improvements must be made to the rotation who guided the club to a 83-79 second place finish in the AL Central last season. However, the top four slots should be a piece of cake to figure out, with only the fifth starter having to be determined in approximately 32 games this spring. Here are my top four starters and a couple of others competing for a coveted starting role.

In the number 1 slot should be veteran Ervin Santana. Santana, who will be in his second year in the Twins organization, was good after he came back from his 80-game ban last year. In 17 starts, Santana went 7-5 and had 82 strikeouts with a 4.00 ERA. Before joining the Twins, Santana was a one-time All-Star, pitching for three teams, including 8 seasons with the Angels. It seemed like Santana struggled a bit initially last season due to his absence, but expect him to rebound this year and have a splendid time in 2016.

Third-year Twin Phil Hughes is perhaps slated to be the number 2 pitcher. After Hughes registered a remarkable 16-win 2014 season, he had a mediocre 2015. Hughes was hampered by injuries last year, limiting him to 25 starts. The Twins gave him an extension after his first season, but Hughes went 11-9 and recorded just 94 strikeouts in those starts in addition to two bullpen appearances. The one-time all-star will look to rebound and get back to his 2015 form.

Kyle Gibson deserves to be slotted in as the third starter. Coming into his fourth season with the big league team, Gibson has continued to form into a great pitcher. Although never going to an All-Star game, Gibson should be attending the Midsummer Classic in due time. Gibson recorded the most strikeouts of his career last year with 145 that led to a 3.84 ERA. If the 25-year-old has a good spring, look for him to do some damage this year.

Yes, oft-injured Ricky Nolasco has to be the fourth starter. Although this turned out to be one of GM Terry Ryan’s bad deals, Nolasco should receive one last chance to show us what he can do when he is good. Engulfed by elbow and ankle injuries, Nolasco made just 9 appearances in a very unsettling year for him. In 2015, the California native’s record of 5-2 did not tell the whole story. Nolasco had an ERA of 6.75 and had 35 strikeouts with 14 walks. The 33-year-old’s career statistics are underwhelming for the large contract the Twins gave him in 2013 and he has voiced his displeasure about being in Minnesota. Nolasco must have a short leash in 2016, and should be replaced if he falters.

The 5th spot in the rotation is really up for grabs heading into spring training. The most likely pitcher to secure the spot is Tommy Milone, who went 9-5 with an ERA of 3.92 last year. Tyler Duffey, who had a decent half season in 2015, made a case to be in the role. Alex Meyer, who didn’t do so hot in his first go-around in MLB, will be in the mix. Jose Berrios has an outside chance of debuting in April, perhaps as the last starter. Berrios had an amazing year last year in the Minors, resulting in a 14-5 record with an ERA of 2.87 and 175 strike outs. Clearly, there are decisions to be made about who will start fifth for the Twins.

Who would you put in the starting rotation?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 4, 2016

Twins Make Mysterious Signing

Well, well, well, look what we have here: another outfielder in the mix. Earlier this week, the Twins said that Miguel Sano had only lost five pounds during his quest to lose weight this winter. It seemed liked the Twins had things pretty settled in the outfield with several players competing for the remaining two slots. Either the Twins are having second thoughts and are veering away from making Sano transition to the outfield or they just want even more competition between the fielders. This signing confirms that the Twins outfield is still very much in flex mode.

On February 2, the Twins signed two-time All-Star Carlos Quentin to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Quentin, who is 33, is a nine-year veteran in the Majors. After being traded from Arizona after the 2007 season, Quentin had his four best years with the White Sox. With Chicago, he had an average of .257, 107 home runs, 320 RBIs, and a .505 slugging percentage. Leaving the South Side for San Diego after being traded once more on the last day of 2011, Quentin’s career went downhill. While with the Padres from 2012-2014, Quentin had a .251 batting average with 33 dingers and 108 RBIs.

After the 2014 season, Quentin just played in five Minor League games for Seattle before he announced his retirement in May. It seems that Quentin’s value went down due to his injuries and performance. He missed half a season in both 2012 and 2013 while recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee that required surgery. While he initially retired because he felt that his injuries prevented him from performing at 100%, at some point this off-season, he declared himself healthy and wanted to give it another shot. If Quentin makes the Twins big league club out of Spring Training, he will earn $750,000 this season.

Even though this seems to be an out-of-the-blue signing, Quentin could really help the Twins’ youngsters, plus the club is still looking for a fourth outfielder to replace the departed Jordan Schafer. We will know soon enough what the Twins are planning. And here’s to Quentin regaining his all-star stroke to help the Twins in 2016!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 30, 2016

An ‘Ol Twins Conundrum

Deep breath, baseball fans – we are just three weeks away from Spring Training! After recording their first winning season since 2010 last year, Twins Manager Paul Molitor and his group will look to improve on that progress and make the play-offs this year finally! This Spring Training will be intense as some things are still very much up in the air. For one thing, the top four starting pitchers are locked in with a couple of pitchers competing for the fifth slot. However, the biggest situation the Twins need to figure out in late February and March is who are they going to have play the field. Here we go…let us tackle this issue.

