Posted by: gravessack | May 8, 2017

Accessible360: Making the Web Accessible

Accessible360 logo
In addition to the issue of whether spaces are physically accessible, there is an access issue that is becoming more and more significant: Internet accessibility. Accessible360 is a relatively new company in Minneapolis that is dedicated to making the Internet accessible to all. Accessible360 does this by conducting accessibility audits of all different kinds of websites and working with clients to help their websites maintain accessibility compliance. This issue is becoming more and more important as people are now spending more and more time online. In addition, people with disabilities spend twice as much time online compared to people who are able-bodied.

For example, people who are blind or have significant visual impairments may find it difficult to navigate websites. To address this issue, there are devices called screen readers that can read the text on web pages. In order for screen readers to work, websites must have alt text (text that describes images in detail) associated with each image. If there are videos on websites, the videos must have closed captioning so that people with hearing impairments can read what is being said in the videos. Websites must be created so that it is possible to navigate by using only a keyboard. In addition, there are devices that make it easier for people with significant mobility impairments to navigate websites.

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed before the Internet existed, the bill does not address online accessibility. It is expected that the U.S. Department of Justice will introduce new website accessibility regulations under the ADA. With the help of organizations such as Accessible360, people are realizing that Internet accessibility is necessary to creating a more inclusive world.

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | May 4, 2017

The Magnificent Sano

The Twins have won 7 out of 11 games dating back to April 21. One reason for this is their bats are heating up, as they averaged more than three runs per game during that span. There is, however, one player in the line-up who is shining a little brighter than the others. Three years removed from Tommy John Surgery, Miguel Sano is finally showing us what made him the number 2 Twins prospect a while ago.

Sano’s start to the 2017 season has simply been amazing as he is looking more and more comfortable at the plate. He is spraying the ball to all parts of the field. Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano hitting baseball during baseball game at Target FieldIn 26 games, Sano is hitting .300 while driving in 27 runs and launching 8 home runs. Showing off his improved eye in the batter’s box, he already has 21 walks this year. Compare that to the last two years where he walked 53 and 54 times for the entire year!

The 23-year-old has especially been on his game recently, winning the A.L. Player of the Week on Monday, May 1. The ball must have looked like a beach ball to him as Sano was not missing anything. During the week of April 24, Sano provided some marvelous numbers in five games. The slugger hit .524, drove in 11 runs, had 11 singles, a double, and three homers. Sano recorded nine RBIs in the two games at Kansas City on April 28 and 30.

The fielding has improved too. Sano looks smooth at third base after looking kind of lost a year ago. Remember when he started in the outfield last year and gave us some bloopers? The Twins quickly moved Sano back to third, but he never had the skills to permanently replace Trevor Plouffe. In November, General Manager Thad Levine let go of Plouffe, giving Sano the third base job. Whatever Sano did over the off-season helped as he looks sharp over there. He is making great plays such as diving and making throws on the run. Sano looks more agile and his reaction time is splendid. He has 22 putouts and 29 assists at third this season.

Sano seems like he is getting the hang of the big leagues. It might have taken him a couple years to get to his full potential, but if he keeps producing like this and his fielding stays steady, Sano will really help the Twins get back to relevance and be in the middle of the line-up for a long time. KEEP ON SMASHING THEM, SANO!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 28, 2017

Santana Keeping Twins Respectable

After having a decent start to the season, the Twins have fallen back around .500. One of the reasons for this is that the offense has been sub-par, and the starting pitching has been less than desirable. Starter Kyle Gibson has been having control trouble, and Adalberto Mejia was sent to Triple-A Rochester April 22 after just three starts. However, there is some great news from the rotation: Ervin Santana is pitching extraordinary well and is keeping the Twins alive.

Santana, who pitched the Twins to an Opening Day victory April 3, has had a brilliant start to his season. Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana smiling with baseball cap off and sunglasses on in dugoutIn fact, it is the best start by a Twins pitcher in their 56-year existence. With Santana’s wonderful fastball-curveball combination, opponents look baffled against him. The 34-year-old has pitched with confidence, knowing his mechanics can produce outs if done effectively. Santana has pitched in five games so far, putting up these ludicrous numbers: a 4-0 record, an ERA of 0.77 and 36 strikeouts, while allowing just 3 runs on 13 hits. He is so much on his game right now that he has already recorded a complete game one-hit shutout against the White Sox on April 15.

The Twins have seldom seen pitching performances like this. Yes, former Twin Ricky Nolasco started the 2015 season with a 5-1 record before missing four months due to injury. Nonetheless, Santana has done something that the Twins have not witnessed since Johan Santana was on the mound for the Twins. According to the team, the two are the only ones in Twins history who have not given up 2 runs in five consecutive starts. Ervin Santana has a chance to surpass Johan in his next start.

