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Twins add ‘heavyweight’ slugger to the mix

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Josh Donaldson wants not for riches, or fame, or professional respect. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League in 2015, after all, owns two other fourth-place finishes, grossed more than $80 million in salary and inspires respect among teammates, and fear among opponents.

Still, until this winter, major league stops in Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland and Atlanta created a sense of impermanence, that a player who emerged from humble roots to superstardom might somehow be destined to always be on the move. A late bloomer, a famously high motor that can occasionally overheat, a body that failed him at an inopportune time – all factors that prevented his transcendent talent from taking root.

Finally, it all coalesced last year, as Donaldson sliced through the National League with a .900 OPS for a first-place Atlanta Braves team and set him up – even at age 34 – for the chance at a forever home.

So when the Minnesota Twins – ever meticulous in their preparation, and always careful in their outlays – offered to make Donaldson the highest-paid player in their franchise history, it was more than a little emotional.

“It means a lot to me and my family,” Donaldson told USA TODAY Sports. “We did not take this situation lightly. We made sure that there was clarity throughout the process and this seemed to be a great spot for me.

“I’ve rented all throughout my career. To be able to settle down and have a home there, get some roots into the city we’re staying in, it was important. It was very satisfying.”

The four-year, $88 million deal forged what seems like an unlikely union: Minnesota Nice meets the Bringer of Rain, an intense and demonstrative force on the baseball field, a player capable of stirring the drink tasked with folding into a nucleus that already won 101 games.

For Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, the Donaldson splurge was carefully considered, and came after off-seasons in which he’s kicked the tires on elite talent but ultimately stood down.

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After winning the AL Central but suffering but yet another first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, it was time to sharpen the Twins’ edge.

“Every time he steps on the field, it’s like he’s in a heavyweight fight,” says Falvey. “When you’re going to invest in a player at that level, you want to make sure what’s motivating him will persist even after the dotted line is signed. This guy’s a winning player. It’s not coincidence, I don’t think, that he’s won anywhere he’s gone.

“He pushes others to keep up that level of intensity.”

Indeed, since Donaldson stuck in the majors for good in 2012, his teams have gone to the playoffs every season save for 2017. His 2015 MVP campaign – he led the AL with 352 total bases and 123 RBI – snapped a 22-year postseason drought in Toronto.

After a calf injury limited him to 52 games in 2018, Donaldson, finally a free agent, took a one-year, $23 million pillow contract in Atlanta and delivered: 37 homers and a .900 OPS for the NL East champs.

“He brought a lot of really, really good stuff to this club last year,” says Braves manager Brian Snitker. “He’ll be good for (the Twins) and those young guys. He just made a really good team even better.

“I don’t know if they were a guy away from being really, really good, because they were really, really good.”

Historically good, at least at hitting home runs. The Twins’ “Bomba Squad” set a major league record by swatting 307 home runs, the biggest bashers in a juiced-ball, record-setting offensive environment in the major leagues.

Whether the baseball changes in 2020 or home runs are otherwise suppressed, manager Rocco Baldelli is confident his club can maintain its power edge over the rest of the AL.

If not, they have another force on board.

“You’re going to see it every day from Josh,” says Baldelli. “Those big, energy-packed emotional moments – I don’t know when they come, or how they come – but there are moments in the season when you need them. And he’s a guy that can bring them.”

The tangibles aren’t bad, either. Minnesota’s .832 team OPS ranked second in the AL and its .338 on-base percentage ranked fourth. To that, add Donaldson’s lifetime .369 OBP and .878 OPS and imagine the possibilities.

Additionally, his stellar glove at third will push Miguel Sano across the diamond to first base, which should significantly improve the Twins’ defense. That’s great news for lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, signed to a four-year, $80 million deal, and fellow former Dodgers Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill, the latter expected to return in June from arm surgery.

Donaldson calls the dynamics created by Falvey, senior vice president Thad Levine and Baldelli “tremendous,” and senses a greater hunger with the group he’s joining.

“They’re not as satisfied with winning 101 games, where I’ve seen in the past that success gets to people,” says Donaldson. “Maybe the focus, the intent isn’t as sharp as the year before. These guys seem like they’re ready to go.”

And Donaldson, one of the game’s original modern hitting savants, will be their beacon. He’s already had groups of young hitters clustered around him to soak up his knowledge. This contract will take him into his age 38 season, with designs to keep playing after that. Minnesota, then, figures to be the place he’ll stay the longest in a career that he hopes to push into his 40s.

Donaldson notes that 2020 will be his 13th season of pro ball, and that he’s spent virtually every one on one-year contracts, save for a two-year deal during his arbitration years.

And so it was pretty cool for the kid from the Florida Panhandle to cruise the Twin Cities’ tonier neighborhoods, ultimately settling on a home right next to University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck.

Donaldson’s not about to renounce his Auburn roots, though he’s still thrilled to finally lay some down.

“I think he was really intrigued by our willingness to invest in him over the longer term,” says Falvey. “It was important to him that we believed in him, not just over the next six to eight months, but beyond that.”



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Long Lost Family US (Mar 26, 2020) | It's The Fulfillment Of A Promise

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A grandmother hopes to find peace by locating her granddaughter; a woman yearns to meet her birth mother; taking place live, a professional baseball player shares big news and a blind mother gets the chance to see her kids for the first time.

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Coronavirus: How sports teams, players are helping arena, stadium workers affected by COVID-19 outbreak

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When the NBA made the shocking decision on March 11 to halt the season amid the coronavirus outbreak, it set off a monumental chain reaction in the sports world. As the league as a whole tries to grapple with what will be a 30-day minimum break in the schedule, a lot of concern has been centered around arena staff and workers, who won’t receive paychecks with games being postponed.

There isn’t a uniform plan in place to compensate arena workers set by the league, but when the postponement was announced, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a commitment to pay all arena workers inside American Airlines Center. 

While talking to reporters after the Mavericks’ win over the Denver Nuggets, Cuban said:

“I reached out to the folks at the arena and our folks at the Mavs to find out what it would cost to support, financially support, people who aren’t going to be able to come to work. They get paid by the hour, and this was their source of income. So, we’ll do some things there. We may ask them to go do some volunteer work in exchange, but we’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s certainly something that’s important to me.”

Since Cuban made that decision, other teams and even players from across the sports world have followed suit and have announced plans to help compensate those workers who are typically paid by the hour, including Kevin Love, Joel Embiid and Blake Griffin. Here’s a running list of players and teams around the league stepping up to help the arena workers in their cities.

  • Atlanta Braves: All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman Freeman has pledged $50,00 to the Atlanta Food Bank and $50,000 to the Giving Kitchen, a program that provides emergency assistance to food service workers. Freeman has also donated $25,000 to the Salvation Army, bringing his total outlay to $125,000.
  • Atlanta Hawks: Team owner Tony Ressler told Hawks CEO Steve Koonin two weeks before the league decided to go on a hiatus that “if we shut down, we have to take care of our part-time employees,” as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Sarah K. Spencer. 
  • Boston Celtics: The Celtics will reportedly be paying game-night staff through the remainder of the regular season, per MassLive’s John Karalis.
  • Brooklyn Nets: In response to Nets’ guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeting about taking care of non-salaried arena workers, team owner Joe Tsai responded by saying the franchise is putting a plan in place to help out Barclays Center staff. That plan includes paying non-salaried workers the paychecks they would typically receive through May if the remainder of the Nets games were played, in addition to non-Nets events such as concerts.
  • Charlotte Hornets: In a press release on Sunday, the Hornets announced that team owners and players were coming together to help pay for the salaries of part-time workers at Spectrum Center who were previously scheduled to work any upcoming Hornets or G League Greensboro Swarm games through April 13.
  • Chicago Bulls: The Bulls announced Saturday that they would pay game-day employees through all previously scheduled Bulls and Blackhawks games. 
  • Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward donated $200,000 to coronavirus relief in Chicago, split between two organizations. Heyward is giving $100,000 each to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and MASK, an organization that is collecting supplies and food for families impacted by the virus.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love became the first player in the league to donate money to event staff at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when he announced on social media that he would give $100,000 to those workers. The Cavaliers followed their star forward and announced on Twitter that they would be taking care of all hourly staff.
  • Dallas Mavericks: When the league announced postponement, team owner Mark Cuban wasted no time in making it clear that he would make sure all the employees who work events and games at the American Airlines Center would be paid during the hiatus. The Mavericks also released a statement Sunday saying that they plan to reimburse employees for breakfast and lunch purchases from Dallas-area restaurants in an effort to not only help those employees but local businesses as well.
  • Denver Nuggets: In a press release, team owner Josh Kroenke announced that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment will provide financial compensation for all the workers at the Pepsi Center affected by the lost wages due to the NBA’s current hiatus.
  • Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin will be donating $100,000 to the workers inside Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, per The Detroit News’ Rod Beard.
  • Golden State Warriors: Warriors ownership, players and coaches will contribute $1 million to a disaster relief fund for Chase Center employees, the team announced. “The men and women who work our games at Chase Center are critical in providing an incredible game-night experience for our fans,” Warriors guard Steph Curry said. “As players, we wanted to do something along with our ownership and coaches to help ease the pain during this time.” 
  • Houston Astros: Astros star George Springer joined the growing list of stars within the sports world to go into their own pockets to help others impacted by the spread of the coronavirus by pledging to donate $100,000 to Minute Maid Park employees.  
  • Indiana Pacers: Pacers owner Herb Simon has given financial aid to the part-time workers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, per Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. 
  • Houston Rockets: Team CEO Tad Brown said that the franchise is getting a plan together to take care of all hourly workers at Toyota Center, per The Houston Chronicle’s Johnathan Feigen.
  • Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers: The Clippers and Lakers, both tenants of the Staples Center, along with the Kings of the NHL, announced Saturday that they have created a fund to compensate over 2,800 part-time and contract workers that typically staff Staples Center for NBA and NHL games. This includes employees such as team statisticians, announcers and dance teams. Also, Lakers star forward Anthony Davis announced a partnership with Lineage Logistics that will help Staples Center workers find work while the NBA is suspended. Davis and Lineage will also match up to $250,000 in donations for Feed the Frontlines LA, an organization that is aiming to raise money to purchase food from local restaurants to deliver it to hospital workers.
  • Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies will be compensating all game night employees for any games missed through the end of the year, according to Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian.
  • Miami Heat: The Heat will provide funds to their partners in food and beverage services, security and housekeeping in order to help pay their part-time arena staffers, the team announced. Additionally, the Arison family, owners of the Heat, will donate $1 million to a fund dedicated to helping those part-time workers. 
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo took to Twitter to announce that he will be donating $100,000 to workers at Fiserv Forum, saying “it’s bigger than basketball.”
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns is donating $100,000 to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to help aid in providing testing for COVID-19. 
  • Major League Baseball: The league donated $1 million to emergency food services, and each team pledged $1 million for ballpark workers affected by the shutdown. It has also announced support for minor-leaguers, who haven’t been paid since August. 
  • New Orleans Pelicans: No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, announced on his Instagram that he’s pledging to cover the salaries of all workers at Smoothie King Center for the next 30 days. In the post, Williamson said, “this is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates.” In addition to Zion’s contribution, Pelicans owner Gayle Benson will be donating $1 million to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund, which will not only help the workers at Smoothie King Center, but those impacted by the coronavirus in the greater New Orleans area as well.
  • New York Knicks: Madison Square Garden reportedly plans to play event staff, including employees who work Knicks and Rangers games, until May
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder released a statement Friday stating that they will offer financial assistance to both the part-time stadium workers that they employ directly and the ones who technically work for ASM Global.
  • Orlando Magic: The DeVos Family, owners of the Orlando Magic, have created a $2 million compensation fund for Orlando Magic, Amway Center, Lakeland Magic and Orlando Solar Bears hourly workers for games and time missed during the COVID-19 suspension of seasons. Magic power forward Jonathan Isaac also decided to help provide children in the Orlando area with breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday throughout the length of the crisis, in response to schools being shut down amidst the pandemic. 
  • Philadelphia 76ers: The hourly workers at Wells Fargo Center will be compensated during the NBA’s hiatus, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. Also, Joel Embiid says he is donating $500,000 to coronavirus relief and aiding team workers who are taking temporary salary reductions during the shutdown.
  • Phoenix Suns: The Suns announced in a press release that all Talking Stick Resort Arena workers will receive compensation for the remaining Suns games canceled in March. 
  • Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers are pledging $1.4 million to the nearly 1,000 part-time employees who work game nights at Moda Center, as reported by The Athletic’s Jason Quick.
  • Sacramento Kings: The Kings are partnering with Legends Hospitality, ABM, Fanatics and SAMMCO to provide compensation to all employees who work game nights at Golden 1 Center through the end of March, per The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson.
  • San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have created a fund of $500,000 to help pay for non-contract and part-time employees, per The San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald.
  • Toronto Raptors: The Raptors joined forces with four other Toronto professional sports teams to create a fund for all workers impacted by the sudden stop in sports schedules
  • Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, will donate $500,000 to various causes. Of that money, $200,000 will go to game-day employees for the Jazz, $100,000 each will go to families impacted by the virus in Utah and Oklahoma City, and 100,000 euros will go to his native France.  
  • Washington Wizards: Team owner Ted Leonsis reportedly told Capital One Arena workers that they will be paid through March 31 for any Wizards or Capitals games they were scheduled to work, per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
  • Former NBA player Jeremy Lin announced that he was donating $150,000 to UNICEF to help fight the coronavirus. Lin also donated the same amount to the China Foundation. 

CBS Sports will continue to provide updates to this list when they become available. 





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