Posted by: gravessack | January 17, 2017

Timberwolves, Lynx Ticket System Could Be Inaccessible To Some

In recent years, there has been a new ticketing phenomenon blooming. Teams and venues are looking for ways to make the guest experience more convenient. One of their solutions is garnering some backlash due to its complexity. However, if you dig deeper into the issue, the concept could actually be an accessibility miscue.

Flash Seats, which are powered by AXS, are digital-based tickets that are used to attend games or shows. When someone buys tickets, that person’s credit card or State I.D. is his or her ticket to the event. In addition, if consumers have the Flash Seats mobile app, their tickets are stored on there and that will work at the gate. Event-goers must bring one of these to the arena gate to access their tickets. According to flashseats.com, the ticket system “offers an innovative, cutting-edge solution combining digital venue access, a branded marketplace for electronic event access rights, and a retail-class behavioral marketing system for the sports and entertainment industries.” Flash Seats is advertised as a way to easily transfer tickets to anyone and taking away the possibility of stolen tickets. There are also ways to get into events if you forget your cards. For instance, you can go to the venue’s box office so they can verify your tickets.

The Flash Seat system, which the Timberwolves and Lynx both partnered with in 2015, sparked a lawsuit last year in which some fans say Flash Seats make it difficult to sell and transfer tickets. It is not known what the outcome was but the lawsuit cited that Flash Seats provide “unlawful limitations” that could be a pain to some. Fans were not happy about how hard it was to re-sell or transfer tickets to their friends. Timberwolves and Lynx officials rebuked these claims by saying: “The Timberwolves and Lynx organizations are confident that Flash Seats supplies the best possible experience for our fans.”

With that said, fans with disabilities could have an unpleasant experience using Flash Seats. Some with physical disabilities have a difficult time manipulating multiple cards, and they might not have personal credit cards that can be used. They may have to rely on their caregiver’s card in which it is not always available to them. Recently, I used a credit card to purchase Timberwolves tickets for a game at Target Center that I did not have access to that day. So, on game day, I had to go through hoops and try to switch which card would work as my ticket. I succeeded but it was time consuming and could have been prevented. People with disabilities may not be able to reach their cards, and placing them on their trays could have bad consequences. In my opinion, having paper tickets is better than Flash Seats due to the fact that handing real tickets to a staff at the door would be much easier than figuring out how to attend an event with Flash Seats.

In the future, teams should look at adding ways to provide admittance for fans. Flash Seats can seem convenient at the forefront, but could be difficult when trying to use them. Organizations should hold off in partnering with Flash Seats until they find an easier solution. Providing the option of old-fashioned tickets to patrons would greatly improve the game day experience for all.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

 

Posted by: gravessack | January 13, 2017

Twins Keeping Dozier; On Lookout For Another Big Bat

We have a decision! Ever since October 2, one of the resounding question marks the Twins had to answer is whether they should trade Brian Dozier. Of course, the Twins would want a Major League-ready pitcher in exchange for the All-Star, but would other teams oblige? General Manager Thad Levine wanted to make the right deal but not further harm the team’s chances this coming year. Besides from the Dozier talks, there have been some rumblings on possibly adding an additional slugger.

About a week into Levine’s appointment, the annual winter meetings occurred in early December. Knowing that Dozier, who cranked out 42 home runs while driving in 99 last season, could be traded, we fans were anxious. As the week went by, it became clear that Dozier would not be traded.

Weeks passed and the year changed with the Los Angeles Dodgers being the lone club in the running for the coveted second baseman. However, the Twins asked teams to make final offers two weeks ago. It was reported that the Dodgers would not give up pitching prospects Jose De Leon, Brock Stewart, Yadier Alvarez or Walker Buehler, who were all on Levine’s radar. The communication between the two teams stalled, and Levine will not make any further calls shopping the 29-year-old. Dozier diehards can take a sigh of relief, although the Twins will still take calls even though they have moved on from trying to make a trade.

