Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Derek Falvey and Andrew Miller enter the bar…
Or maybe it was a restaurant, or the meeting rooms of the Cleveland baseball team in Goodyear, Arizona.
At various times during the early to mid-2010s, the three of them hung out together during spring training in Arizona, never realizing they would one day become key figures in 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 somebody, ‘Wait, 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 quickly through the organization of what is 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 in Cleveland from 2005 to ’15. before becoming executive vice president of 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 may have bumped into them long ago on the back field at Goodyear or at a table at 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 would go to spring training every year,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’ve been missing that for the last year since I became general manager, but we’d spend time together and climb Camelback, and tour the Cleveland facility.
“One day, Cherny said, ‘Hey, one of our guys is going out with us,’ and it was Falvey. We went to one of our favorite places, and I remember him being super smart and good-natured and laid-back back. We would pick each other’s brains.”
Miller went 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 he’s like a big brother to me,” Falvey said.
As young men unencumbered by families, they would share meals and philosophies. “We would just hang out,” Falvey said. “What struck me about Kwesi was how curious he was.”
Adofo-Mensah’s first draft as GM was unconventional, largely because he traded within the Vikings’ division. “It doesn’t surprise me,” Falvey said. “I knew Andrew Berry, his general manager in Cleveland, and I was always very impressed with him. I think Kwesi thinks, ‘If we’re doing everything the same as everybody else, how can we separate ourselves?’ That’s the way we think with Gemini.”
Adofo-Mensah joined the world of sport which was becoming posh. Falvey and Miller experienced the harsher reality of starting baseball careers in the 2000s.
Then Cleveland held spring training in Winter Haven, Florida. It wasn’t fancy. Falvey and Miller worked in adjacent cubicles in the dilapidated 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, ‘It’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 place with the 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 the NFL Players Association award as the franchise that treats its players the best. Since Falvey arrived, he and Twins president Dave St. Peter expanded the organization and erased the franchise’s reputation for being understaffed and overworked.
These days, the Miller and Falvey families can be seen walking around Lake Harriet together, and they’ve developed relationships with some of the other sports leaders in town, including Timberwolves and Lynx CEO Ethan Casson and Wild president Matt Mike.
“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 outstanding.
“I don’t know Kwesi either, 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.”