Posted by: gravessack | March 22, 2015

CHS Field Visit

On March 21, I had a chance to go inside CHS Field, the brand new home of the St. Paul Saints, and buy single game tickets. My goal was to scope out accessible features. I will give a brief summary with recommendations on how to improve two things. Most of the highlights that I will feature are pictured below this article.

The entrance to CHS Field is fully accessible, as is the ticket office. There is an abundance of accessible seats with appropriate rail heights around the field. At spots around the 360-degree concourse, the fences are a little higher due to safety reasons. In left field by the Berm, there is a small outlook which wheelchairs can roll up to.

There were a couple of details that I would consider changing. In front of the main entrance, there is a pillar blocking the wheelchair sidewalk ramp which could make it difficult for someone to navigate. I would like to see that lone pillar be taken away. Secondly, I didn’t see any automatic door openers to get into the Saints offices and to the elevator on the main floor. Maybe I missed them, but would like to see them put in at some point. Those are the only things that were a little off. For more information on ADA features, please click here.

Not focusing on accessibility, CHS Field has some amazing features. When fans walk through the gates, they will see the whole field right away. There is an art gallery right behind home plate. When I visited, there was a picture of Midway Stadium and not-yet-budding trees. Fans can sit on a lawn in left field to picnic and play games during games. It will be exciting to see the finished product in May, as the grass for the lawn wasn’t installed yet.

All in all, CHS Field is a major upgrade to its predecessor!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

IMG_0924 IMG_0925 CHS Field IMG_0928 IMG_0930 IMG_0932 IMG_0934 IMG_0936 IMG_0938 IMG_0939 IMG_0941 IMG_0942

Posted by: gravessack | March 19, 2015

The Florida Report

Fan favorite Torii Hunter up to bat at Hammond Stadium

Fan favorite Torii Hunter up to bat at Hammond Stadium

Hello from Fort Myers! Yesterday, March 18, I got to experience the newly renovated Hammond Stadium and the rest of the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Twins. Although Minnesota lost yesterday’s game 3-2, it was a lot of fun to be at the complex! Here are some noteworthy things from the day:

  • I first went around to some of the practice fields surrounding Hammond Stadium and saw lots of players and coaches doing drills, including former manager Tom Kelly, former first baseman and current minor league coach Doug Mientkiewicz and prospect Miguel Sano! Sano, who is a big, strong guy and is ranked as the team’s second-best prospect, is even bigger than he appears on TV!
  • My favorite thing about the renovation is that you can walk (or wheel) all the way around Hammond Stadium. Previously you could only go around part of the stadium. I really enjoyed seeing all the views from different parts of the stadium.
  • In terms of accessibility, Hammond Stadium is fairly good. The stadium has many elevators (I can’t find the exact number), good wheelchair seating on at least one level and wide concourses. However, when I was leaving the stadium, I realized that at least one elevator only goes to a couple floors. What’s the point of an elevator that doesn’t go to every floor?!
  • Although the stadium does have several ramps, it would be nice if there was a ramp to the levels of wheelchair seating going all the way down to the entrance, like at Target Field, so fans unable to take the stairs would have the option of taking the elevator or ramp. That way the elevators wouldn’t get so crowded, especially after games.

Despite a couple accessibility flaws, Hammond Stadium and the rest of the CenturyLink Sports Complex is beautiful, especially with the renovation. Unlike with Target Field, fans will not be cold!! Make sure to check out the Photo Gallery for more pictures of Hammond Stadium and the CenturyLink Sports Complex!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 15, 2015

A Journey Through St. Paul Towards Target Field

When I first heard of Mark Hamburger in 2013, he was pitching for the St. Paul Saints at now-defunct Midway Stadium. Now, the relief pitcher is trying to resurrect his MLB career and has a good shot of pitching out of the Twins’ bullpen this season. Hamburger was banned 50 games for drug abuse and he went in for treatment at Hazelden. Though he has had his fair share of struggles, Hamburger has held his head high this spring.

Back in 2007, Hamburger was an amateur free agent signee of the Twins. During his year-and-a-half stint at rookie ball, Hamburger pitched for two different teams. His stats weren’t impressive, as he went 3-3 with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks. During the 2008 season, Hamburger was traded to Texas in order for Eddie Guardado to make his return to the Twins. Hamburger’s only five MLB appearances were for Texas in 2011, where he went 1-0 with 6 strikeouts. He was suspended two years later, after pitching for three different clubs at the Triple-A level.

