Cedar Rapids Ball Club purchases Waterloo Bucks

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The Cedar Rapids Kernels announced today that the Cedar Rapids Ball Club has purchased the Waterloo Bucks. The Bucks are a member of the Northwoods League. The official signing took place in Waterloo today with Cedar Rapids President Gary Keoppel, Cedar Rapids General Manager Doug Nelson, and Waterloo General Manager Dan Corbin all in attendance.

This is a great opportunity for both the Kernels and the Bucks. The two organizations will be able to utilize each other’s resources.

The Kernels will continue to play in the Midwest League and continue their affiliation with the Minnesota Twins while playing at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Bucks will continue to play at Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo as a part of the Northwoods League.

The front offices of the Kernels and Bucks will develop a plan for the 2015 season during the fall and winter. The Kernels begin play in early April while the Bucks start their season in late May.

A press release from the Kernels stated that “it’s anticipated that the team will become more active in the community, make improvements to Riverfront Stadium and enhance the promotions during the games to create an even more enjoyable fan experience for the people of the Cedar Valley.”

Keep up to date with the latest information during the offseason at http://www.kernels.com and http://www.waterloobucks.com.

2014 Season Recap

The Kernels finished the season with 75 wins and 70 losses, going 73-67 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs.

The team’s best record was nine games above the .500 mark (72-63 and 70-61). The team’s worst record was 14 games below the .500 mark (36-50 and 37-51).

The Kernels went 31-39 in the first half, finishing tied for sixth in the division. The second half concluded with 42 wins and 28 losses, the second-best record in the division.

The Kernels advanced to the playoffs for the second consecutive season, advancing one step further than 2013. They defeated Burlington (2-1) in the opening round before falling to Kane County (2-0) in the Western Division Championship Series.

The Kernels went 36-16 from July 10 until the end of the regular season. On July 10, the Kernels beat Wisconsin in Cedar Rapids. The Kernels went into the game with a 37-51 record, matching a season-worst 14 games below .500. They had also lost 12 of the first 18 games in the second half. The win started a five-game winning streak. In the July 10 game, the Kernels scored five times in the eighth inning to come back and beat Wisconsin 7-5. Logan Wade’s three-run home run in the eighth inning gave the Kernels the lead. Alex Swim added a two-run double later in the inning. It was Wade’s first game back after spending over two months on the disabled with a dislocated shoulder.

Minnesota Twins players Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco joined the Kernels on rehab stints in early August. Mauer played in four games from August 5-9. He hit .400 (6-for-15) with six singles, one run batted in, and two runs scored. He was the designated hitter for one game and played first base for three games. Nolasco made two starts for the Kernels, combining for 9 1/3 innings while earning two no-decisions. He allowed three runs on 10 hits while striking out eight and walking one. He started v. Wisconsin on August 5 and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out two and walking one. He started v. Kane County on August 10 and went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking none.

Mitch Garver was named to the Midwest League Post-Season All-Start team. Garver was the only catcher named to the team and one of only three Western Division players named to the 13-player squad.

Bryan Haar, Yorman Landa, and Kohl Stewart were all selected to play in the Mid-Season All-Star Game at West Michigan on June 17. All three were reserves on the team. Haar was the only one of the three to play in the game, playing first base and going 1-for-2.

Six Kernels were selected as Minnesota Twins Minor League Players of the Week during the season. Mitch Garver on (April 13) after going 8-for-20 with four home runs and six runs batted in during the period. Engelb Vielma on (May 11) after hitting .423 in seven games with two doubles and one triple. Todd Van Steensel on (June 15) after recording two saves in three appearances. Chih-Wei on (August 1) after collecting two wins in two starts and allowing one unearned run on four hits in 12 innings while striking out 16 and walking three. Stephen Gonsalves on (August 15) after going seven scoreless innings v. Peoria on August 15, allowing only three hits while striking out five and walking none. Jake Reed on (August 27) after picking up one win and two saves in three appearances, totaling four scoreless and hitless innings while striking out six and walking none.

Each month, the Kernels coaching staff selected a player and pitcher of the month. Tanner Vavra (April) while hitting .344 with eight runs batted in and reaching base in first 15 games played as a Kernel. Aaron Slegers (April) as he went 2-0 with a 3.14 earned run average. Chad Christensen (May) after hitting .288 with three home runs and 15 runs batted in. Kohl Stewart (May) after allowing just 21 hits in 23 innings, sporting a 2.74 earned run average. Mitch Garver (June) after hitting .345 with two home runs and 11 runs batted in. Todd Van Steensel (June) after collecting four saves with a 1.54 earned run average. Alex Swim (July) after hitting .358 and recording a 14-game hitting streak. Chih-Wei Hu (July) as we he went 4-0 with a 1.50 earned run average, going six innings in all five starts. Engelb Vielma (August) as he hit for a .300 batting average with 10 runs batted in. Jake Reed (August) after pitching 13 scoreless innings and collecting a 1-0 record.
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The Kernels went 40-33 at home and 35-37 on the road. They finished 21-16 in day games and 54-54 at night. There was no significant different in record based on whether the Kernels faced a right or left-handed starter. The team went 59-55 when the starter threw a right-hander and 16-15 when the opposing starter was a southpaw.

