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Twins Season Opener Near Sellout

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March 7, 2017

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A notes column starting with a conversation last weekend with Twins president Dave St. Peter.

St. Peter said about 5,000 tickets remain for the Twins’ home opener on Monday, April 3 against the Royals. The game will almost certainly sell out, but of concern to St. Peter is how the club will draw in many of its other 81 home dates. The Twins drew less than 2 million fans last season, the lowest total since moving into Target Field in 2010.

The team won just 59 games last year, but St. Peter praised the loyalty of Twins fans and predicted the season ticket total will only be down 1,000 or so in 2017. “We’re going to come in at about 12,000 season tickets,” he said.

The baseball world believes the Twins underperformed last season. Writer Ben Reiter predicted in the March 6 issue of Sports Illustrated that the team has too much young talent “to continue to be this bad.” He analyzed all 30 MLB teams and counted the Twins among clubs expected to trend upward this year.

Falvey & Levine

St. Peter said new Twins baseball bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine believe “the core” of the team didn’t play up to its potential last season. Falvey’s title is executive vice president and chief baseball officer, while Levine is senior vice president and general manager. The two have impressive backgrounds but St. Peter cautioned, “They’re not miracle workers.”

Falvey and Levine are in the process of learning all they can about the Twins franchise including everyone from players to coaches to support personnel like trainers. Their focus is on long-term success, and part of that is figuring out what St. Peter termed “competitive advantages” the Twins can put in place. The opinion here is such advantages might include teaching and assessment techniques, and superior advance scouting of opponents.

Falvey and Levine haven’t rushed to make headline moves within the organization, or force trades. St. Peter confirmed second baseman Brian Dozier, who hit a career high 42 home runs last season, prompted a “fair amount of dialogue” during the offseason regarding a possible trade. The Twins president said there was a lot of interest but nothing offered had enough value to support parting with the club’s best player.

It’s still difficult to accept the death of Kirby Puckett. The Hall of Famer and one of the franchise’s most popular players ever died 11 years ago yesterday at age 45 after suffering a stroke. …

Chad Greenway’s press conference announcement today of his retirement after 11 NFL seasons probably didn’t catch anyone by surprise. In an interview with Sports Headliners almost two years ago, the former Pro Bowl linebacker acknowledged 2015 might be his last season because of his aging body. “… You give everything to the game and it’s going to take bits and pieces of you, but you can’t let it take too much,” Greenway said.

In the interview Greenway said his post-football focus will be on wife Jennifer and their children. “Live for your family,” Greenway said. “Live for your kids as a dad. Be a great husband. Just take it one day at a time.”

Greenway, who grew up near a small town in South Dakota and played nine-man football, considered an NFL career “near impossible” as a teenager. Three times during his career teammates voted him Defensive MVP. …

Mike Yeo

Tonight at the Xcel Energy Center former Wild head coach Mike Yeo faces his old team for the first time as boss of the St. Louis Blues. Yeo took over from Ken Hitchcock as Blues head coach on February 1. The Wild is 2-1-1 against the Blues so far this season with the most recent game a 5-1 win in St. Paul. Yeo coached the Wild for parts of five seasons from 2011-2016 and had a record of 173-132-44. …

Big Ten leading scorer Tyler Sheehy of the hockey Gophers has been named the Big Ten Second Star of the Week following a four point performance last weekend in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. …

The Gophers basketball program has never won the Big Ten Tournament that starts tomorrow in Washington D.C., but is a dark horse favorite this year. Minnesota begins tournament play on Friday and because of a double bye will only have to win three games (instead of four or five) to emerge as the conference champion.

Minnesota played a poor second half on Sunday in its regular season finale and loss to Wisconsin but won nine more Big Ten games than a year ago. All the Gophers top eight players have remaining eligibility except for guard Akeem Springs. Minnesota will soon be mentioned among the preseason favorites for the 2018 Big Ten title.

Incoming freshman guard Isaiah Washington will only add to the hype about the Gophers. New York’s No. 1 point guard with his flashy style has drawn national attention. His arrival and the success of the 2016-2017 team might result in a season ticket increase of 2,500 or more during the coming months, pushing the total over 10,000 and setting up a potential streak of consecutive Big Ten sellouts at Williams Arena. This season the Gophers only sold out two games at home.

Gophers sophomore guard Ahmad Gilbert averaged 17.6 points and 11 per game as a high school senior in Philadelphia but his success has been limited at Minnesota. He didn’t get on the court in 15 of Minnesota’s 18 conference games and played a total of six minutes. Close observers of the program wonder if he will transfer to another school. …

The Gophers’ football team holds its first spring practices today and Thursday but no sessions are open to the public until late March and early April. The public is invited to watch three of new head coach P.J. Fleck’s spring sessions: March 28 and April 4—starting at 4:45 p.m. at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex—and April 15 beginning at noon in TCF Bank Stadium for the annual spring game. …

The “Breakfast with Leroy” group will remember and pay tribute to Leroy Hardeman this Saturday on the 10th year of his passing. Hardeman was an extraordinary athlete and his accomplishments included induction into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame. The group will gather for breakfast and tributes starting at 9 a.m. at the Bloomington Knights of Columbus, 1114 American Blvd West. The public is invited, with more information available by contacting Pat Rickert at 612-861-3981.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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