John's Journal
Student Media Day With The Twins: An Unforgettable Experience9/23/2012
(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Minnesota Twins game through the MSHSL Student Media program. Four students received media credentials for the Twins-White Sox game on Sept. 15 at Target Field.)

By Nick Wagner
Ada-Borup High School

It is difficult to translate Saturday's MSHSL Student Media day with the Minnesota Twins into a story of finite words. Then again, the exact same program and its leader, John Millea, have taught its members how to put any unexplainable experience into words.

First off, many thanks are owed to John Millea, the MSHSL's media specialist who not only made the media day happen but started the growing Student Media program. John honored three others from the program with credentials: JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Zach Burnside of White Bear Lake and Jared Rubado of Brainerd.

Then there's Twins corporate communications manager Chris Isles. Chris worked closely with John and Twins corporate staff to make the day an obligated story to “tell the grandkids.”

Then again, who would give up the opportunity to share stories the day produced: a private meeting with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, meeting and shaking hands with Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven, a tour of the Twins clubhouse among players and a photographer's credential to position a person as close to the action as it gets.

I was fortunate enough to be able to shoot alongside team photographer Bruce Kluckhohn. Bruce went to Harvard. Yes, Harvard. How he ended up shooting for the Twins, Minnesota Wild and numerous top-shelf magazines still has me wondering if such an extraordinary career path could be duplicated. If so, sign me up!

It is not just the knowledge of creating a great photo that would land a job Bruce has, but also I think it is the little things done behind the scenes that sets one apart in the photographic field. Simply take into account Bruce's willingness to allow a 17-year-old to follow him around like a lost dog for a three-hour game.

Hanging around Bruce gave me the opportunity to shoot only where Twins photographers can: the photo well connected to the Twins dugout, which places a person and their camera an arm’s length away from the big leaguers. It was as sweet as the Double Bubble bubble gum the players chewed. I even got to be a part of pre-game rituals: knuckle touching with Twins infielder Jamey Carroll and shaking hands with first base coach Jerry White.

Reflecting back on the myriad nuances of the day John, Chris, Bruce and the Twins pleasured our program with will not soon be forgotten, nor will it ever. When I find myself applying for a job, I will be able to mark down this experience, and when I do, all the memories from the day will flourish; now time will only tell whether or not Harvard will have a place under the application's “Education” section.
Sportsmanship Is Important Focus In Suburban East Conference9/20/2012
The students walked into Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul on a sunny morning. They came from the 10 schools in the Suburban East Conference – 10 or 12 students from each school -- and their morning consisted of getting to know each other, to understand each other and have fun with each other.

If their morning pays off, attendees at Suburban East athletic events will go home with this thought: Wow, those students in the stands were great!

The SEC Sportsmanship Summit, which has been held for several years, brings together the so-called Super Fans along with team captains and cheerleaders from each school in the Suburban East: Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge, Forest Lake, Hastings, Mounds View, Park, Roseville, Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Woodbury. These are the students who lead their fellow students in chanting and cheering during games of all kinds; indoors, outdoors, on the field, on the ice, on the court.

The summit is a model for other conferences around the state and a discussion topic when Minnesota athletic directors gather. It’s a very good thing and more conferences should do this.

“I’m going to boast a little bit and say that I think we have the absolute best conference, not only in the metro but in the entire state,” Park athletic director Phil Kuemmel told the group. “And what we’re doing today is one of the reasons why I think we have the best conference in the entire state. It’s not just because we have good teams, but again I’m going to boast and say we have great ADs and administrators in this conference who want to do things like this to continually make things better.”

As the groups from each school arrived, each student was given a colored wrist band, corresponding to specific tables as a way to bring students from different schools together.

“You get to meet people who are just like you,” Forest Lake activities director Joel Olson said.

There was plenty of fun. The students played a game called “Giant, Wizard, Elf” which is much like “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but much more fun. There was a demonstration of a fan chant/dance called “Go Bananas!”

The meeting was led by MSHSL associate director Jody Redman and Cretin-Derham Hall faculty member Tom Cody, who also works with an organization called Top 20 Training. Redman and Cody guided wide-ranging discussions, all focused on helping the students understand how important their role is and how they can make a positive difference.

They talked about sportsmanship and treating people with respect …

--Just because a fan pays to attend a sporting event, they don’t have the right to act badly.

--Fans should focus on what they can control, including their behavior. They cannot control things like officials’ calls and players’ abilities.

Cody laughed about the common practice of students holding up newspapers as a way to ignore the introduction of the opposing team’s starting lineup.

“That’s so 1940s. Your grandma did that,” he told the students. “Let’s get clever if we’re going to be funny.”

The students learned about “mob think,” which is when people feel empowered when they are part of a large group. He used the example of a snowman on someone’s lawn; if one student walks past nothing will happen, but if a group of students walks past, that snowman is likely to be destroyed.

The students discussed behavior that goes over the line … and where that line is. Any kind of harassment clearly is over the line, but what about specific chants? This type of discussion gave the students things to think about when they are leading their fellow students in the stands.

“This is about being dignified and competitive,” Cody said.

As the meeting was winding down, the students realized that they are all alike even though they live in different areas, attend different schools and have different friends.

The meeting ended with students standing up and talking about what they had learned. Their comments included …

--“I met so many great people today.”

--“Everybody is really nice; we are opposing teams but we really welcome each other.”

--“This is our conference and we can do this together.”

At that point, pizza was delivered and a whole bunch of friends – old and new – sat together, talked and laughed.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 90
*Miles John has driven: 1,922
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
There’s No Stopping Sauk Rapids-Rice Runner Matt Kruger9/18/2012
Matt Kruger is a high school athlete. That’s the most important thing. It doesn’t really matter that the senior from Sauk Rapids-Rice runs on the junior varsity cross-country team. Or that he usually doesn’t finish among the leaders. Or that he is blind.

