The Cedar Rapids’ Kernels season is in full swing!
I remember going to see the Cedar Rapids’ Reds when I was a kid with my Grandpa. I didn’t know it wasn’t the majors and every at bat and pop up seemed important. When I was a bit older we started going to Wrigley to see the Chicago Cubs, and although nothing holds a candle to Wrigley, I still liked visiting my hometown ballpark a little more. I wasn’t old enough to think the minors were minor in any way, and I just thought about the basic benefits: our seats were closer, there were more choices for food, and I didn’t have to walk two miles after the game to our car.
Now I’m grown up and taking my family to games. The club isn’t the Reds anymore, it’s the Kernels, and they’ve built a beautiful new stadium. My son is young, and doesn’t understand the intricacies of baseball, but he does love the Kernels’ mascot Mr. Shucks. In fact, I’d have to say he became a bit obsessed with Mr. Shucks at our last outing… Where is Shucks? What’s Shucks doing? Will Shucks come visit me? And then if Mr. Shucks did come he quickly buried his head in my side.
But I digress.
What I think is the best aspect of minor league baseball compared to its major league counterpart is that they actually try to entertain the audience. You just don’t swelter in the sun between innings, you watch dance contests and hula hoop tosses and get t-shirts shot at you from moving vehicles. You get a chance to win ice cream and free haircuts and Kernels’ memorabilia. There’s a gift shop to visit, and a Blue Bunny ice cream stand, and even an inflatable bounce area for the kids. They have a ton of special events too – from post game fireworks to Mexican Fiesta day at the Ballpark to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
History of minor league baseball in Cedar Rapids
The history of the club is interesting. Cedar Rapids is part of the Midwest league and the franchise was originally called the Red Raiders (1962-1964). After that the team used the name of the major league franchise it affiliated with: the Cardinals (1965-1972), the Astros (1973-1974), the Giants (1975-1979), and the Reds (1980-1992). The Cedar Rapids Kernels are currently a Class A minor league baseball affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The team adopted the Kernels nickname after affiliating with the Angels before the 1993 season. It won Midwest League championships in 1988, 1992, and 1994.
The team’s first ballpark was the original Veterans’ Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1949. In 2000 voters approved a referendum to build a new ballpark adjacent to the old one, which was demolished after the 2001 season. The new Veterans’ Memorial Stadium was completed in time for the opening of the 2002 season, and the Kernels set an attendance record of 196,066 in the new park’s inaugural year.
Support the home team!
We still go to Wrigley, and other major league ballparks, but there is something special about supporting the hometown boys. There’s something inspiring about the fact they play for next to nothing and truly enjoy it. And those boys remember playing in the minors too, even if they’re one of the lucky few who make it into the big show. Bob Brenly, the current color commentator for the Chicago Cubs and former MLB player and manager referred to his time in Cedar Rapids during a broadcast just the other day. This quote isn’t exact, but it’s close. “Those are good baseball folks in Cedar Rapids. I remember playing there and they’d bring us all the sweet corn we could eat. And it was good sweet corn.”
Check out the upcoming schedule and support our local club!
Interesting recent article on the Kernels: