After our game at AAA St. Paul my brother and I went down the next day to take in the Twin’s single A affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels. On the drive down the thermometer hit 101 degrees. I think this kept attendance down on what turned out to be a very tolerable night after a brief shower cooled the place down. As with my prior review I’ll give my opinions on the park, the amenities, the game and the players.
Veteran’s Memorial Stadium has free parking, at least when we were there. Your car will be watched over by a decommissioned tank. You need to get an armband to buy beer, even if your grizzled beard would seem sufficient ID. They seem a bit more diligent on this because every Friday is 2 for 1 beer. They were setting up banks of extra taps during our Thursday night game. It’s a smaller park but neat and well laid out. Good tickets were $13. One of the main sponsors is the local Plumbers and Pipefitters Union local.
Food and Drink
On a prior trip we’d enjoyed exceptional steak sandwiches prepared lovingly by an elderly craftsman. His stand was one of several not yet in operation as the Kernels had just gone to full capacity. We ended up getting barbeque from a guy who had a tattoo on his arm showing a pig with all the cuts of meat plotted out. As to beer, well Cedar Rapids did not match St. Paul where there was something like 50 craft beers available. I took one suggestion from a vendor whose nametag had “BEER GUY” crudely drawn on with a Sharpie. For my second choice a nice lady let me try a sample of a local tangerine wheat beer. On a day of triple digit temps they unsurprisingly were both pure Ambrosia. Rating: Superior. The barbeque needed a bit more sauce.
I’ve been following baseball for half a century now. And I still see surprising things. In the bottom of the first inning the very first Kernel’s batter was rung up on a dubious call. The umpire was vociferously booed! On his first home batter. After that the crowd was well behaved.
This is minor league ball, so there were silly contests. One such was being shown on the video screen. The contestant was wearing an Astros jersey. The MC said he did not know if the guy could win without cheating. Immediately a bunch of kids three rows in front of us started banging loudly on seat backs! True students of the game.
Overall the fans were having a good time – how could you not? – but took the game much more seriously than in the high minors. Kudos, Kernel Fans, you excelled.
This was played by a high school instrumental group called “Heavy Metal Tubas”. Which is pretty self explanatory. Good pacing, majestic, a bit somber. I liked it. I can fault it only in that I did not feel as if I should sing along as is my usual practice. Well done.
The South Bend Cubs had a starter who was very twitchy. Every adverse call he’d step off the mound and say something into his jersey. When he hit a batter he took four steps towards the plate. I don’t know why, it did not seem like he was apologizing. For the Kernels the much hyped Wander Javier did look good. As did an infielder named Seth Grey who has a major league arm across the infield. Overall the play was better than we’ve seen in A ball. The Cubs visibly wilted when the Kernels mounted a late inning rally that ended the game 12-4.
The mascot of the Cedar Rapids Kernels is Mr. Shucks. He is a bizarre hybrid of baseball equipment and corn. He, or for all I know, she, is also the best mascot in Organized Baseball. Tireless despite the heat and humidity. Always ready to chum about with fans, especially the smallest of them. It’s hard to convey raw enthusiasm when wearing a suit that is effectively a portable oven with limited visibility. I don’t know if the current incarnation of Shucks is the same one we’ve met before, but if not then somebody is filling those gigantic clown shoes very well. Cheers Shucks, you’re the best there is.
Perhaps my favorite baseball venue outside of grandkid little league games. If I lived closer I’d be a season ticket holder. If the pain of the 2021 Twins season gets to be too much for you; if you are wondering where the fun in baseball has gone, I can tell you.
It’s in Cedar Rapids.