In an interesting side note to Dozier staying in Minnesota, Levine wants to add another Designated Hitter to the mix. While they have Kennys Vargas and Byung Ho Park coming back, the Twins feel that signing an additional power bat would be ideal. Shockingly, free agent superstar Jose Bautista has recently been connected to the team. However, some think Falvey and Levine are scoping out every available player and it is not a serious possibly. It is getting late for players to sign with teams, so maybe Bautista, who has hit 308 career home runs, will come here because the Twins can give him his best offer! Other available designated hitters that the Twins could grab are Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo and Coco Crisp.

Personally, I think our offense right now could get the job done with solid pitching behind them. With that said, there is no doubt that the Twins will benefit from keeping Dozier, and adding another reliable power threat in the middle of the line-up would provide extra assurance. In a recent Star Tribune article, Falvey said: “Given the landscape of players that remain out there, I would expect more activity later this month as we get closer to spring training.” Let us see if that comes true!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 22, 2016

The Two Jeffs

Since letting go of hitting coach Tom Brunansky and first base coach Butch Davis nearly 11 weeks ago, the Twins have been working to build the 2017 Twins coaching staff. We’re happy to report that it now is complete!

After General Manager Thad Levine brought in former Yankees minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson to be the hitting coach, two more coaches officially joined Manager Paul Molitor’s staff on December 21. To replace Davis, the Twins promoted Jeff Smith. Smith has been in the Twins organization for the past 20 years, including the past two as the Fort Myers Miracle Manager. He coached three different minor league teams from 2006 to 2014. In 2009, the Florida State League named him Manager of the Year for helping his team win the division crown. Smith had an eight-year playing career when he was drafted by the Twins in 1995. He was in three organizations, but never reached the major leagues. Besides his first base duties, Smith will handle the catching and base running instructionals next season.

The Twins also announced that assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez won’t be in the dugout next season, making the hiring of Jeff Pickler, who will be on the bench, possible. It is uncertain what Pickler’s role will be but he is listed as a Major League Coach on the Twins website. According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, Pickler will be a “conduit between the front office and the coaches to convey analytics to the staff and players.”

For the last two seasons, Pickler has been in the Dodgers front office doing five separate jobs that involved some on-field time. Pickler was busy and thorough there, however the passport that got him hired by the Twins were his analytical skills. When he worked in the scouting department with the Dodgers, Pickler had experience in baseball analytics, which is Falvey’s favorite term these days. Since the maximum number of coaches that can be on the bench is seven, and with Hernandez removed, bench coach Joe Vavra is staying put for now.

Below are the nine coaches that will try to revive our hometown team in 2017. Remember some of these coaches may have more than one role.

Here are the coaches that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine picked to lead the Twins in 2017.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

There are two baseball clubs that rock the Twin Cities each summer. There is the team which is struggling to find the win column and the team across the river that can’t seem to lose. What you may not know is that these teams have been sending some players back and forth. Three notable players who boarded the Saints-Twins train are utility man Nate Hanson, outfielder Mike Kvasnicka, and pitcher Mark Hamburger.

Hanson, a former Golden Gopher, received the call he had been waiting for when the Twins selected him in the 28th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hanson, now 29, started his quest to MLB with Elizabethton (Rookie League) in 2008, where he batted .215 with 8 RBIs and 2 home runs in 29 games. Until 2014, Hanson moved all around the Twins farm system, never having his dream realized. Seeking better opportunities, Hanson joined the Saints, an independent team from the American Association, in 2015. He played just 19 games before rejoining the Twins, playing for Rochester for the rest of the season. For Rochester, Hanson batted .262 with 4 RBIs in 17 games. He rejoined the Saints this past season and is currently listed on their roster for 2017.

