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

 

 

Posted by: gravessack | May 27, 2016

Things Can Get Worse – And They Just Did

With the Twins’ 12-34 record, the Twins’ front office never thought this season would start like this. The whole make-up of the team has failed; hitting has been bad lately, fielding has been mediocre, and the starting pitching needs some work. And now, the Twins are on to a replacement pitching coach. Where will this lead to?

Early Thursday morning, May 26, pitching coach Neil Allen was driving near HCMC in downtown Minneapolis when state troopers pulled him over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. After being questioned by the troopers, Allen refused a breathalyzer test and was taken into jail. After spending over 6 hours behind bars, Allen was released. As a result of the arrest, the Twins indefinitely suspended Allen with pay.

Allen has had a history with alcohol. When he was a player in the 1980s, Allen struggled with drinking. He drank so much, Allen was admitted into a clinic in 1989 for a month. His teammates worried about him when he started drinking heavily. However, Allen informed the Star Tribune in 2015 that he has not drunk alcohol since 1994. Sadly, it seems as if Allen is going down a dark road again.

As a result, the Twins promoted Minor League Pitching Coordinator Eric Rasmussen to the Twins pitching coach for the time being. Rasmussen has spent the last 26 years in the Twins organization, being a pitching coach for three Minor League teams until he became the Coordinator in 2009. The Twins say Rasmussen is only temporary, presuming Allen will attain his duties once he gets his bad habits fixed and serves his penalty. It will be interesting to see how Twins’ pitchers respond to Rasmussen though!

One must wonder if Allen’s DWI situation is prolonged, will the Twins make a permanent change at that coaching spot? Although it is unclear what the Twins’ policy is regarding arrests, the pitching has not been performing well lately and maybe a new voice is all they need. Or will the Twins give Allen a second shot just like the Wild did with assistant coach Darryl Sydor, when he was arrested for driving drunk in 2015? We will certainly see!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

There are just a few comedy shows that feature children with disabilities – let alone an actor with a real disability. That is about to change as ABC announced this week it has selected the pilot “Speechless” to make into a television show. This will be the first comedy that I know of that an actor actually has a disability, who is playing someone with a disability.

Scott Silveri, former writer and producer of Friends, will produce this groundbreaking show. Speechless will follow the DiMeo’s, a family of five. One of their children has some kind of disability, although it remains unclear what it is. Hints indicate that the oldest son, JJ, played by Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy in real life, speaks only with assistance of a communication device in the comedy. The mother, Maya, portrayed by Minnie Driver, will do anything for her three kids. She is determined to fix negative disability viewpoints—real or fake. At the same time, the family wants to build a home where JJ can be independent and find his voice. There is not much known about the father, although his name will be Jimmy, played by Big Bang Theory‘s John Ross Bowie.

The show almost did not become reality; the pilot was in jeopardy as they had trouble finding actors to play the parents. At the last moment, Driver and Bowie stepped up and were cast as the parents.

ABC has been groundbreaking in its work to attract diverse audiences with such shows as Black-ish, Dr. Ken and Cristola, and Fresh Off The Boat. It seems as ABC is on the verge in adding the disability community to its list.

To my knowledge, the only television show to have a disabled actor is The Middle, which also originally aired on ABC. Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck on the show, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which stunts his growth and causes brittle bones. It allows Shaffer to play his character three years behind his actual age, however his character in the show does not portray someone who has a disability. With Speechless, television will be adding someone who authentically uses a wheelchair for daily life.

I am excited to see how the show turns out, especially with Silveri producing. I hope the show captures what it truly is like to be disabled. Speechless is set to debut this fall on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. To watch a preview, click here. WAY TO GO, ABC!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

Posted by: gravessack | May 8, 2016

Two Bright Spots in a Horrendous Season

The 2016 Twins season has gotten off to an awful start. After losing to the White Sox this afternoon, marking the sixth time this season the Twins have been swept in a three-game series (the season is just a month old!), the team’s record is a dreadful 8-23. Key players are injured. As bad as the season has started for the Twins, there are a couple bright spots.

  • Designated hitter/first baseman Byung Ho Park has been impressive in his first season since coming over from South Korea. Although Park hit 53 home runs last year in Korea, no one knew how he would do in the United States. Park has not disappointed, as he leads the Twins with seven home runs in 2016. Even though he strikes out a lot, Park is a dangerous hitter because of his tremendous power.
  • First baseman Joe Mauer has been heavily criticized in recent years because he has a massive contract and has underperformed. However, Mauer is off to a great start this season. He reached base in 28 games to start the season, five games short of the team record, and is hitting an impressive .302.

Although the team’s performance is much more important than the performances of two players, Park and Mauer are bright spots in an otherwise dreadful season. Park and Mauer are doing their part; now it’s time for the other players to do theirs!

Written by Sam Graves

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