Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Derek Falvey and Andrew Miller walk into a bar …
Or maybe it was a restaurant, or the Cleveland baseball team’s meeting rooms in Goodyear, Ariz.
At various times during the early-to-middle part of the 2010s, the three hung out together during spring training in Arizona, having no idea that they would one day become key figures on the Twin Cities sports scene.
“I remember meeting Derek and thinking he was a really good, smart guy,” Adofo-Mensah said this week. “Then the next year I saw a story about the new Twins general manager, and I asked someone, ‘Hold it, is that the guy I met?’ “
Adofo-Mensah worked on Wall Street before taking a job with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, and moving to the Cleveland Browns in 2020. Last year, the Vikings hired him as their general manager.
Falvey rose rapidly through the organization of what’s now the Cleveland Guardians before the Twins hired him to run their baseball operation in 2017.
Miller worked in investment banking and venture capital before deciding he wanted to work in sports. He was with Cleveland from 2005 to ’15 before becoming an executive vice president with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Vikings hired him as their COO in 2020.
The three are known for creative thinking and humane management, and you might have bumped into them back in the day on a back field at Goodyear or a table at the Dakota in Scottsdale.
Adofo-Mensah was a college roommate of current Guardians GM Mike Chernoff at Princeton. Falvey and Chernoff worked together with the franchise.
“Mike and I are like brothers,” Falvey said.
“We have a close group of friends and we’d go to spring training every year,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’ve missed out on that the last year or so since I’ve become general manager, but we’d spend time together and climb Camelback, and we’d tour Cleveland’s facility.
“One day, Cherny said, ‘Hey, one of our guys is going to come out with us,’ and it was Falvey. We went to one of our favorite places, and I remember him being super smart and good-humored and laid back. We’d pick each other’s brains.”
Miller transitioned from an internship to a full-time position in Cleveland’s baseball operation about six months before Falvey was hired as an intern, in the mid-2000s. “He took me under his wing and is like a big brother to me,” Falvey said.
As young men unencumbered by families, they would share meals and philosophies. “We’d just hang out,” Falvey said. “The thing that struck me about Kwesi was how curious he was.”
Adofo-Mensah’s first draft as a GM was unconventional, largely because he made trades within the Vikings’ division. “That doesn’t surprise me,” Falvey said. “I knew Andrew Berry, his general manager in Cleveland, a little, and was always very impressed with him. I think Kwesi thinks, ‘If we do everything the same as everyone else, how do we separate ourselves?’ That’s the way we think with the Twins.”
Adofo-Mensah joined the sports world as it was becoming posh. Falvey and Miller experienced the grittier realities of starting a career in baseball in the 2000s.
Back then Cleveland held spring training in Winter Haven, Fla. It was not posh. Falvey and Miller worked at adjoining cubicles in the decrepit spring training offices, and one day they were in Chernoff’s office when Miller asked him why there were pins in the ceiling.
“Mike said, ‘That’s so the cleaners know where the rat traps are,’ ” Miller said. “It was one of those drop ceilings, and you wouldn’t want to hit the wrong spot with a broom and have a dead rat fall on you.”
You won’t find many rat traps in the modern sports world. With Adofo-Mensah running the football operation and Miller running the business operation, the Vikings recently won an NFL Players Association Award as the franchise that treats its players the best. Since Falvey arrived, he and Twins President Dave St. Peter have expanded the organization and erased the franchise’s reputation of priding itself on being understaffed and overworked.
These days, the Miller and Falvey families might be seen walking together around Lake Harriet, and they have developed relationships with some of the other sports leaders in town, including Timberwolves and Lynx CEO Ethan Casson and Wild President Matt Majka.
“Andrew is one of the sharpest people I’ve ever been around,” Falvey said. “His understanding of culture and process, and how to execute a big-picture strategy is remarkable.
“I don’t know Kwesi as well, but I’m not surprised to see him in that position, and I’m not surprised to see him and Andrew having this kind of success.”
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