Twins fans will most remember Kvasnicka – not for making the big club but for what happened during a minor league game. In August 2014, Kvasnicka and then-top prospect Byron Buxton collided in the outfield, giving Buxton a significant concussion. After being drafted in 2010 by Houston in the Amateur draft, he joined Houston’s Single-A team in Lexington, batting .248 with 19 home runs and 112 hits in two years. Right before the 2013 season, the Astros traded Kvasnicka to the Twins for pitcher Gonzalo Sanudo. He was assigned to Fort Myers, where he played 69 games in 2014. Kvasnicka jumped up to Double-A in 2015, where he hit .257 in 112 games. When the 28-year-old was released by the Twins, Kvasnicka stayed close and joined St. Paul last season. In 70 games, he batted .290, smacking 10 long balls. Kvasnicka is currently listed as a Club Director, as well as Hitting and Fielding Coordinator, for the Northstar Baseball Club of Minnesota.

Hamburger signed with the Twins in 2007 and has played on numerous minor league teams in Texas, Houston, San Diego, and Minnesota. He also played in Puerto Rico in 2010 and Venezuela in 2013. Unlike with Hanson and Kvasnicka, Hamburger had a taste of MLB in 2011 with Texas, posting a 4.50 ERA with 6 strike outs in 5 appearances. He joined the Saints in 2013, starting 21 games while recording 120 strike outs. Hamburger rejoined the Twins in 2014 for almost two years, playing for New Britain and Rochester, before setting out to play in Venezuela and Mexico for winter ball. In 2016, when he settled back in Minnesota, Hamburger pitched very well for the Saints, ending the season with a 12-6 record and a 3.29 ERA. The 29-year-old starter is expected to be in the Saints rotation next year (if he doesn’t actually run for St. Paul Mayor!).

There are other players with ties to both teams; including Caleb Thielbar, who recently signed with Miami, and Brandon Kintzler, who is still in the Twins organization. It would be curious to see if the Saints become a Twins Minor League Affiliate someday to keep this train rolling!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | December 11, 2016

Winter Meetings Recap (and other things)

MLB had its annual Winter Meetings last week in Maryland. While Minnesota didn’t do a whole lot, here are a few notable things that have happened (or not happened) involving the Twins this offseason:

  • Recently, there have been rumors of the Twins trading star second baseman Brian Dozier. Dozier was at the Winter Meetings for a marketing event and spoke with Twins management about wanting to stay in Minnesota. I think (and hope) that Dozier won’t be traded, at least for now, since Twins management seems to be asking a lot for Dozier. However, the rumors won’t go away anytime soon and will likely continue in the regular season. Click here for more on the trade speculation.
  • Prior to the Meetings, Minnesota signed veteran catcher Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million contract. Castro will likely replace Kurt Suzuki, who is a free agent. Click for more on Castro.
  • Also shortly before the Meetings, the Twins added to their coaching staff. Three of the new coaches are Torii Hunter, Latroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer (Do those names sound familiar?), who will be special assistants to baseball operations. Click for more on these hires. The team also hired James Rowson, formerly with the Cubs and in the Yankees minor league system, to replace Tom Brunansky as hitting coach.
  • In the Rule 5 draft, Minnesota acquired right-handed pitcher Justin Haley via trade. He was in the Red Sox organization last season and had a 3.01 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 45 walks in AA and AAA. Haley must stay in Minnesota for all of 2017 or he will be sent back to the Red Sox. I don’t know much about Haley, but the Twins need all the pitching help they can get!

*Twins minor league pitcher Yorman Landa, who was ranked the 20th best prospect in the organization by MLB.com, tragically passed away December 10 in an automobile accident. Our thoughts are with the entire Landa family. Read the full article here.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | November 28, 2016

New Five-Year CBA Deal Is In Place; No Lockout

December 1st Update: With just four hours to go until the deadline, an agreement has been reached for a new five-year CBA between the owners and players. It still needs to go through the finalizing process. Two interesting tidbits from the new deal that were unveiled overnight are that the All-Star Game will go back to being an exhibition game rather than determining home-field advantage during the World Series. Also, new players in the league won’t be able to use smokeless tobacco. Eventually, this ban will be for all players in the major leagues. As details start to pour in, you can get up-to-date here.

Earlier Story:

There is something looming around Major League Baseball that no mainstream media is really talking about. Long-standing labor peace might be broken! For the first time since the 1994-1995 strike which cancelled the post-season, MLB’s clock is close to expiration. Don’t fret; losing games or the 2017 season most likely will not happen…for now.

The light doomsday is December 1, when the current five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will be history. That means another one has to be agreed upon before business matters can resume. That means, even though games won’t in jeopardy for a few more months, transactions and normal this-and-that’s at the annual winter meetings from December 4-8 in Washington DC might be on insecure grounds.

According to an ESPN article, the potential shutdown of baseball “essentially would place all typical offseason activity in a deep freeze, as well as cut off funding of benefits to players.” What is really nerveracking is if the Thursday deadline passes with no deal struck, both sides could get tougher on their stances making a quick agreement even more unlikely.

Concessions must be made. There have been talks of shortening the season, however that seems to be in the waste basket. It sounds like what needs to be worked out is how the draft will work. Owners offered to remove “the current system of forfeiture associated with the qualifying offer,” as they want players to agree with holding an international draft. The players won’t agree to that because it would affect prospects from other countries, such as in Latin America. Other topics too must be agreed upon before everybody is happy, and the luxury tax threshold might get a little testy.

There is hope that a new deal will be done before the deadline. Both sides are meeting at the MLBPA meetings in Texas this week in hopes of finalizing a multi-year CBA. If they can’t agree in the next 60 hours, we need to all buckle up and cross fingers and toes!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 21, 2016

Plouffe, There It Is!

When General Manager Thad Levine took the reigns of the Twins two weeks ago, he promised that hard player decisions would be made in short order. Levine took only 12 days to make his first major and somewhat surprising transaction. The move surrounds a player who had to deal with a lot of rumors about him in the past two years: Trevor Plouffe.

On November 18, the Twins called the longtime third baseman and told him that he was being released, effectively making him a free agent. Plouffe, who has been in the Twins system for 13 seasons, said he was initially shocked by the call. However, he said he realizes that Levine was hired to do anything to improve the team. Since Plouffe’s family is settled here, he does not know what will happen next.

During his tenure with his lone club, who drafted him in 2004, Plouffe put up some decent numbers. He spent five years in the minors, then he made his Twins debut on May 21, 2010. During his first two seasons in the Majors, Plouffe struggled a bit, hitting just 10 home runs along with 37 RBIs. The 30-year-old’s most productive year just happened to be in 2015, where he averaged .244, racking up 22 long balls and 86 RBIs. Plouffe’s grand total of home runs and RBIs were 96 and 357, respectively. One of his not-so-good achievements with the Twins is that he led the American League in double plays in 2015, where he grounded into 28 of those rally-crushers.

In the end though, Levine thinks the Twins have a plethora of third basemen waiting to take over. Plus, it sounds like the Miguel Sano in the outfield experiment is all but over, although Levine said last week that “the extent to which Miguel can still play the corner outfield spots only makes him that much more valuable and more of an asset.”

We will see what transpires. One thing is for sure: Plouffe is a growing player and will be missed! He will find a new team; Milwaukee is on the hunt for a third base guy.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 14, 2016

Interview with “Speechless” Actor Cedric Yarbrough

Previously, Two Men On had the privilege of interviewing Micah Fowler from ABC’s  “Speechless” (see June 1 post). Now, Two Men On has taken it a step further by having the privilege of interviewing fellow “Speechless” actor and Minnesota native Cedric Yarbrough (pictured with clown nose)!cedric-yarbrough

Two Men On sincerely thanks Mr. Yarbrough for his willingness to be interviewed. The interview transcript is below.

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

Cedric Yarbrough (CY): I auditioned for “Speechless” because like most actors, frankly, I needed a job!… I’ve been pretty selective and protective of my career so I won’t just do anything but this was a special project. I could tell by first reading the script [that] I wanted to throw my hat in the ring & take on the character of “Kenneth” [J.J’s aide].

TMO: Before “Speechless,” did you have any misconceptions of disability that have been challenged as a result of the TV series? If so, what were they? How did you prepare for this role?

CY: I was able to prepare for the role with an amazing writer named Eva Sweeney. She has CP [cerebral palsy], is non-verbal & also has an aide much like the characters in the show. She kinda showed me the ropes & it was basically a crash course in CP…She & her aide were really amazing & extremely open to my questions, including ones about love, drugs & racism.

TMO: Do you have a sense of how “Speechless” is being received within the disability community? What sort of feedback have you been getting?

CY: I’ve been so in the “Speechless” bubble that I’ve tried to tune a lot of it out. Not that I’m not curious to hear what the disabled community is thinking but I treat it as any show I’d be working on. I don’t want public opinion to shape my performance on the show… But I will say some feedback has gotten in. We work very closely with Cerebral Palsy Foundation on the show & they’ve been quite happy. I’ve read some comments on our “Speechless” Facebook page & I hear a lot of kids with disabilities would love an aide like ‘Kenneth’ & that makes me EXTREMELY happy.

TMO: How is “Speechless” similar to and different from other things you have acted in?

CY: “Speechless” is similar to other jobs I’ve worked because it’s simply that, a job [which I love]. That’s the cool thing, I chose a profession I absolutely love. This particular one is different because it really means something to a lot of folks so it gives me that extra boost when I have those 5 am call times. My role as ‘Deputy Jones’ on ‘Reno 911!’ was a role of a lifetime. It launched my career & got me in the minds of Hollywood & America as a whole. Now I’m extremely fortunate to be working on this project. Another role of a lifetime [but a very different one]!

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

CY: One of my favorite parts of being on the show is the awareness it’s creating. It reminds me of… when our first Black President was elected. It’s an inner happiness you feel. That’s the sense I’m getting about this show from the disabled community. They’re happy they are finally being represented in a respectful and first and foremost FUNNY way. And because this is happening, turning back and hiring actors without CP to play roles of characters with CP will be lazy and frankly stupid. Having a disability will be looked upon as mainstream & I think that’s a good thing.

TMO: Are you a baseball fan? If so, what’s your favorite team?

CY: I am not a huge baseball fan but I do cheer for the Twins and they let me down each year. Micah Fowler (J.J.) and I got to shoot an epic show this year where we shot at Dodgers Stadium. It truly was remarkable to stand in the stands, & in the dugout, & in the field & on that grass. Really quite cool.

Thanks so much again to Mr. Yarbrough for agreeing to this interview! We truly appreciate it!

Written and interviewed by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | November 11, 2016

The Times Are A Changin’…In Twins Territory…For The Better

Earlier this week, a dramatic, earth-shattering, bone-chilling “passing-of-the-torch” occurred. No, I am not talking about the election, I am talking about something right here in Minneapolis. On November 7, the Twins introduced the dynamic duo who will hopefully save them from the dumps. The upper management promised a swift search, in which it was, and the duo promised quick action, which also occurred.

Twins Owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter congregated the Twin Cities media into the Target Field press room. That afternoon, they introduced the two men, both from outside the organization, who will now direct the path of the team: Chief of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine. Falvey came from Cleveland, where he spent last season as Assistant General Manager for the AL champion Cleveland Indians. Levine, who was chosen by Falvey, previously was with Texas, also as an Assistant General Manager.