Santana has five pitch types in his back pocket: fastball, two-seam fastball, change up, cutter, and slider. If he can keep command of his pitches, the Twins could have an ace on their hands, a luxury they have not had since the mid-2000s. Santana has been a big boost to this pitching staff since the last month of the 2016 season. Contrary to some, I feel that the Dominican is already the ace of the Twins, will guide his team to a way better record then last year, and will definitely make this year’s All-Star Game! To read more on Santana’s awesome start to 2017, click here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 15, 2017

Why is Park in Rochester?

Minnesota Twins first baseman/designated hitter ByungHo Park hitting baseballTwins first baseman/designated hitter ByungHo Park had a very disappointing 2016 season after signing a giant contract the previous offseason. After Park was designated for assignment last winter, he was sent to the minors. However, Park had an impressive 2017 spring training, leading Minnesota with six home runs, and appeared to have earned a spot on the major league Opening Day roster. Shockingly, Park was sent to Class AAA Rochester a few days before Opening Day.

There is no reason Park should have been sent down. I think the Twins wanted another pitcher since the pitching was so bad last year, but why send your best hitter in spring training to the minors? It makes no sense! Plus, he has gotten off to a good start in Rochester this season, as he has six hits in 16 at-bats.

Park is currently injured (he has a hamstring strain that appears to be minor) but once he gets healthy and if he continues to perform well, he should definitely be called up to the majors! The Twins could send center fielder Byron Buxton to the minors (he has 20 strikeouts in only 37 at-bats!) and call up Park. Danny Santana could play center field, even though Buxton is a better fielder. Another idea is that the team could send a pitcher down.

The Twins’ offense has struggled a bit in 2017 and Park could provide a much needed boost. Click here for more on why Park should be in the majors.

What is your opinion on Park?

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | April 10, 2017

A Phenom’s Struggles

Despite an outstanding 5-1 start to the season, the Twins have a problem that has to be solved in a hurry. In order for a team to win a lot, they need every player to hit some. It may feel like everyone is hitting, but that is not the case. The player who the Twins were hoping to lead the team in the future is looking lost again at the plate.

Center fielder Byron Buxton was hoping to start the season hitting like he was last September when he notched nine home runs. However, he has had a very disappointing start to 2017. To make the big league club, Buxton averaged .283 with 13 hits and 9 doubles this spring. But since the season started, he has looked completely overmatched, and sometimes lost, when hitting. Buxton is swinging at balls that are way out of the strike zone, which questions his capabilities of hitting major league pitching. Through six games this year, his offensive production has been nonexistent. Buxton has a .077 batting average to go along with 14 strike outs and two hits—and, miraculously, this in just 27 at-bats!

Buxton’s fielding expertise is saving him from being axed from the line-up. The 23-year-old has made some sweet catches to rob some runs. But making game-saving catches cannot be the only criteria for keeping him in the line-up.

In the first four games, Buxton was in the third spot of the batting order. When he kept striking out, Manager Paul Manager demoted him to batting seventh on Saturday, with Buxton remaining stagnant in that spot. Buxton’s struggles seem more prominent because he has come up with men on base more times than not and hasn’t been able to bring them in. If he keeps up this trend, the Twins should bench or send Buxton to Triple-A and bring up either Zach Granite or Daniel Palka.

As much as the Twins want to be patient with the Georgia native, they can’t afford any hiccups with this being their best start in years. Buxton will be General Manager Thad Levine’s first in-season, big decision that could indicate the direction of this year. Will Levine let him struggle or will we see a move made?

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | April 4, 2017

Analyzing The Aldalberto Mejia Decision

One of the most surprising things to come out of spring training is who won the 5th starter role. With Ryan Vogelsong being granted free agency, Trevor May tearing his pitching elbow, and Tyler Duffey moving to the bullpen, the Twins options were limited. This was not ideal for a team who is trying to transform into a winner again. Life goes on, and on March 30, the club named Adalberto Mejia the lucky one.

Mejia came over from San Francisco just before last year’s trade deadline that sent Eduardo Nunez packing. After being signed as an amateur free agent in 2011, he spent six seasons in the Giants minor league system at various levels. Mejia’s best season in the minors was in 2012 at A+ San Jose, where he posted a 3.31 ERA, going 7-4 with 91 strikeouts in 17 starts. His overall minor league career has been above average, posting a 43-29 record with 487 strikeouts. The 23-year-old’s lone major league appearance came in a game last year when he worked 2.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out no one.

Mejia, who is from the Dominican Republic, earned the 5th spot by pitching to a 1.88 ERA, while holding opponents to a .222 average and striking out 14 in 14.1 innings this spring. He should relish this opportunity because I do not think he would be a starter if May did not get injured or Duffey performed the way he should have in his spring outings.

If Mejia, who is scheduled to start for the first time Saturday against the White Sox, struggles out of the gate, Manager Paul Manager can not wait to reassess the situation, especially if the Twins tack on wins to Monday’s home victory. Plus, they don’t want to harm his confidence. Duffey or up-and-comer Jose Berrios could easily replace the rookie.

Mejia will pitch behind Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 21, 2017

Special Olympics World Winter Games March 21-26

Special Olympics logoEvery two years, people around the world cheer on athletes in the Olympics and Paralympics. There is another major international sporting competition, the Special Olympics World Games.

Athletes from these Games participate in Special Olympics, an international organization that offers many athletic programs, as well as health and wellness programs, to people with intellectual disabilities. As with the Olympics and Paralympics, the Special Olympics World Games occurs every two years and alternates between Summer and Winter Games. However, the location is not the same as the Olympics and Paralympics.

This week, March 21-26, the Special Olympics World Winter Games, held in Austria, will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC, as well as online at WatchESPN and on the ESPN app. Each night from March 21-24, the Games will be shown on ESPN2, WatchESPN and the ESPN app from 5:00-6:00 p.m. CT. On March 26, (the Games are only shown at 2:00 a.m. on the 25th), a recap of the Games will be shown on ABC, WatchESPN and the ESPN app from 1:00-2:00 p.m. CT. Click here for more on the TV schedule. A video livestream is also available here (scroll down on page). Spanish broadcasts can be seen on ESPNDeportes. However, these will only be shown at 2:00 a.m. on March 22-25 and March 27.

Two athletes from Minnesota, Camilo Meija and Meghan Gartzke, are at the Games as part of Team USA. Both athletes compete in alpine skiing. Click here for more on Camilo and Meghan. Good luck to them and all the other athletes!

In addition to watching the livestream, don’t forget to tune in to ESPN2 starting at 5:00 p.m. today, March 21! Thank you to ESPN and ABC for broadcasting the Games!

Written by: Sam Graves

Posted by: gravessack | March 19, 2017

More Rule Changes Coming To MLB

Ever since Rob Manfred became commissioner before the start of the 2015 campaign, Major League Baseball has introduced a couple of rules. MLB started changing a year before Manfred took over as replay reviews were introduced to help umpires. Last year, they implemented the two-minute between innings rule and the controversial slide rule. Starting next month, you will see some small but noticeable changes to speed up play, which Manfred takes to heart.

The most radical change is when teams want to intentionally walk batters. For decades, pitchers would have to throw four balls out of the strike zone to initiate the walk. That is going away. Instead, managers will signal to the home plate umpire that they want an intentional walk and then it will be granted. Supposedly, this will bring down pitcher’s pitch counts while saving some stamina. In Manfred’s mind, the rule, which will take away the possibility of an odd play if the ball misfires, will speed up the game.

MLB wants the replay system to be a faster process, and they have a rule for that now. The replay review will have three extra steps to speed it up because some replays lasted longer than eight minutes. The first change is that managers will have only 30 seconds to request for the play to be looked at. Secondly, managers will be able to ask for a challenge through the 7th inning. Lastly, there will be a light guideline in which umpires get just two minutes to make the correct call.

A third rule change actually has been a rule and will make the third base coaching box actually necessary now! MLB is asking coaches to stay in their designated areas until the ball is in play. They want umpires to be more strict this year at keeping coaches where they are supposed to be. With the implementation of base coach helmets a couple of years ago, this rule is just another safety mechanism.

The one rule that was discussed and not issued for 2017 was a 20-second pitch clock, which would create some awkwardness, in my opinion. That timer would immediately start as soon as the pitcher gets the ball back from the catcher. I feel that wrinkle would be too extreme and should never be part of MLB, although they are experiencing with the system in the minor leagues and Manfred wants it in the big leagues one day!

The new laws of the game, which were approved on March 2, are not game changers, but I am a little surprised by the no-pitch walk rule. I do not understand why pitchers cannot throw four easy pitches to the catcher and if they think they are saving pitchers’ arms, those are soft tosses that should not even be counted as real pitchers. Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven always says pitchers are the best players on the field. Apparently, MLB does not think so, as they want pitchers to save energy for “real” pitches. With the other rules, it will be nice for faster reviews and it will be great to see the coaching boxes be used again!

To read more about the new tweaks, click here. Please tell us what you think of the changes!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | March 11, 2017

Adapted Sports Around Town

Starting in 7th grade to graduation from high school, students with disabilities can participate in a couple of varsity sports. These include adapted soccer in the fall, floor hockey in the winter, and softball and bowling in the spring. When the big day comes to graduate, parents and students may wonder what sports opportunities are out there for them, since there are just a few collegiate adapted sports out there. I have gathered some options below, both recreational and competitive.

One recreational program for athletes with disabilities is the We Love To Play program held at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. This 28-week pick-up style sports extravaganza, which was founded in 1995, follows the adapted athletics high school pattern and gives adults the chance to continue to play the sports that they enjoy. We Love To Play rotates between football (typically just for a few weeks), soccer, floor hockey, and softball from September – May. The typical cost for this program is $3 per week. Click here to learn more about this fun activity.

For those looking to be on a more competitive team, power soccer is a great option. Even though there are a few recreational teams, most power soccer athletes are looking for an intense outlet. The power soccer season is usually 10 months long, cumulating with national tournaments in June. Teams usually travel to play games to rack up the required twelve games needed to make Nationals. This is a great sport if someone wants to learn strategy, communication, pass and shoot a ball, and compete at a high level. Power soccer even has a 10-team World Cup every four years or so. Cost depends on where you play. To learn more about power soccer, click here.

Athletes who have better fine-motor skills might be interested in power hockey. Power hockey is essentially hockey for power chair users. The players who have enough strength to hold a stick and have an easier time maneuvering their chairs play as forwards. The ones who have more severe conditions have their sticks taped to their chairs and play defense. Players need to move a whiffle ball down a court and shoot it on net. Minnesota has its own league, which will run from May to September this year. Like power soccer, power hockey also has Nationals, which is called the PowerHockeyCup, taking place in July. The cost in Minnesota is $40 per season. To find out more about the Minnesota division, click here.

Disabled athletes who really want extreme action should try wheelchair rugby. Wheelchair rugby is for people who have severe disabilities but still can take hard hits and enjoy fast-paced action. Wheelchair rugby combines basketball, handball, ice hockey, and rugby. The point of this game is force through the defense and cross a goal line to score a point. According to usqra.org, anything goes, except for “slapping, hitting, punching, gouging out eyes, biting off ears.” Wheelchair rugby might be the most rough adapted sport out there. This sport is part of the Summer Paralympics, which occur every four years. The cost of this sport is dependable on where you play. To learn more, click here.

These are just a few adapted sports options. Just make sure that you do research in order to choose the appropriate sport for you or your child. For more on adapted sports and to find helpful links, click here.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

Posted by: gravessack | February 26, 2017

2017 FIPFA World Cup Schedule Debuts

The schedule has been released for the biggest adapted sporting event this summer! Last January, the Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association awarded the United States the World Cup. Since then, a lot of fundraising has taken place in preparation for this summer. With the schedule release, the World Cup is just under 130 days away!

On February 23, the Draw was held at the U.S. Soccer headquarters in Chicago to determine the seedings and the two pools, with the United States being the number one seed. The two pools align like this: in Pool A, we have the United States, Denmark, Japan, Argentina, and Uruguay. In Pool B, there is England, Ireland, France, Canada, and Australia. Each team will get four games in pool play, with the last two days of the event being the knockout rounds. “Pack your sunscreen, pack your sunglasses, and be prepared to witness the most beautiful game on earth,” said Karen Russo of the United States Power Soccer Association (USPSAat the announcement.

Power Soccer, which the sport is called in America, is an adaptive sport for youth and adults who need wheelchair assistance most or all of the time. The game has two 20-minute halves, with two 5-minute overtimes if necessary. Two teams of four players try to maneuver, pass, and shoot a 13-inch ball with metal guards between goal posts. There are certain rules that make the game fair for athletes, although they can be controversial at times.

The World Cup will be held at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida, which holds up to 8,000 spectators, from July 5 – 9, 2017. The first game will kick off July 5 at 7:30pm CT with the United States taking on Denmark. According to Russo, the World Cup will be televised on Livestream via Power Soccer Shop, fipfaworldcup.org, and via the USPSA website. Additionally, there has been some push to get NBC to cover this event, although no breakthrough has occurred yet. More broadcast info will be made available in the coming months and we will definitely pass it along.

Here is the schedule for the FIPFA World Cup this July, released by the Federation

Here is the schedule for the FIPFA World Cup this July, released by the Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association on February 25.

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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