Trying to retool his career during his suspension, Hamburger signed on to play independent baseball in 2013 because the suspension was just for the MLB and MiLB. The St. Paul native decided to join his hometown team, the Saints. During his one-year stint with the Saints, Hamburger had a pretty decent season, starting 21 games going 6-8 with 120 strikeouts. After his brief stint in St. Paul, the Twins signed Hamburger again after the 2013 Saints season ended.

Hamburger had to finish his suspension before pitching, but once he pitched, he was decent. Last year, pitching at two levels of the minors, Hamburger had a 3.69 ERA and went 4-5 in 22 games with 54 strikeouts. The Twins invited him to this year’s Spring Training, where Hamburger has appeared in two games so far. He has 4 strikeouts with an ERA of 0.00 in three innings of work. The 27-year-old has a realistic shot of making the team if he continues to pitch well. Hamburger has had one tough journey to fulfill his dream but he is very close now to making it to that ballpark across town!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

 

Posted by: gravessack | March 1, 2015

Buxton and Sano Are Ready To Make That Leap

This is the second consecutive Spring Training which will feature the top 2 Twins prospects. Spending the last several seasons in the Twins minor league system, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are ready to show the nation that they are ready for the big leagues. This is the perfect year for the Twins to promote these eager players to MLB and show fans what to expect in the future. Fans have been hearing about Buxton and Sano for years now, but are wondering why they are still at the Double-A level if they are so good.

Buxton, who was drafted 2nd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, was recently named the #1 prospect for 2015 by the MLB Network. Before an injury-riddled 2014 season, Buxton batted .334 with 77 RBIs and 12 home runs at both A and AA in 2013. The center fielder also had 163 singles and had a slugging percentage of .520 during that same season. Buxton has played three seasons at the lower levels, recording a .300 batting average with 21 home runs. Last year, Buxton played in just 31 games due to a concussion and a wrist injury; therefore, he underperformed.

Sano, who signed with the Twins in 2009, was named #11 on the same prospect list. Sano missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his elbow just a couple of games into Spring Training, requiring Tommy John surgery. The muscular third baseman had a successful recovery and is ready to show off his skills again. During Sano’s four minor league seasons prior to 2014, he batted .373, slugged 90 home runs, and had 291 RBIs. Sano also had a slugging percentage of .567 over those years. After taking a year off, Sano is hoping to regain his strength and join the Twins at some point this season.

Both Buxton’s and Sano’s 2015 journeys are about to start, as they are scheduled to play in Wednesday’s game against, yes, the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Florida. These stars should get considerable playing time this spring, and if they have a bright month, I can’t see how the Twins can keep Buxton and Sano in the minors much longer. Fans are desperate for change, and Buxton’s and Sano’s promotions would be one great leap of change!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 22, 2015

Video Games Being Made For People With Disabilities

There are tons of popular video games, but many do not work for people with physical disabilities. That is why Joshua Straub, who has cerebral palsy and loves to play video games, created a website called Disabled Accessibility For Gaming Entertainment Rating System (D.A.G.A.R.S.). This website rates various video games and how accessible they are for people with all kinds of disabilities. Video game developers began to pay attention to Straub’s reviews, and Straub started getting consulting contracts from video game companies as far away as London and Paris! Last November, Straub was awarded $5,000 from the Courage Kenny Foundation. He says he will use the money to re-design his website. Click here to read more and to watch a brief news story on Straub!

*On another note, I will be going to Fort Myers, Florida, where the Twins have their spring training, in about a month. Look for updates and pictures! Though his defense is shaky, I predict outfielder Oswaldo Arcia will finally learn to be patient and have a big year offensively!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | February 18, 2015

My Spring Training Preview

Baseball is back in action! Today, the first five teams reported to their respective camps. Twins pitchers and catchers report February 22 in Florida, with the rest of the team joining them five days later. This year, the Twins hope to end a four-season streak with 90 or more losses. In fact, our club wants to play .500 baseball and perhaps make the play-offs for the first time since 2010.

Here are a few things to watch as players and coaches are prepping for this seven-month marathon.