Kernels relievers had more wins than the starters (38-37). In a bigger discrepancy, relievers struck out 20 more batters than the starters in 168 fewer innings. Relievers finished with an earned run average of 2.93 while starters finished at 4.25 for a total team earned run average of 3.68. Overall, the team combined for 1,188 strikeouts and 438 walks in 1,254 1/3 innings. Kernels relievers were 35 for 48 in save opportunities.

The Kernels were 52-4 when leading after six innings, 52-3 when leading after seven innings, and 57-1 when leading after eight innings. They won four games when trailing after eight innings. The Kernels won 64% of the games where they scored the game’s first run.

They won 19 games in their last at-bat, including 10 walk-off wins. Opponents only had three walk-off wins. The Kernels won 38 games after trailing at some point in the game.

Cedar Rapids finished 8-2 in extra innings and 3-7 in doubleheaders. They pitched nine shutouts while opponents had eight. The Kernels were 25-18 in one-run games. They won only 11 games when scoring three or fewer runs, going 64-23 when scoring at least four.

If the opponent out-hit the Kernels, most times it ended in a loss for Cedar Rapids. They went 10-45 when the opponent had more hits. The Kernels were 38-21 when hitting a home run in a game.

The Kernels defense turned 131 double plays on the season. Opponents turned 130 against the Kernels.

The Kernels scored 643 runs while opponents scored 601. The Kernels scored the most of their runs in the fourth and eighth inning, tallying 87 in each. They allowed the most in the fourth inning, 94.
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Ryan Walker was the leadoff hitter the most teams this season, leading off in 39 games. 12 different Kernels led off at some point. Chad Christensen hit third in the order 117 times. 18 different Kernels batted seventh in the order at least once.

Only four players played third base this season, the fewest of any position. Bryan Haar, Jonatan Hinojosa, Joel Licon, and Logan Wade all manned the hot corner. Engelb Vielma played 110 games at shortstop. 16 different players were used as the designated hitter. The Kernels used five catchers this season: Mitch Garver, Michael Quesada, Bo Alotbelli, Alex Swim, and B.K. Santy. Logan Wade and Chad Christensen both played four different positions at some point.

Chad Christensen led the team with 37 multi-hit games while Mitch Garver led the team with 19 multi-RBI games.

The Kernels hit 80 home runs, led by Mitch Garver’s 16. Garver also led the team with 79 runs batted in. Garver finished the regular season in the top-five of the Midwest League with a .298 batting average, .481 slugging percentage, and .399 on-base percentage. Garver also led the team with 29 doubles and 61 walks.

Chad Christensen finished the regular season tied for fourth in the league with 84 runs scored. Christensen played in the most games for the Kernels, 132. He also had the most at-bats (511), hits (140), and stolen bases (30). Christensen also added seven triples, but Jason Kanzler led the team with eight.

Ryan Eades was with the Kernels all season and led the pitching staff in wins (10), losses (11), starts (26), innings (138.2), and strikeouts (102).

Hudson Boyd appeared in the most games (45). Todd Van Steensel had eight saves to lead the team. Brandon Bixler recorded a team-best six holds.

The team’s pinch-hitters went 6-for-11 on the season.
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The Kernels scored a season-high 16 runs in a 16-5 win at Beloit on May 27. That game also included a fifth inning where eight straight reached base and 12 Kernels came to the plate, both season-highs. The fifth was one of two times where the Kernels scored seven in an inning. That also included Tanner Vavra’s two hits in the same frame. The 11-run run matched their season-high for largest victory.

They allowed a season-worst 13 in a 13-3 loss to Burlington on June 15, the final day of the first half. That was also their largest loss with a deficit of 10.

19 was the high in hits for the Kernels and their opponent. The Bees tallied 19 hits on June 15 while the Kernels recorded 19 hits in a 15-5 win v. Wisconsin on July 8.

The Kernels recorded seven doubles at Burlington on May 18, winning 7-6. They allowed four home runs at Wisconsin on May 8 in an 11-7 loss.

The 15-inning marathon loss v. Kane County on August 10 left a season-worst 17 men on base. It also featured the most walks for a Kernels offense (12). In that game, Ryan Walker had seven at-bats. That was a season-high, but eight was the season-high for most plate appearances in a single game. That happened several times in 2014.