Falvey and Levine plan on getting started right away to reorganize the franchise, while keeping the Front Office intact. Flakey would like to add to the staff, as he wants the Twins to start using analytical data, which means math equations and such. The duo will look at what they have in the Twins system, and then make decisions after that. They are not wanting to break up the team, for now. However, if there is a significant trade possibility that can make the Twins better, Levine won’t be afraid to move their “all-stars.” During the 50-minute press conference, Falvey used the word collaboration several times. “The goal here is straightforward and measurable,” Suggested Falvey. “It’s to build a sustainable, championship-caliber team, an organization that fans across Twins territory will be proud of.”

With newbies at the helm, there were quick changes. On November 9, Falvey did not renew the contracts of hitting coach Tom Brunansky and first base coach Butch Davis, effectively letting them go. Brunansky came to the Twins at the end of the 2012 season. While the hitting was unspectacular, it was not bad in 2016. The Twins were just looking for more production in the line-up. Brian Dozier’s 42 home runs and 99 RBIs this year made the stats look better than they really were. It is uncertain why Davis, who coached first base for two years, got the boot, but he also was overseeing the base running and outfielders, which were hard to watch sometimes. Now, it will be curious who will be chosen to replace them!

Falvey and Levine both received five-year contracts to try to turn this struggling team around. From this point to February 13, the new duo will have lots to do to improve the recent 59-102 team and make them contenders again. One thing is for certain: If an actor from the 1994 film Little Rascals can somehow become President of the United States, the Twins can get to a World Series!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | November 3, 2016

CUBS WIN! (Time To Forgive Bartman and Billy Goats!)

The drought is over! Let Steve Bartman free, let billy goats dissipate, let God’s green apples keep falling from trees – well, I think! For the first time in 108 years, the once cursed Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions. Cubs fans can now forget about all their worries and rejoice in the streets. As you would remember, in 2003, a man named Bartman interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou down the foul line in Game 6 of the NLCS. Soon after, the Cubs lost their lead and the series. Bartman got booed and had trash thrown at him.

Fast forward 13 years and that hatred for Bartman can be laid to rest. The Cleveland Indians won the first game of the Fall Classic, with the Cubs winning the second. Then the Cubs bats went cold and lost the next two. They were outscored by the Indians 13-2 in games 3 and 4. Trailing three games to one and being on the brink of ruining hopes and dreams, the Cubs had to find a way to win the last game at Wrigley Field. With the help of Kris Bryant’s dinger and two singles in the 4th inning and with closer Arodis Chapman’s eight-out save, the Cubs found a way.

Heading back to Cleveland for game 6, the Cubs chances looked bleak. However, they stormed out of the gate with 4 runs in the 1st inning, thanks to another Bryant home run and a couple of hits. The Cubs’ Addison Russell hit a grand slam in the third, putting the dagger in the Indians. Behind Jake Arrieta’s nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings, the Cubs tied the series at three with a 9-3 shellacking. That left one more thing: an epic winner-take-all game 7.

The last game of the World Series took place on November 2. Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. In the 4th and 5th inning, Chicago scored 2 runs each to take a 5-1 lead. However, when Jon Lester inexplicably came in to replace Kyle Hendricks in the 6th inning, he threw a wild pitch that scored 2 runs. Two innings later, Chapman came in to try get the four-out save. After a double, Chapman gave up his first home run since July to Rajai Davis, tying the game at six. Nobody could score in the 9th; then rain came, delaying the game for 17 minutes.

When play resumed, the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero both had run scoring hits. In the bottom half of the 10th, the Indians just could get one run off of reliever Carl Edwards Jr. Manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen with one out to go. With Cubs’ reliever Mike Montgomery pitching, Michael Martinez grounded out to a grinning Bryant at third base to secure the 8-7 win, making the Cubs World Series champions! Click here to see highlights of the Cubs’ 10th inning rally.

Throughout the play-offs, Maddon made interesting decisions which almost cost him the title. In the end, though, the manager who turned the Cubs around knew what he was doing and squeaked out enough wins. Indeed, with the Cubs going 103-58 in the regular season, the best MLB team this year was the last team standing. It is time to celebrate, Cubs fans!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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