Unlike in recent seasons, this group of pitchers looks promising. The Twins basically have three starting pitchers locked in, with two spots up for grabs. In reality though, Kyle Gibson will cover the fourth spot unless he has a horrific spring. The three shoe-ins for the starters are Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and newbie Ervin Santana (36 wins combined in 2014). Nolasco recorded 6 of those last year, but look for pitching coach Neil Allen to work with him. Candidates who are competing to be the fifth starter are Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Mike Pelfrey, and Tommy Milone. To me, Meyer and May will get considerable looks, with Pelfrey and Milone as fall-backs.

The Twins offense this season should be one of the best. Last year, a few prospects made appearances. Danny Santana came up last season and had some good months, batting .319 with 129 singles and 40 RBIs. Astonishingly, Santana wasn’t the best rookie to debut in 2014. The Twins brought up a youngster named Kennys Vargas, who looks a little like “Big Papi.” Vargas sure did produce with 38 RBIs and nine home runs in just 53 games. Look for Vargas and Santana to win a spot on the MLB roster out of spring training.

Another exciting addition to the offense is the return of Torii Hunter. Hunter will most likely be the left fielder in 2015, as he still has the batting power. Hunter went .279 with 87 RBIs and 17 home runs with Detroit last year. Finally, and again, Minor League superstars Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will be making spring training appearances in the upcoming month. Don’t look for Buxton and Sano to start in the Majors this season, but the Twins better bring up their marquee players later on. It’s time!

The Twins will ring in a new era of coaching in 2015. Paul Molitor will bring a fresh voice for coaching, as he brought in five new coaches and re-assigned Joe Vavra to bench coach. As the Twins offense did pretty well last year, Molitor kept Tom Brunansky as hitting coach. The big addition is Allen, who replaces Rick Anderson as pitching coach. Allen, with help from new bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, will bring life to the Twins pitching staff. To learn more about all the new coaches, read my post from December.

Here’s to 2015 and a beginning of a remade ball club! Exciting times are ahead! What are your Spring Training predictions for 2015?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 5, 2015

Shields To Twins Would Be Pretty Sweet

UPDATE: James Shields has reportedly signed with the San Diego Padres February 9 on a four-year contract worth $75 million. Other teams that were on the brink of signing Shields were the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins. The Twins weren’t in contention, as expected. However, there are a few more starting pitchers left that the Twins could sign, like Joe Saunders or Bruce Chen. Below is an earlier report.

Ever since Max Scherzer signed with Washington on January 21 for seven years, all eyes turned to free agent pitcher James Shields, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Shields is asking for big money but teams have been reluctant thus far to sign him. Since Shields has been a great pitcher for a few years now, I am surprised that he hasn’t been gobbled up yet. This is the perfect time for the Twins to swoop in and sign him.

During the last two off-seasons, the Twins have made it their priority to bring in top pitchers. During the 2013 off-season, the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to big contracts. About two months ago, our team snagged top pitcher Ervin Santana for $54 million and extended Hughes’ contract. The Pohlads have been trending the right way in regards to spending money. Going after Shields would show Twins fans that they not only want to win a division, but a World Series title soon.

Twins fans would go crazy as we would have a solid rotation for the first time in years. Think about this rotation: Shields, Nolasco, Hughes, Santana, and Alex Meyer. In signing Shields, the Twins would bring in a pitcher with recent World Series experience. The nine-year veteran, who has several offers on the table, has a career record of 114-90 with 1,626 strike outs and 22 complete games. In 2013 and 2014, Shields was first in games started in the AL with 34. It would be a fabulous addition to a seemingly solid rotation that the Twins have created. Shields would provide the Twins the true ace that they have been looking for.

With that said, don’t expect the big probable announcement this weekend to be that Shields has chosen the Twins and pitch at Target Field. It remains unclear if the Twins have given the 33-year-old pitcher an offer. All we can do is hope and dream. Come to Minnesota, Shields!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 2, 2015

A Quick Update On Target Field’s Accessibility

Since the Twins and their fans will be returning to Target Field in two months with new features on hand, I thought it would be a good time to do an accessibility check-up. I wanted to get the scoop on updates to ADA features at Target Field. Last week, I chatted with Kevin Smith, Twins Senior Director, Corporate Communications and Broadcasting, to see what’s up. Here’s what Smith had to say.