Matt Kruger is a high school athlete. A condition called retinitis pigmentosa may have gradually taken away his sight since he was young, but it’ll never get his determination or his desire to be part of the team.

“It’s important to him to be a part of something and a part of the school,” said Matt’s mother, Ann Kruger. “It’s been a very important part of his life.”

Matt also wrestles for the Storm, which seems a bit more understandable. But a blind runner, competing on cross-country courses that vary widely … that seems like a dangerous proposition. This is where Wade Cruser comes in.

Cruser, a former wrestling coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice, runs with Matt at most races (photo). They both hang onto a lanyard, which keeps them connected yet allows each to run freely. As they run, Wade guides Matt and tells him what to expect.

“I guess the way to put it is that I describe the course as best I can,” Cruser said at last week’s Lucky Lindy meet in Little Falls. “Today I was pretty much constantly trying to remind him, ‘OK, hills, hills, up and down, trust your footing,’ that type of thing.”

Other runners help Matt maintain his conditioning and fill in when Cruser can’t be at a competition. During practice, teammates grab the lanyard and take off alongside Matt. He views cross-country as a great way to stay in shape for wrestling, and he is indeed in great shape: lean, strong, muscular. He’s been running cross-country since seventh grade.

Yes, he occasionally falls while running. That’s something he takes in stride.

“This year it hasn’t happened but last year it was just about every meet,” Matt said. The result is “just like skinned knees and stuff.”

Sauk Rapids-Rice coach Marie Zeilenga said, “His mom, bless her heart, is totally accepting when he falls. That worries me, and he does fall. But he’s very confident in his running. It doesn’t even faze him.”

When Zeilenga (pictured helping Matt with his race number) became the Storm cross-country coach last season, she wasn’t worried about Matt’s ability to run, but keeping him safe was a concern.

“I’d say one of our biggest challenges as coaches right now is to fit him with the right person. Because there are limitations to what he’s doing but yet he’s totally capable. So it’s finding the right runner for him to make sure he’s safe out on the roads and out on the trails.

“It is a challenge and a blessing.”

Matt is a popular guy. His teammates greet him when they approach; “Hi Matt” is a common refrain around the Storm. And when he runs in a competition, it seems like nearly everyone watching calls him by name and shouts encouragement.

“Everybody knows who he is,” Cruser said. “There usually isn’t a section on the course where somebody isn’t yelling his name. He’s kind of a star.”

When the Luck Lindy race ended, other runners approached Matt and reached out to grab his right hand and shake it, telling him “Nice run” or “Good job.”

As Matt and Wade cooled down from their run, Ann approached with a bottle of Gatorade for each of them. The three chatted and laughed.

“He’s pretty quiet,” Ann said of her son. “At home he’s not so quiet. He will verbalize. He has expressed how it makes him feel good to be part of the team and do things like this.

“We are lucky. We really have an awesome school. They have really embraced him and we couldn’t ask for anything more. They are awesome at every level.”

Those good feelings go both ways. Matt’s coaches and teammates are there to support him and cheer for him, and Cruser is there when the starter’s pistol goes off.

“I enjoy coaching so I enjoy helping kids,” he said. “Matt wants to run, so let him run. He’s such a great kid, it’s hard to say no, it’s hard to not do anything you can for him.”

Matt Kruger is a high school athlete.

--To see a photo gallery of Matt in action, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 90
*Miles John has driven: 1,601
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
MSHSL Student Media Day With The Minnesota Twins9/17/2012
If you’ve seen the photo gallery on the MSHSL Facebook page, you already know what took place Saturday at Target Field. The Twins played the Chicago White Sox, with four members of the MSHSL Student Media program watching from the press box.

Actually, three students were in the press box and one was shooting photographs from field level, next to the Twins dugout. Yes indeed, it was an outstanding day.

The students attending the game were (from left to right in this photo) JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Nick Wagner of Ada-Borup, Zach Burnside of White Bear Lake and Jared Rubado of Brainerd. The Twins also provided their parents with tickets to the game at no charge.

Our group gathered at the Target Field media entrance at 10 a.m. – more than two hours before game time – and we were greeted by Chris Iles from the Twins corporate communications department (and a graduate of Eagan High School). After a quick elevator ride down a couple of floors, we were escorted into the Twins clubhouse, where Kent Hrbek was chatting with some of the current Twins.

Next was a private visit with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in his office. He shook hands with the students and they asked questions; as the discussion went on, the topics ranged from baseball to college football to the military.

After that the students were served a fine pregame meal in the Twins dining room, where they all shook hands with Hall of Fame pitcher and Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven. Then came a trip to the field, where the grounds crew was preparing for the game.

From there the group was escorted to the press box. Like the rest ofTarget Field, the press box is among the finest in all of sports, and we had a great spot from which to watch the game. Although we didn’t stay in the press box the whole time …

That’s because we had other people to meet. The students were taken to the Twins Radio Network booth, where play-by-play announcer Cory Provus read their names and schools on the air. Analyst Dan Gladden handed his headset to JoNathan Chartrand, who sat in Dan’s chair for an inning.

The booth next door is where Twins general manager Terry Ryan watches the games, and that was the next stop. Ryan shook hands with the students, talked about what he looks for when watching baseball and answered questions from them.

After watching the remainder of the game from the press box, the students returned to Gardenhire’s office for his postgame session with the media. As the media members left, the students remained for another private chat with the manager. He asked them, “Did everybody have a good time today?”

The answer was easy. Thanks to the Minnesota Twins for an unforgettable experience.

--The students are writing about their experience, and their stories will be posted here on John's Journal.

--See more photos on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 80
*Miles John has driven: 1,667
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn