Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2019


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Timberwolves, Wild Need Draft Buzz

June 20, 2019 - (0) comments

 

The Timberwolves and Wild need to stir up excitement amongst their fan-bases during the next three days.

The Wolves have the No. 11 and No. 43 selections in Thursday’s NBA Draft that consists of two rounds. The Wild has eight selections, including the No. 12 overall, in the seven-round NHL Entry Draft that starts Friday evening and concludes Saturday.

Neither franchise made the playoffs last spring. Fan outlooks right now for next season can probably be fairly characterized as “ho-hum.”

A Twin Cities sports marketing authority, who didn’t want his name identified, has heard both the Wild and Wolves have concerns about season ticket renewals and new sales. The Wild needs box office buzz and hopes to obtain it in the free agent market this summer. NHL franchises, including the Wild, are more dependent on gate receipts than the NBA with its larger TV revenues. The Wolves have a superstar and ticket draw in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, but need more stellar personnel to become a factor in the talent-heavy NBA Western Conference.

The Wolves, according to the marketing authority, are interested in moving up in the draft and could offer the gifted but so far under-achieving Andrew Wiggins, who has played his first four NBA seasons in Minnesota but is still only 24 years old. Interestingly, this week Nbadraft.net’s mock draft had the Wolves using both their draft choices on small forwards, the same position Wiggins plays.

The website’s speculation Minnesota will draft North Carolina’s Nassir Little and Oregon’s Louis King could fit in with conjecture about parting with Wiggins. Taking Little and King would also make sense if the Wolves choose to play the 6-foot-8 Wiggins exclusively at shooting guard next season. The position switch could take advantage of his height against smaller defenders—posting up, or easily shooting over them.

Gersson Rosas

This will be the Wolves’ first draft directed by new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. He is expected to shape and direct the organization in a strong manner, and there certainly could be major reshuffling of not only the roster but support positions, too.

This week Wild general manager Paul Fenton leads his second draft for Minnesota. The expectation is the Wild will be determined to add goal scorers in the draft and free agent market in the coming days and weeks, although there is some thought Minnesota might use its first draft choice on goalie Spencer Knight, a Connecticut native.

The club has many needs but probably should prioritize goal scorers in the draft who can contribute within a couple of years. Ideally, whoever Minnesota selects in the first round will cause some anticipation among fans who know fortunes can change quickly in the NHL—most commonly within a couple of years, but perhaps sooner.

That was substantiated dramatically by the Blues this year, who went from being one of the NHL’s worst teams to Stanley Cup champs within a matter of months.

Worth Noting

The Wild will hold a development camp for draft choices and other prospects in the organization from June 25-28 at its practice facility in downtown St. Paul. The June 25 and 27 practices (start at 9:20 a.m.) are open to the public with free admission at the TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center.

Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub in St. Paul is the Wild’s official viewing party location for the draft on Friday night. NBC Sports Network televises the first round beginning at 7 p.m.

Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne said yesterday on Dan Barreiro’s KFAN Radio show he would be cautious about trading Wild forward Jason Zucker, who he predicts will score 25 to 35 goals next season.

Sports Headliners is told Mike Modano, the retired NHL star who has joined the Wild as an executive advisor, is assisting the franchise with ticket and sponsorship sales.

The Timberwolves host a free draft party tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cargo inside Target Center. Josh Okogie, last year’s No. 1 draft choice, is scheduled to attend.  ESPN will televise the draft.

Canterbury Park holds its Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday, offering a $200,000 purse that is the largest of the season. The field includes filly Spectralight who was bred in Ireland and has raced exclusively in Italy, but is based now at Canterbury Park.

Former Golden Gopher great Bobby Bell, the two-time All-American tackle on Minnesota’s only Rose Bowl teams, turned 79 on Monday.

The average base player salary is $345,867 in soccer’s MLS, according to the Major League Soccer Players Association.

 

Enjoy a Few Father’s Day Laughs

June 16, 2019 - (0) comments

 

If someone suggested to my late father that he was working too hard, or just not taking care of his health, he might reply like this: “I will get enough rest when I am buried at Fort Snelling (National Cemetery).”

That was pure dad.  A mostly serious and bright guy, he had a few favorite expressions like the one above.  Another spoke to his willingness to try most any type of food or beverage, and then speak nonsensical about it.  “It will do you a lot of good—if it helps you,” dad liked to say while hoping for a laugh from family or friends.

My father, also Dave Shama, was 44 years old when I was born.  I can remember being about five or six years old when he was huffing and puffing while running by my side as I learned to ride my first bicycle.  Dad was pudgy, out of shape and much more comfortable at a contract bridge table than in a gym. His preferred recreational options definitely were not long walks, jogging, dumbbells and exercise bikes.

