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Beer & Bats, Baseball & Benefits: What You Find In Free Tabloids

I stumbled across some stuff in free local papers that was pretty cool.

Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Looking for love in all the wrong places.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Did you know where the term "tabloid" came from? It's newspaper printing jargon. "Tabloid" just refers to a certain size of paper. Later it started to mean "sleazy," since some newspapers of that size were pretty sleazy. Not like newspapers of regular size always weren't.

I like tabloids. The free ones you get in flimsy weatherbeaten plastic boxes all over America. There's things like trucker dating tabloids, with hopeful personality profiles. Some are just collections of ads/promos for local businesses. Some have nice or brainless editorials; I've read a few in places that drove me out of those places, pronto.

Many are really great, full of local history and community reporting. If you see a free tabloid you've never looked at before, grab it. Could be trash, could be treasure. Won't know until you try.

I picked up a few free tabloids recently that had Minnesota baseball stuff in them, and I thought I'd share.

First, from "The Growler." A growler is a large jug meant for filling with beer. Many startup breweries/taprooms sell growlers onsite. It can be hard to get your beer into liquor stores or bars, as they have limited space and prefer featuring established brands. So startups try to build brand loyalty with growlers. Now that I've tediously explained its name, "The Growler" is a free magazine for beer geeks.

It wouldn't have baseball in it, right?

Wrong! The latest "Growler" has two baseball articles. One, by Michael Rand (our beloved Stu's illegitimate father, and the two haven't spoken for 50 years) is about the Saints' manager (who pitched for the Twins one season.) Check it out.

Another surprised the hell out of me. We have a company making bats in Minnesota! And MLBers use them! Like Doug Mientkiewicz! They're called MaxBat, they're in Brooten, near Sauk Centre, and they're doing fine. Their specialty is making bats with very specific shapes/weights. Lord knows baseball players never get obsessive about obscenely minute personalized details.

Interesting to me in that article, if you don't read it (but you should) -- guess who breaks more bats during a season, school/college players or MLBers? MLBers, right, because they rake harder? Nope. It's the amateurs. MLBers have better swings, so balls don't hit the weak spots on their bats as often. Now that's something you know. Although our amateur players around here already knew it.

Onto the other tabloid (technically, "Growler" isn't tabloid size, but blah blah.) The Minnesota Spokesman-Reporter is a very old, very established African-American paper, mostly available around Minneapolis. I'd never grabbed a copy before. I'm sorry I hadn't. It covers all kinds of issues from health advice to community events with an African-American perspective.

It wouldn't have baseball in it, right?

Wrong! Spokesman-Reporter had a ton of baseball stuff. Probably not every edition. Some things from the one I read.

The paper doesn't have much space, so articles are short. Here's what it's like being a batboy for the Twins (incidentally, the guy interviewed is a young adult! I thought batboys were younger.) Here's summation of a panel discussion on why baseball is losing African-American fans. It's got LEN3 and Gary Sheffield. I'd have liked more about that discussion (maybe video on the website?) but writer Charles Hallman did a terrific job picking varied, intriguing quotes and framing the issue. (Hallman also has a brief earlier piece on Mudcat Grant, and lots more.)

Finally, there's a Minneapolis politics thing going on about changing the rules for part-time workers, many of whom are in food service. The issues are complex and detailed; you can read about them in this City Pages article. (It's a little snarky towards workers who aren't lifestyle hipsters, but that's the City Pages way; this man's video responds to the snark.) Wages, sick pay, and scheduling in advance were all being discussed. (And all but the least-contentious sick pay issue have been dropped for now.)

Why scheduling? Well, if you agree to one shift and you're told "stay home" at the last minute, that's time you could have worked at a different job, but now all those shifts for the other job are filled. Maybe you had to juggle child care, medical appointments, etc. While restaurant owners mostly don't want to have a hard-&-fast schedule. What if you have workers on for a big concert across the street and the band has to postpone? Now you're paying more workers than you need.

Here's where the Twins come in. Over 100 temp workers at Target Field signed a petition asking for better working conditions. Their complaints, Hallman writes, include an ooky variation on the scheduling issue. Rather than being notified to stay home, apparently scheduled temp workers often show up and have to wait in a first-come, first-served line for however many positions the stadium's food-service operator, Delaware North Corporation, determines will be needed that day. Waits can be several hours long.

Because this isn't convoluted enough, neither the Twins nor Delaware North (whose local arm is called Minnesota Sportservice, just to confuse me) actually pay the temp workers. Temps are paid by temp agencies; Sportservice pays its own hirees (who make better money.)

Sick of this yet? Well -- I might have some slightly cheerful news.

The workers got a meeting with DNC and the Twins. At first the responses were "noncommittal," per Hallman. Then MinnPost reported temps may have gotten some improvements. Turns out, under Minnesota law, you are supposed to pay workers for mandated waiting time "restricted to the premises of the employer." The Twins are saying they'll make sure people who wait in line but aren't used that day get paid for their time. Plus more options on how pay is delivered and the right to skip shifts for emergencies.

So, hopefully the Twins acted in a positive fashion. Because ya know, I think they make just a wee bit more money than struggling restaurants on those concessions stands. Almost enough to offset how much Kent Hrbek eats for free.

Anyhoo, thought I'd share. Free newspapers! I love them and so should you. What's this site but a free newspaper? Without inkstains getting on your fingers.