2013 Midwest League Regular Season at Perfect Game Field (Opened 2002) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Minnesota Twins Class-A Affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels hosted the Oakland Athletics Class-A Affiliate Beloit Snappers in the second game of a three-game series. I spent a week in Iowa and realized the Kernels were in town less than a mile away, an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Cedar Rapids Kernels were down 5-1 in the 6th inning when they tied and ultimately won with a walk off double in the 9th inning. They went on to sweep the series.
Here is where naming rights get a bit awkward. Perfect Game USA, the world’s largest scouting service, has naming rights. Just outside the stadium is All Veterans Memorial Park, a memorial of the armed services veterans from all the wars. Local residents call it the “New Veterans Memorial Stadium”, in contrast to the original park that existed 1949-2001. It’s testimonial to the relation between Veterans and Baseball. Historically, over 400 MLB players have dropped their baseball equipment to serve in the military. In a time of war, fit men who could play baseball could contribute to the war effort, a sense of patriotic duty that resonated with the times. Back home, Americans were motivated by the notion that the game should go on because, after all, it was the pastime that lifted the spirits of a country in turmoil. That was also a driving force to the war effort.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels were founded in 1890, tracing it back to the early years of baseball. Since 1962, they’ve competed in the Midwest League. Over the years, the team has had 14 affiliations with MLB teams starting in 1932. Of those affiliations were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1993-2012). Among the long list of Alumni who played here are Mike Trout and the late Nick Adenhart. We all know about Mike Trout. Nick Adenhart’s career and ultimately his life was tragically cut short on April 9, 2009 in a car accident, shortly after midnight at the tender age of 22. After a pitching injury in high school and a series of setbacks, Perfect Game Field was a vital part of his road to recovery. He had just reached a milestone when he made his first start to debut in the 2009 Regular Season with the Angels. Just hours after that, Nick Adenhart was traveling with two friends when he was broad sided at the intersection of Orangethrope Avenue and Lemon Street killing all three in the car at the scene. In honor of his memory, there is an image of him and his number on the outfield wall of Perfect Game Field. The family gives a Nick Adenhart Memorial Scholarship every year for a student athlete in the area going into college. Eric Davis also began his professional career in Cedar Rapids back in the 1980s. He played for this affiliate before going on to stardom and winning the 1990 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds.
Just as the rest of the Minor Leagues, this year was canceled. Needless to say, it’s been tragic for teams this year. And, like many other teams, the Kernels have been innovative in still creating promotions and engaging the community. In addition to the impact of a pandemic, the threat of MLB downsizing and causing teams to lose existing affiliations has been lurking for years now. The news came earlier this month that invitations for affiliations went out to 119 minor league teams. That means that some 43 other teams will need to come to terms with their fate. It’s the biggest change in Minor League history.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels were offered to remain the Class A Affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. In a related story, the St. Paul Saints, a storied and very successful independent team was invited to be the Class Triple-A Affiliate as well for the Minnesota Twins. The Beloit Snappers were offered to be a Miami Marlins Affiliate. Hopefully, the popularity of independent baseball will sustain some of the other teams that are having to reinvent themselves. In the face of crisis, change is no longer a choice.