Dad enjoyed eating somewhat unusual things like sardines or a smelly piece of calf’s liver, drinking a beer or two most days, and flooding the air with smoke from his almost ever-present cigar or pipe.  Even when the cigar wasn’t lit, he was chewing on the thing like a persistent rabbit attacks garden plants.

The number of times my dad played sports with me in the backyard or at a park was minimal.  He did, however, convey his interest and knowledge of athletics by offering companionship in front of the TV and radio.  Many were the nights we watched the Twins on television, or dialed into radio broadcasts of National League teams.

Dad looking serious

Dad was a law school graduate of the University of Minnesota.  He loved the football Golden Gophers and he took me to my first game when I was eight years old.  Sitting at old Memorial Stadium, I couldn’t imagine enjoying anything more than those games.  I reveled in every minute of the experience starting about 90 minutes before kickoff when the loudspeakers blared out John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

When I came home from a game I was so jacked up I invited neighborhood kids to play tackle football in our backyard.  What a disadvantage they were at after spending the earlier part of the afternoon making model airplanes or catching a nap. I was ready to toss my friends to the ground, pretending I was a Golden Gopher and playing for the glory of winning the Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan’s Axe or Floyd of Rosedale.

That affection for the University and the Gophers has benefitted me in countless ways throughout my life including friendships I have made.  It seems like almost daily I hear from someone with U connections, and they usually brighten my day.  One friend has been going through weekly challenges with a flooded basement this spring, while resorting to not only sandbags and 13 fans, but also four industrial dehumidifiers.  He apologized via text recently for not promptly answering my email invitation to set up a breakfast, and he explained to me the flood misery he has experienced.

“If we can get a couple of weeks without rain, or a small amount, then we can dry out,” he wrote.  “Otherwise, I will be changing my name to Noah.”

Getting back to Father’s Day, I think my own sons are better dads than I ever conceived of being.  It’s like they almost studied my behaviors and realized they should do the exact opposite.

Maybe they acquired their strategy from the Seinfeld episode when career vagabond George Costanza interviewed for his dream job with the New York Yankees.  George decides that whatever thoughts come to mind, he will do the opposite. (His lament: “My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.”)

Sitting in front of team owner and world-class curmudgeon George Steinbrenner, Costanza seemingly breaks every rule for job interviewing. He even insults Steinbrenner. Stunned by Costanza’s bravado, Steinbrenner turns his attention to one of his underlings and says: “Hire this man.”

I hope I am making you laugh—even if only slightly.  I confess to having close family tell me for years, “You’re not funny.”

Well, I don’t give up easily.

Sometimes advice from those closest to us is spot-on.  I can still hear my dad talking to me about a great job I turned down with a prominent newspaper.

“They won’t offer you again,” he said.

You were right, Dad.

My father didn’t deluge me with a lot of advice.  Maybe it’s better that way, just observing our role models.  I learned about integrity and honesty from him.  His example made me interested in politics and world affairs.  He also imparted a deep appreciation for America and love of patriotism.

My mom had great devotion to our country and her ancestors fought in the American Revolution.  She was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution organization.

Before I knew about the DAR, I remember her brother used to say in front of me that mom had been a nurse in the Revolutionary War.  I was about five or six when I heard that.  I remember trying to sort it out in my noggin as to whether she really was a nurse in that long ago war I could hardly relate to.

My father served in the Army during World War II.  He was stationed in Panama and hated the stifling heat.  “If I ever get home, I will go kiss the pavement on Hennepin Avenue,” Dad said in Panama while longing for Minneapolis.

Not that my father regretted serving his country, even if he was far away from the European and Pacific battle fields and oceans where the outcome of wars with the Germans and Japanese were decided.  “The enemy never took the Panama Canal,” Dad quipped.

Happy Father’s Day. I hope and trust you have memories to laugh and smile about.

 

 

Twins Didn’t Consider Trading Joe Mauer

June 13, 2019 - (0) comments

 

Joe Mauer played his entire big league career with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He had a spectacular run, and Saturday the Twins organization and adoring fans will honor him at Target Field with Joe Mauer Day and retire his No. 7 uniform number.

But more than once during his 15-year career it was fair to wonder if he might play for another club. After his 2009 American League MVP season, he was within a year of free agency. Mauer watchers speculated the big budget Boston Red Sox, with a home hitting paradise in Fenway Park, could be the next stop for the Minnesota native, who already was a three-time batting champion at age 26. However, Mauer accepted a $23 million per season, eight-year deal in 2010 from the Twins that carried him through the end of his career.

Eventually, as his skills diminished, it seemed plausible either Mauer or the Twins might initiate discussions about moving on to another club. Joining a contender could put Mauer in the first World Series of his career. The Twins could create payroll flexibility by unloading his huge salary.

Did the baseball department ever come to club president Dave St. Peter and suggest a trade? “No, that was never part of the dialogue with Joe,” St. Peter told Sports Headliners this week. “We knew Joe wanted to be in a Minnesota Twins uniform and we wanted Joe to be in a Minnesota Twins uniform.”