During the Winter Meetings in December, Molitor reaffirmed the media that young slugger Miguel Sano will be moved to a corner outfield position. With the Twins avoiding arbitration with third baseman Trevor Plouffe by signing him January 25 to a one-year deal, Molitor’s idea could very well become a reality. On top of that, the Twins plan on keeping Joe Mauer on first, as they are planning on him sharing the role with new Twins player Byung Ho Park. The second-year Manager left me confused for a couple of reasons.

In his five years in the Twins organization, Sano, who batted .269 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs in 80 games last year with the big league club, has always been a third baseman. Sano is not accustomed to roaming the outfield and is not built for the position. The Twins have said that Sano has been playing the outfield in the Dominican Republic in recent months and has lost some weight. Nevertheless, I am nervous that he will be unprepared and too slow tracking balls. Nobody knows how accurate Sano will throw from as far as the warning track. Moving Sano would also be a potential injury risk since he is not used to it, and is not used to running that far.

Besides from Sano, the Twins could put a couple of other players in the outfield. Last year, Eddie Rosario did a pretty good job in his rookie year, in which he had 16 outfield assists. In recent years, Mauer has played the outfield sporadically. Some fans this off-season brought up a point of making Plouffe an outfielder, which he has some experience in. In addition to those players, the Twins have some youngsters waiting to get their shot roaming the large green field; Max Kepler, Adam Brett Walker III, and the forgotten Oswaldo Arcia. Assuming that Byron Buxton, who had a good end to his first MLB campaign, has the center field position won, the Twins would only have to fill the left and right field positions.

There is a simple solution in figuring all this out. During Spring Training, the Twins should try Plouffe and the up-and-comers in the outfield. If that works, there is the outfielder the Twins are looking for. If that doesn’t work out, the club could platoon some players, which is my preference. When an extra outfielder is in need, Mauer could go out there and let Park and Kennys Vargas handle first base. I would trust Mauer over Sano in the outfield due to the fact that Mauer is more fit for the position. It seems like Vargas, who went on a tear when he first came up in 2014, has evaporated amongst the Twins brass. I know the 25-year-old struggled after his initial call-up, but Vargas has so much potential that should not be overlooked.

This whole kerfuffle could have been averted by trading Plouffe after last season, rather than having the club try to figure out what to do over the next two months. All-in-all, do not be fooled when the Twins say Sano is the only viable option for the outfield. The Twins should do their due diligence this spring and not settle on one fix because fans expect the nine best players to take the field, and they have plenty of options!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

Posted by: gravessack | January 18, 2016

FIPFA Selects U.S. For Next World Cup

The world’s largest adaptive sporting event is landing in the United States next year. No, this is not your typical State Adapted Floor Hockey tournament or your Power Hockey or Soccer National Tournament. What is coming is much bigger! Earlier this month, the Federation Internationale De Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) announced that the next World Cup will be located in Kissimmee, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, spanning from July 3-10, 2017.

This World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSA), will feature ten Power Soccer teams from around the world competing for the top prize. This event will have three preparation days, three competition days, and one off day before the Championship Round. The proposed World Cup format is a round-robin with the seeding being figured out afterward. Teams from each pool will go on to play in the knockout round to fight for first place during day two and three of competition.

With this magnificent event coming to the U.S., FIPFA is going grand with the site. The World Cup will be held at Silver Spurs Arena at Osceola Heritage Park. Silver Spurs Arena seats 11,400 and will hold two regulation sized Power Soccer courts. This World Cup site will be the largest site ever for an adaptive sporting event in the U.S.

This will be just the third World Cup. Tokyo hosted the event in 2007 and Paris hosted in 2011. Led by Indiana’s Michael Archer and joined by Minnesotan Pete Winslow for the 2011 games, the United States won both World Cups. The third World Cup was supposed to be held in 2015 in Houston, but FIPFA denied the bid due to costs getting to expensive.

The United States Power Soccer World Cup team will have 12 athletes with 8 being on the official delegation going to Florida. Three players from Minnesota, who are part of the club, will be vying for a starting role this year: Winslow from Woodbury, Nathan Mayer from Monticello, and Riley Johnson from St. Cloud. The other four players will be alternatives in case one of the top 8 athletes can not make it for some reason. The eight players who will represent the U.S. and the four reserves will be determined by the end of this year.

Next year’s FIPFA World Cup will maximize Power Soccer’s exposure in the United States! Stay with us as we will report broadcasting information, among other tidbits, as it becomes public. In the meantime, check out the official site of the 2017 FIPFA Cup by clicking here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 8, 2016

Why I Support Adding Protective Netting

The Twins recently announced plans to expand the protective netting around Target Field in response to MLB’s recommendations for each ballpark to do so. MLB made these recommendations primarily because there were multiple incidents last season of fans getting seriously injured by foul balls, emphasizing the importance of fan safety. Target Field, which already had protective netting behind home plate, will have further netting “to protect seats between the dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate.” In addition, netting above the dugouts. This netting “will extend seven feet high and will run the length of the dugout in seating sections 3 through 6 and 11 through 14.” All netting will be up for the start of the 2016 season.

The issue of adding protective netting around MLB ballparks has been controversial, primarily because some believe it will interfere with fans’ viewing experiences. This seems like a silly argument to me. Fan safety is a very serious issue and is more important than possibly interfering with viewing experiences. I don’t believe the new netting will hinder fans’ views of the game. For example, hockey has protective netting all around the rink and it doesn’t seem to bother the fans, as tons of people go to hockey games.There is already protective netting above MLB backstops, and fans often want to sit in seats directly behind home plate. If the netting obstructed their views, why would they want to sit there?

MLB’s recommendations to add protective netting seem obvious to me, especially because of incidents of fans getting hurt by bats or balls. Even if they do slightly hinder fans’ views, this will be good for the game. Read here about Target Field’s new protective netting. Please participate in the poll below asking whether you agree with these recommendations!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | January 4, 2016

Making A Difference: Striving To Improve Accessibility

Ever since the American with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, people with and without disabilities have been trying to find ways to provide easy and fair access throughout America. The changes have ranged from making newly constructed stadiums ADA-compliant to making sidewalks smoother. Nearly all modifications need some sort of government funding, and rarely can one person implement a change.

This is the story of what could be done if we are not afraid to speak up. The set-up: a school in Nebraska trying to make something right and seventeen-year-old Nate Kotila, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, not accepting the improvement.

School officials at Papillion-LaVista South High School implemented a key system in 2003 to their lone elevator to prevent able-bodied students from using it. Administers gave students who needed to use the elevator a key to activate it. That seemed to be a great idea. But when Kotila, who lacks fine motor skills, tried it a couple of times, he discovered something that must be changed. Kotila had a difficult time getting the key into the hole and turning the key all the way. The junior thought about what could be done to fix the problem, and he came up with one.

Kotila’s idea was to install a card reader, so all students needed to do was “just hold the card in front of the reader and the elevator door opens.” He needed to raise over $1,500 for the enhancement. Kotila spoke at a teacher conference in the fall, pitching his idea, and immediately raised $800. A couple of weeks later, he had more than enough money.

The card system was installed at the end of November and has been in full effect since the middle of December. There are eight students at Papio South who need to use the elevator full time along with peers hobbled with injuries and each one of them received an access card. “We all have our card keys on lanyard with retractable cords. It really, really makes it so much easier and faster to access the elevator,” said Kotila. Papio South is the only school in Papillion-LaVista that is multi-floored, and therefore, is the only one that requires an elevator.

Kotila, who is from the Twin Cities area, is pretty busy when he is not conquering accessibility issues. While living in Minnesota as a pre-teen, he joined an adapted T-ball team in Robbinsdale and was intrigued by Power Soccer before the move. After Kotila’s family moved to Bellevue in 2009, his hobbies took flight. Along with helping referee a Project Unify Special Olympics basketball game with his school and rival school in late 2015, Kotila’s passion is aviation. He participates in a virtual airline, called AAvirtual. AAvirtual is on-line and its objective is to “simulate real American Airline flights and operations using our flight simulators.” After logging more than 430 hours on the flight simulator, Kotila “loves being able to use the many resources to simulate the flights that are occurring real-time.” As far as Kotila’s refereeing ventures, he says, with a smile, “it seems that once I do something then other people ask me to do more.”

After graduating from high school next year, Kotila plans on going to college to get a degree in Information Systems or in a technology field and he “always wanted to be a pilot so it would be awesome if I could find a career using my technology education in the aviation industry,” he acknowledged.

Kotila’s elevator system should be implemented at every school. I always wondered why with Minneapolis South’s one elevator that school officials didn’t regulate who uses it. Able-bodied students would sometimes cram the elevator, so students with disabilities would need to wait for the next one. Kotila’s invention alleviates that problem and schools, especially one’s with just a single available elevator, should find a way to install this system. The card reader is a two-fold solution: school elevators would serve their purpose and it would keep students off elevators who don’t necessary need them.

With Kotila’s thorough planning and persistence, he succeeded at making Papio South more accessible to those with disabilities. Kotila learned a lot from his experience and knowing what he likes to do, he might not be done with accessibility. “This was a great learning experience and I would sure be open to learning more and helping in other buildings and companies but I think I will most likely wait until after college to do anything purposefully,” Kotila explained.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

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