Kernels pitching walked 10 in a game twice. On May 7 at Quad Cities, they walked six in the sixth inning.

The Kernels struck out a season-worst 18 times at Quad Cities on August 25 in a 3-2 loss. That same night, Kernels pitching stuck out 15 River Bandits. That was not the most strikeouts for a Kernels staff this season. That came early in the year when they punched out 16 South Bend Silver Hawks in a 7-5 loss on April 15.

From May 2-5, the Kernels did not allow a run for 28 consecutive innings. That included back to back shutouts v. Peoria. Cedar Rapids did not score for 12 2/3 innings from June 30-July 2.

The Kernels homered in a season-best four straight games from August 2-5, going 2-2 during the stretch.

Kane County tallied eight straight hits against the Kernels on June 19. However, they retired 15 in a row two separate times this season.

April 21 at Peoria – a 5-3 loss to the Chiefs – featured six wild pitches by the Kernels. Two days later, the Chiefs did not record a hit through 6 1/3 innings. Ethan Mildren pitched five hitless innings to begin that day, a game that Peoria won 2-0.

Defensively, the Kernels committed five errors twice in a single game, including Logan Wade’s three-error game on Opening Night v. Clinton. Lake County committed five errors on July 16. The team went 11 straight games with an error from May 7-17. The longest consecutive errorless streak was three, which happened multiple times.

No player had five hits in a game, but many players had four hits in a single game.

Mitch Garver hit three home runs on July 21 v. Fort Wayne. Bryan Haar drove in seven runs on June 28 v. Clinton. Ryan Walker had two triples v. Burlington on June 14.

After re-joining the team on August 13, Jonatan Hinojosa collected a hit in 15 straight games, starting on August 13. That hitting streak was the team’s season-high, but Alex Swim’s 14-game streak from June 30-July 18 was not far behind.

Mitch Garver reached base in 28 straight games from May 21-June 22, a streak that ended when he left a game at Peoria with concussion-like symptoms. The streak included a stretch of reaching base in seven plate appearances in a row from June 2-4.

Engelb Vielma had hits in six straight at-bats from August 18-20. Bryan Haar went hitless from April 21-29, 23 straight at-bats.

Chih-Wei Hu, Lewis Thorpe, and Stephen Gonsalves all struck out 10 in a single game. Jake Reed did not allow a run over the final 24 2/3 innings of his season. Dallas Gallant did not allow a hit over his final 8 1/3 innings. Gallant retired a season-best 21 batters in a row from August 18-September 3, a stretch that ended when a Burlington Bee reached via an error.

Chih-Wei Hu earned big honors during the month of July, his first month in the Midwest League. Hu was named Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Month, Kernels Pitcher of the Month, and was named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week during the period July 21-27. Hu went six innings in all five starts after making his debut on July 10. He went 4-0 with a 1.50 earned run average in the five starts, allowing five earned runs and 18 hits in 30 innings. He struck out 29 and walked six.

On August 22 at Burlington, Chris Mazza struck out five Bees in a row.

The Kernels won eight games in a row from August 12-19. They also lost eight games in a row from May 10-17. The 15-inning game with Kane County on August 10 was the most innings-played and also the longest game in terms of time, lasting exactly five hours long. The longest nine-inning game came on August 8, also v. Kane County, as the game lasted three hours and 26 minutes.

The fastest nine-inning game was two hours and 14 minutes, happening twice. The fastest seven-inning game was a one hour and 46 minute game two of a doubleheader at Kane County. The game on June 19 at Kane County was completed early due to rain with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and took just one hour and 20 minutes.

A four-run comeback was the largest of the season, a feat that happened a few times. They lost a four-run lead twice.

The largest home attendance was on August 9 v. Kane County when 5,570 saw the Kernels beat Kane County 3-2. 8,683 fans saw Kane County beat the Kernels 6-4 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. The smallest crowd of the year came at Burlington’s Community Field on May 15 as the Bees beat the Kernels 6-2 in front of just 227 fans.

The final regular season home game on August 29 featured two rain delays that totaled one hour and 22 minutes. The hottest game was only 90 degrees, which happened twice. The coldest came on April 14 v. South Bend at a chilly 34 degrees.

The Kernels only picked up nine wins in June but rebounded with 19 in July. Saturdays were successful as the team went 13-10 on that day. They beat Clinton 12 times, more than any other team. Kane County beat the Kernels 12 times. The Kernels never won at Peoria’s Dozer Park, going 0-6.

A player went on the disabled list 21 times during the season.
All in all – 53 players put on a Kernels uniform in 2014.

Iowa State-Cedar Rapids Baseball Connection

Saturday, June 14 is Iowa State Cyclone Night at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels will wear special Iowa State jerseys that will be sold via a silent auction during the game.

According to Baseball Almanac, 18 former ISU players have made it to Major League Baseball. One of those 18 players also played professionally in Cedar Rapids. Dutch Levsen was born in Wyoming, Iowa and played at Iowa State from 1917-1919. In 1923, he played for the Cedar Rapids Bunnies as a 25-year-old. As a pitcher, he went 19-4 on the mound. He threw an impressive 198 innings in 25 games that season, allowing just 159 hits. As a hitter, he collected 16 hits, including two home runs and two doubles.

The Bunnies were a member of the Mississippi Valley League, a Class-D league that also included teams from Dubuque, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Waterloo, and Rock Island, Illinois. The Bunnies were managed by Bill Speas. While in the minor leagues, Levsen also played in Terre Haute, Rochester, and New Orleans.

Levsen broke into Major League Baseball with the 1923 Cleveland Indians on September 28 of that season. He pitched parts of six seasons with the Indians in the American League from 1923-1928. He recorded a career record of 21-26 with a 4.17 earned run average in 80 career games. His best season by far came in 1926. He went 16-13 that year with a 3.41 earned run average, setting a career high in wins. As a batter, Levsen had 135 career at-bats with nine career runs batted in and 24 career hits.

Levsen’s final Major League game was on July 31, 1928 at age 30. He died in 1972 at age 73 in Minnesota.

Pictures from Lansing

Press Box

Scoreboard

Scoreboard

Pictures from Dow Diamond

Breakdown of Kernels Opening Day Roster

The Kernels Opening Day roster has been announced, and the team arrives in Cedar Rapids today!  You can check out the roster at www.kernels.com.

The roster features some great young talent and many returning players from the 2013 playoff team.

Here is a breakdown of the roster:

 10 Kernels spent some time in Cedar Rapids in 2013 while 15 players will be newcomers to the team.

 Three Kernels are listed as Top Prospects in the Twins organization by Baseball America: RHP Kohl Stewart (#4), RHP Felix Jorge (#17), & LHP Randy Rosario (#22)

Two players are listed on MLB.com’s Top Twins prospect list: RHP Kohl Stewart (#4) & RHP Felix Jorge (#10).  Stewart is listed as MLB.com’s #40 prospect in all of baseball.

College: 15

High School: 3

International Free Agents: 7

 

Miguel Sulbaran and Jeremias Pineda were both acquired by the Twins via trade.  Sulbaran began his professional career with the Dodgers while Pineda started with the Red Sox.

 

2013 Draft Picks: 9

2012 Draft Picks: 6

2012 Signings: 1

2011 Draft Picks: 2

2011 Signings: 3

2010 Draft Picks: 1

2010 Signings: 3

 

1st Round Picks: 2

2nd Round Picks: 1

3rd-10th Round Picks: 3

10th-20th Round Picks: 6

Drafted after 20th Round: 6

Undrafted Free Agents: 7

 By State/Country:

15 states make up the roster of the Kernels with California leading the way with four players.

California (4): Alex Muren, Michael Quesada,  Bryan Haar,  Joel Licon

Florida (3): Brandon Bixler, Hudson Boyd, Zack Larson

Dominican Republic (3): Felix Jorge, Randy Rosario, Jeremias Pineda

Venezuela (3): Yorman Landa, Miguel Sulbaran, Engelb Vielma

Texas (2): Kohl Stewart, Bo Altobelli

Louisiana (1): Ryan Eades

Minnesota (1): Brandon Peterson

South Carolina (1): Christian Powell

Arizona (1): Aaron Slegers

Iowa (1): Chad Christensen

New York (1): Zach Granite

Wisconsin (1): Tanner Vavra

New Mexico (1): Mitch Garver

Puerto Rico (1): Josue Montanez

Australia (1): Logan Wade

 

Skin Cancer Survey

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6KJFCGP

The Kernels, in a partnership with Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, have been given a grant to  study the awareness and effects of Skin Cancer in its many forms.  Please take this five question survey, which is 100% anonymous.  It will help us gauge how to deliver important information during the season.  This survey will be open until April 30th.  Then we will compile the information received and  provide education and information during every game in hopes of raising awareness of the prevention techniques available.  The survey will be re-administered during late August and the results will be compared to April and hope to prove, through education, we are now using the prevention techniques.

Pictures from Fort Myers

2013 Kernels – Season in Review

By: Morgan Hawk

The 2013 baseball season began a new era of professional baseball in Cedar Rapids with the new affiliation between the Kernels and the Minnesota Twins.  The 2013 Cedar Rapids Kernels finished with an 88-52 record, matching the most wins for a Cedar Rapids club since joining the Midwest League in 1962.

The coaching staff was headlined by manager Jake Mauer.  Jake, the older brother of Minnesota Twins-star Joe Mauer, was joined on the staff by a pair of Midwest League coaching-veterans – hitting coach Tommy Watkins and pitching coach Gary Lucas, who had both spent numerous years in the league.

The staff led the Kernels to the postseason for the first time since 2010.  While the playoff-run was brief after a two-game sweep by the Quad Cities River Bandits, the season was packed full of team and individual highlights, top prospects, walk-off wins, and record-breaking attendance, making 2013 one of the more memorable seasons to date.

The Kernels opened the 2013 campaign at home on April 4, taking on the Beloit Snappers.  Opening Day and the season-opening series was certainly a sign of things to come for the Kernels.  The Kernels picked up the first of their 88 wins with a 9-7 victory.  It didn’t take long for fans to see that this would be a fun season at the ballpark.  Left-handed starter Taylor Rogers struck out the side in the first inning as four Kernels hurlers went on to combine for 16 strikeouts on the evening.  In the bottom of the first inning the Kernels posted three runs with the help of a pair of long-balls to right field.  Top-prospect Byron Buxton started the frame with a single and a stolen base before coming home to score on Jorge Polanco’s two-run blast.  Two batters later, Dalton Hicks launched a home run of his own, and the Kernels were rolling right out of the gate.  Hicks continued his quick start as he was honored as the season’s first Midwest League Player of the Week.

The next night the Kernels showcased some of the tremendous resiliency they would have all season. The team came from behind to win by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.  Niko Goodrum’s walk-off RBI single, which followed Travis Harrison’s game-tying RBI double, showed that the Kernels were a team that would fight until the end.

With the offense in full-force, it was time for the pitching to put on a show in the finale of the series on April 7.  Three Kernels pitchers combined for a no-hitter as the Kernels blew out Beloit 9-1.  Tyler Duffey was terrific through the first seven frames, not allowing a Beloit base runner.  Josue Montanez and Tim Atherton finished the ballgame by combining for four walks, but no hits, as the Kernels notched their first no-no since 2010.

Weather was definitely an issue in the month of April as the Kernels did not play on six scheduled dates.  They missed four consecutive games due to rain and cold at Wisconsin and Clinton in early April and even played in snow flurries on a frigid Friday afternoon at Peoria. 

Adam Brett Walker put together an incredible individual stretch in late April.  During a four-game stretch, Walker homered five times with long-balls in all four games.  He collected 16 runs batted in, with seven of those coming on April 26 against Great Lakes.  In that game alone, he hit a grand slam and a three-run homer.  Walker went on to hit three grand slams during the season and was named Midwest League Player of the Week three separate times.

Kernels fans thought they saw a grand slam on consecutive nights, but it didn’t count in perhaps, the wackiest ending to a game of the season on April 27 against the Loons.  With the bases-loaded in the 11th inning Travis Harrison hit a pitch over the wall in left for what was thought to be a walk-off grand slam.  However, Harrison was credited with a walk-off RBI single after the Kernels celebration and a brief protest by the Loons.  The umpires ruled that two Kernels runners never touched home after the dugout erupted onto the field during the celebration, and only the first run would count.  Nevertheless, it was still a dramatic Kernels 8-7 win.

Cedar Rapids-native Kellen Sweeney made a visit to his home city while playing for the Lansing Lugnuts in a three-game series late in the month. Sweeney even nailed a home run to center field, pleasing a nice crowd of friends and family.

Byron Buxton started his Midwest League career by reaching base in his first 29 games-played, a stretch that started on Opening Day and ended on May 8.  Buxton showcased his speed, power, defense, and ability to hit to all fields.  In April he hit .392 with four homers and 21 runs batted in as he was one of only nine total players selected to Minor League Baseball’s All-April Team.  Buxton was also named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Month.

In large part to Buxton, by the end of the opening month the Kernels had raced out to an 18-5 record, ending the month on a nine-game winning streak.

The winning streak came to end to start May as the Kernels opened up the new month on the road.  They continued to play on the road until the middle of May as part of a season-long 12-game stretch of road games.  The team ran into their first rough stretch of the season as they went 6-6 with games played at West Michigan, South Bend, Quad Cities, and Beloit.  Of the six losses, four of those came in walk-off fashion, including an odd ending in Beloit where a bouncing ball hit off of second base to elude Kernels infielders and score the Snappers game-winning run.

The road trip did include some highlights, however.  Jose Berrios secured a win in his first three Midwest League starts after joining the team late in April.  He struck out eight batters each in two consecutive games, including a win at South Bend on May 5.  Later in the season he struck out a season-high nine Burlington Bees. 

The game at Pohlman Field in Beloit on May 12 featured 39 total runs as the Kernels powered past the Snappers 23-16.  Every position player for both teams scored a run and collected a hit.  Every Kernels position player drove in at least one run.  Adam Brett Walker and Byron Buxton both had four hits and four runs scored.  Walker had seven runs batted in and a pair of home runs for the second game of the season.  Combined, Walker and Buxton drove in 19 of the Kernels 23 runs.

Byron Buxton had a knack for shining when the lights were brightest.  In a pair of televised games before the All-Star break, Buxton achieved the signature moments of his career in Cedar Rapids, causing fans to wonder how long until the center-fielder would be promoted.

On May 16 against the Burlington Bees, Buxton hit a monster walk-off grand slam to give the Kernels a thrilling 7-6 win.  Buxton stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Kernels trailing by three runs before smacking a 1-1 pitch from former Kernel Jairo Diaz over the left field wall and onto 8th Avenue for the victory.

Then on June 10 v. Kane County, Buxton made one of the best defensive plays you’ll see when he dove, full-extension on the warning track in deep, left-center field to take away an extra base hit. The game was broadcast live on Fox Sports North, allowing Twins fans to salivate even more for the future.  Buxton’s catch was showcased on ESPN’s Sports Center as one of the Top Ten Plays of the Day.  In addition to the tremendous catch, Buxton collected three runs batted in and three hits, including a triple.

Buxton’s shot on May 16 got other Kernels into the walk-off act as they picked up a victory the very next night with Travis Harrison’s walk-off RBI single in the 12th inning to top Kane County.  A couple games later, Dalton Hicks sent the crowd home happy with a RBI sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th inning to top the Cougars.

However, the momentum didn’t carry to a road series at Beloit.  The Kernels were swept for the first time of the season and ended up losing six-straight games after being swept by Burlington upon returning home.  The resilient Kernels bounced by winning the final four games of the month to finish May with a winning record at 16-14.

A scary moment at Kane County sent Niko Goodrum to the disabled list.  On June 2, Goodrum was taken off the field on a stretcher after colliding with Cougars catcher Wilson Contreras at home plate.  Goodrum was taken to the hospital as a precaution but later returned to the ballpark before the end of the game.

The Kernels offense was fun to watch all season long, and the 4th inning at home against Quad Cities on June 5 quickly featured the best of that offense.  The Kernels scored 10 runs in the 4th inning alone as 15 batters came to the plate and 12 men recorded hits.  The first nine batters recorded a hit in the inning.  The Kernels went on to pound the River Bandits 14-5 by setting a season-high with 21 hits in the game.  Every Kernel in the lineup had a hit, scored a run, and drove in a run.

Towards the end of the first half Jorge Polanco started to become a crowd favorite as chants of “Hip Hip Jorge” routinely flooded the park.  Polanco was as solid as any during the 2013 season.  He hit .308 during the season and was twice named the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Week.

As the weather heated up in June Dalton Hicks heated up at the plate.  The first-baseman slugged seven home runs in the June while hitting .333 with 33 runs batted in.

The Kernels had led the division for the majority of the half.  However, as the half drew to an end the team hit another rough stretch, and Beloit was creeping in on first place.  The Kernels wound up losing the final four games of the half as the Snappers passed the Kernels in the standings to finish in first place.  While the Kernels missed out on finishing atop the division, they still locked up a playoff berth and knew they would be playing for a Midwest League title in September.

Eight Kernels went to Dayton to represent Cedar Rapids at the Midwest League All-Star Game in mid-June.  A total of nine players were selected, but pitcher Tyler Duffey was promoted in early June, making him unable to attend.  First-baseman Dalton Hicks, second-baseman Jorge Polanco, along with outfielders Byron Buxton and Adam Brett Walker were named as starters on the west squad, giving the Kernels the most starters of any team in the league.  Third-baseman Travis Harrison, infielder Niko Goodrum, and pitchers Jose Berrios and Steve Gruver also played in the game.   Buxton, Walker, and Hicks were also selected to the Post-Season All-Star Team.

Despite having so many participants at the festivities in Dayton, the Kernels still came out on fire after the break.  The Kernels won a season-best 11 games in a row to start the second half at 11-0.  The streak earned them a trip to the Ox Yoke Inn Restaurant in Amana for a free dinner, thanks to the team’s Board of Directors.  The long-standing tradition of a dinner is provided for any 10-game winning streak by a Kernels team.

You couldn’t have written a better script for the Kernels to pick up the 10th win in a row.  The trip to the restaurant featuring German recipes came in large part from the performance of Max Kepler, a native of Germany who had joined the club only a couple weeks prior.  On June 30, Kepler’s single in the bottom of the 9th inning scored Jorge Polanco to cap off a two-run inning and give the Kernels a 6-5 win over Peoria.

The 11th win in a row came thanks to a Minnesota Twins pitcher.  Mike Pelfrey made a Major League rehab start for the Kernels at home on July 1 against Peoria and led the Kernels to a 6-3 win.  Pelfrey pitched six innings, allowing two runs on two hits for the win in the Kernels first rehab appearance in many years.

During the streak Byron Buxton was promoted, a much-expected move.  Buxton played a series at Wisconsin to open up the second half before being shipped to Fort Myers on June 23.

Despite playing only 68 games in the Midwest League, Buxton was named 2013 Midwest League Most Valuable Player and Midwest League Top Prospect as voted on by team managers.  He hit .341 with eight home runs, 55 runs batted in, 32 stolen bases, 15 doubles, 10 triples, and 68 runs scored.

More promotions came in mid-July as All-Stars Dalton Hicks and Steve Gruver, along with starting outfielder J.D. Williams and reliever Tyler Jones were all sent to Fort Myers.  David Hurlbut joined those four in Florida in mid-August.  Gruver and Hurlbut were two of the more versatile pitchers on the staff, both able to pitch in many situations.  Jones was the closer during his time in Cedar Rapids, leading the team with nine saves, despite not playing the entire season.

Those moves coincided with the additions of outfielder Jonathan Murphy and pitchers Tim Shibuya and Brian Gilbert.  Those three, along with utility player Joel Licon and pitcher Madison Boer, who were both added in June, fit nicely with the present Kernels.  The new Kernels stayed resilient and led the team to an even better second half record.

The identity of the team changed a bit with the new promotions.  A team who could pound out runs seemingly at-will in the first half, shifted to a team where pitching started to carry the team in late July and August.   

July featured 12 games against eastern-division foes, including a trip to Lake County and Fort Wayne.  It took some time for the Kernels to adjust with the new players as they finished the month with 15 wins, the lowest of any month, but they really turned it on to close out the season.

On July 17 at Lake County five Kernels hurlers combined to strike out 19 Captains hitters over 12 innings in a 7-6 win.  The highest individual strikeout total of the season came from Tim Atherton on August 14 v. Beloit.  The right-hander struck out 11 Snappers over eight innings in a 3-2 victory.

Left-handed starter Brett Lee turned it to high gear in July.  Lee pitched the Kernels to back to back complete-game wins on July 12 vs. Dayton, and then again on July 19 at Lake County.  Following that performance Lee was named Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Week.

Lefty Mason Melotakis pitched as a starter and a reliever for the Kernels during the 2013 campaign.  Likely his best outing came on July 28 v. Clinton when he pitched eight scoreless innings while striking out seven in 3-1 win over the LumberKings.  Melotakis led the team with 11 victories on the year.

Jose Berrios was named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week in mid-August after his superb outing at Kane County on August 10.  Berrios took a no-hitter into the 6th inning and pitched into the 8th inning by striking out seven with no runs allowed.  He only allowed two hits total in the 6-0 win.

Alex Muren was solid out of the bullpen, not allowing a run over five consecutive outings in the second half.  Brian Gilbert managed to secure five saves in five opportunities with a 1.06 earned run average.  Josue Montanez found his groove late in the season by going at least seven innings in five of seven starts during a stretch in August. 

Righty Tim Shibuya picked up a complete game shutout victory on August 31 at Clinton.  He allowed only four hits over nine innings in a dominating performance against the LumberKings.  Shibuya was named Midwest League Player of the Week for that performance.  Shibuya pitched in ten games for the Kernels, finishing with a sub-1.00 earned run average.  He only walked four in over 37 innings.

Even though the overall pitching improved for the Kernels in the second half, there were still tremendous hitting achievements, as well.

In July alone, Adam Brett Walker hit .304 with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in. Walker went on to hit 27 home runs on the season with 109 runs batted in.  He led the Midwest League in both categories on the season and became one of only five players in Cedar Rapids history to drive in over 100 runs.

Adding more to the something you don’t see every day category, both Tyler Grimes and Niko Goodrum notched inside-the-park home runs in 2013.  Grimes picked up his on July 13 against Bowling Green in Cedar Rapids.  Goodrum’s came on August 1 at Burlington.

The Kernels and Quad Cities River Bandits established themselves as the top two teams during the second-half of the season.  The Kernels finished first in the division in the second half with the River Bandits placing second.  The two teams established a healthy rivalry with Quad Cities beating the Kernels more than any other team during the season.  Early in the season fans were treated to seeing the top two picks from the 2012 draft square off – in Byron Buxton and Astros prospect Carlos Correa.  Later in the year, Correa was teamed up with 2013 number-one pick Mark Appel.  The right-hander secured his first professional win in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels on August 6, downing the Kernels 7-2.