  • For 2015, the Twins are adding a new bar area, which hasn’t been named, and an extra-large Skyline Suite for business meetings and gatherings. The Twins will combine three suites on the third base side to make the new meeting area. The new bar will replace the store inside Gate 6, and will feature drink rails and a television. Smith assured me that the bar area will be ADA compliant with ramps, handrails, and lowered counter heights, among other features.
  • Smith also provided information on the general progress of the six-year-old ballpark’s accessibility. He reminded Two Men On that when Target Field opened, “We not only met but exceeded ADA compliance standards and continue to monitor use of the facility in order to make adjustments, as necessary.”
  • When asked if there was any other plans to improve accessibility, Smith said, “I’m sure there will be other things on the horizon – but that will be down the road!”

Since the NFL season has now drawn to a close with the Patriots’ win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, I am excited for Major League Baseball to start Spring Training in less than three weeks. As always, feel free to ask us questions about baseball or accessibility in the “Comments” section.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 24, 2015

A Cluster Of New Pitchers

After the signing of pitcher Ervin Santana on December 13, the Twins continued their mission to tug in more pitching. The Twins have made signing pitchers their main goal the past few off-seasons because they have struggled mightily in that position. These three additions won’t bring the Twins to the playoffs but could play a role in the 2015 season.

  • On December 16, the Twins and free agent pitcher Wil Ledezma agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Ledezma last pitched in the Majors in 2011 with the Dodgers. During his nine-year career, Ledezma has a 15-25 record with a 5.40 ERA. Ledezma also has 283 strikeouts with 40 starts under his belt. After being released from Los Angeles in 2012, Ledezma went overseas to play with Aragua in Venezuela, and later for Yucatan in Mexico, where he maintained good velocity. This signing is low-risk and it will create more competition between the pitchers.
  • Seven days later, the club inked another free agent pitcher named Tim Stauffer to a one-year, $2.2 million deal. Stauffer has spent his entire nine-year career in the San Diego organization. Having made 73 starts, Stauffer has a record of 32-34 with 435 strikeouts. Stauffer also has given up 58 home runs. He will likely pitch out of the bullpen in 2015, but Stauffer may spot start if needed.
  • The Twins still had one more pitcher to sign in 2014 as they grabbed Blaine Boyer off the market on New Year’s Eve. Boyer agreed to a minor league deal with him earning $750,000 if he makes the Twins roster. Boyer can opt out March 30 if he fails to make the big league pitching staff. Boyer’s career started in 2005 with Atlanta where he spent five years going 6-9 with 191 strikeouts. After he left the Braves, Boyer spent the next five years on four different NL teams. Last year, Boyer pitched in 32 games with San Diego, striking out 29. He pitched for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan during the 2013 season. If he makes the team, Boyer will certainly be added to the bullpen.

As there are under 3 weeks until Spring Training starts down in Florida, don’t look for the Twins to make any drastic adds. Although, GM Terry Ryan expressed interest in adding one more power bat earlier this off-season and has kept track of former Twin Johan Santana in the past few weeks. However, after Santana was done pitching in Venezuela for several teams last week, he was having some shoulder discomfort. It will be interesting moving forward to see if the Twins make an offer to Santana. In the meantime, the Twins look pretty content on bringing this roster to Spring Training, which will feature phenoms Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | January 5, 2015

An Accessibility Report On Xcel Energy Center

On January 2, “Two Men On” went to Xcel Energy Center to see the Minnesota Wild play. It was very exciting to be at a hockey game as I had not been to one in several years, and the Wild won! While I did not do much exploring of the arena, I did pay attention to its wheelchair accessibility.

While Xcel Energy Center is fairly new (it opened in 2000), its accessibility is just average. The good part is that fans in wheelchairs can pull up right behind the railings and not have their view blocked like in the Metrodome. However, the main accessibility problem is that Kellogg Boulevard, which is where the accessible drop-off area is, is closed for pedestrian traffic right after games. Where are fans in wheelchairs supposed to go to be picked up? We had to walk around the arena, but that area needs to be kept open at all times. The elevators are also a problem because they are small and only some are for the general public (the others are for the media).

So although I have not experienced much of the Xcel Energy Center, there are some accessibility flaws, particularly with the drop-off area issue which seems like an easy fix. I had expected the arena to be more accessible, but compared to stadiums such as Target Field, it is not very wheelchair-friendly.

Written by: Sam Graves

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