St. Peter has been the team president since 2002, and Mauer arrived in the majors in 2004 after Minnesota made him baseball’s overall No. 1 draft pick in 1999. St. Peter and others in the organization have never looked back on the big contract that started in 2011 and helped fill Target Field in its opening years.

“The reality of it is Joe earned that contract,” St. Peter said. “People don’t talk about what Joe earned the first several years in a Twins uniform…(when) he wasn’t making $23 million. I am one that believed that over the course of time we got our value out of Joe Mauer. And Joe earned every penny that he made.”

In addition to Mauer’s three batting titles and MVP Award, he was named to six American League All-Star teams, earned five Louisville Slugger Awards and three Rawlings Golden Glove Awards. He is also the only American League catcher ever to win a batting title. But in four of his last five seasons, he hit under .300 and that brought down his career average to .306.

Mauer photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins.

At 6-foot-5, Mauer was tall by catcher standards, the position he played for most of his Twins career before switching to first base. When Twins historian Dave Mona was asked this week about a favorite Mauer memory he recalled a game when Mauer was behind the plate and the baseball bounced off the backstop. “Without essentially looking,” Mona said, the Twins’ catcher reached back with his glove and caught the ball on the fly.

“I watched that replay a hundred times, and still I don’t understand how an individual can do what he did,” said the longtime WCCO Radio sports talk host. “I think we lose sight of how athletic he was. Look at some of the catches he made on foul tips in the first couple of years, the diving catches. …He brought athleticism to a new height among catchers, for sure.”

Minnesotans saw Mauer’s athletic prowess in high school at Cretin-Derham Hall. He was so accomplished as a baseball, football and basketball player, his name comes up on anyone’s short list of the state’s greatest prep athletes ever.

Call it luck or divine intervention, Mauer was drafted by the Twins, the team that played in the Metrodome—just a long bicycle ride away from his St. Paul home. In Mauer’s first several years with the Twins he became the ultimate hero with his extraordinary play on the field and the national acclaim (including Sports Illustrated cover boy) that it earned. The Twins won division titles and club promoters even staged Joe Mauer Sideburns Night when fans received fake sideburns to emulate the look of their “Baby Jesus,” as KFAN talk show host Dan Barreiro called him.

Still, the critics often wanted more from Joe through much of his career. Could he be more of an outspoken leader in the clubhouse? How badly did he want to win? Should he be more involved with the fans and more active the community?

“I know the passion he has for winning,” St. Peter said. “I know the passion he has for playing. I know Joe gave the Twins every single ounce that he had. …I didn’t ever question whether or not he was giving us his best. Joe is just a pro’s pro and somebody we were really blessed to have as part of our organization.”

Mauer’s friends and teammates know him for what he is, a humble and somewhat reserved guy. He is Minnesota Nice, a label that fits him and countless other residents of this state. Yes, it’s a stereotype, but appropriate for our Joe.

“He’s been everything that we could have asked for as a player and I am really proud of how he has emerged as a father,” St. Peter said. “He’s got a beautiful, wonderful family.”

Mauer and wife Maddie have three young children. Certainly family played a role in his decision to retire after last season at age 35. He had his share of injuries and miseries during his career, including concussion struggles. Stepping away from baseball to devote much of his future to family made sense.

What will be Mauer’s legacy? He will be remembered as the Twins’ best catcher and easily included on the top 10 list of the franchise’s greatest players. Mona and others know his legacy will also be impacted by whether he is voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

This is a subject of debate among baseball media and passionate fans. Being voted into the Hall is no easy task, and Mauer’s career was somewhat brief, with his production declining fast toward the end. Playing his last four seasons exclusively at first base doesn’t help the cause, but the Mauer resume has many highlights including his career on-base percentage of .388.

MLB.com pointed out in a November, 2018 article that even if Mauer made a comeback and went hitless in 1,050 at bats, he would still have a higher career OBP than Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk.

Mona believes the Hall of Fame awaits Mauer, just not right away. “He will need some backing, but that happens,” Mona said. “People get out there and start to make a case for people (candidates), and you’ve seen people make the Hall of Fame because of that. I think there is a case to be made for Joe, but I don’t think it will happen the first three to five years (he is eligible).”

No need to fuss about Hall of Fame possibilities now, though. Saturday night will be a time of celebration and tears. A time of adulation as fans receive a No. 7 commemorative cap and witness the eighth player in franchise history to have his jersey number retired.

St. Peter remembered months ago when the Twins told Joe how they wanted to honor him on June 16. “He was blown away by it. He was obviously incredibly honored. I don’t think it was anything Joe ever took for granted that it would happen.“

No, Joe Mauer didn’t play to be idolized but the way he performed and the character with which he carried himself is deserving of the recognition coming his way on Saturday night. The hometown hero is no ordinary Joe.

 

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