A few weeks after facing a likely future big-league arm in Appel, the Kernels faced a current big-league pitcher on August 28 in Cedar Rapids.  Scott Baker, who was currently on the disabled list of the Chicago Cubs, picked up a 9-1 win for Kane County by going five scoreless innings while allowing only one hit.

The Kernels got very hot in mid-August, rattling off eight-straight victories from August 14-21.  The Kernels started the streak with back to back walk-off wins.  A Tyler Grimes single gave the Kernels a 3-2 win over Beloit on August 14.  It was Adam Brett Walker’s turn the next night as his double pushed the Kernels to a 6-5 win over the Snappers.  The Kernels had trailed 5-0 early in that game, making it the largest comeback of the season.

Joel Licon became a spark plug for the Kernels during the winning streak, collecting a hit in 16 straight games.  The streak ended on August 19 and was the longest hitting streak by a Kernel on the year.

Michael Quesada had quite the streak of his own from September 1-4.  Quesada reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances, the longest of its kind during the season.  The streak included five straight walks for Quesada.

The team roared into the playoffs by winning 22 games in the month of August, the most wins for any month.  After dropping a pair of games at Quad Cities in late August, the Kernels were resilient by coming home to sweep a four-game series from Peoria.  It was the Kernels 13th sweep of the season.

The Kernels crushed Clinton 15-6 in the regular-season finale on September 2, moving their mark to 88-50 and matching the most wins for a Cedar Rapids team since joining the Midwest League in 1962.

The hopes of the team’s first Midwest League Championship since 1994 were dashed away quickly by Quad Cities in the opening round of the playoffs.  The offense was shut down by the strong River Bandits pitching staff as they defeated the Kernels 2-1 and 4-2 to sweep the two-game series.

With the excitement of the team and the new affiliation with the Twins, the Cedar Rapids Kernels saw a big increase in attendance at the ballpark.  In 2013 the Kernels drew the largest single-game crowd and two of the top-three single-game crowds in the history of the stadium.  On August 16 against Beloit 5,879 fans were in attendance, making it the largest ever since the new stadium opened in 2002.  July 4 saw 5,631 fans come through the gates for a game against Wisconsin.

The 2013 Kernels season was filled with so many memorable moments and quite the way to ring in the new affiliation with the Minnesota Twins!

 

 

 

 

 

Buxton’s time with Kernels proves a lot more than his on-field prowess

By: Matt Cozzi, Cedar Rapids Kernels

Dominance.

That was the result of one half season in the Midwest League for Byron Buxton. In 68 games, Buxton finished at or near the top of all major offensive categories.

The 19-year old led the league in runs scored (68) and on-base percentage (.431), was second in batting average (.341), hits (92), slugging percentage (.559), triples (10), and total bases (151), and either third of fourth-best in RBI (55), stolen bases (32), extra-base hits (33), and walks (44).

Buxton was also tremendous in center field. He made a catch at the warning track a couple weeks ago that registered as the No. 2 overall play on SportsCenter. He made another play a few days later that probably should have been in the Top 10.

Kernels manager Jake Mauer told Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan he “could see [Buxton] becoming a 30-30 guy.” He’s drawn comparisons to Willie Mays. And Mike Trout. And Andrew McCutchen. Given his current trajectory, he could be roaming the Twins outfield in April 2015.

But over his 68 games in Cedar Rapids — a time when fans trotted swiftly down the stadium steps at Perfect Game Field to get a glimpse of Buxton during batting practice, or waited for him for over an hour just outside the clubhouse doors — none of that actually impressed me the most.

Buxton’s overall makeup did. His mode of operation.

Traveling with the team to Kane County for a late-May/early-June series especially, it was easy to observe this. It’s one thing to play within the confines of Cedar Rapids, but Buxton barely put together a sentence on the team bus. Not a word. So focused on baseball. Knowing you’re good, but not letting it show. Letting the process play out.

That’s almost scary. Buxton knows he’s a cut above, but doesn’t showcase that emotion. No over-the-top pre-game routines or postgame celebrations. He did get a little excited — OK, very excited — after a walk-off win against the Burlington Bees, but come on, he hit a walk-off grand slam.

Now, that type of demeanor has hopped on a plane and has headed from the Hawkeye state to the Sunshine state, where Class-A Advanced Fort Meyers awaits. In minor league baseball, players are shuffling around daily. This promotion isn’t a surprise, isn’t a shock.

The next chapter awaits Buxton. He played at the highest level for 68 games in the MWL. Time to move on.

And he won’t say a word about it. 

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