Reporting Mike Max
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It is a river city and that means it’s been around for a while. It also means it’s probably seen its share of baseball in some form.
Cedar Rapids’ latest chapter involves the Twins. The Kernels moved to Iowa from Beloit, Wis. – taking the place of an Angels’ affiliate.
Kernels fan David Nelson says its minor league baseball, complete with the minor league feel.
“It’s a different atmosphere. It’s a lot closer. In terms of the ability to get close to the field, I’ve had the opportunity to go to Target Field, but this is a different atmosphere altogether,” Nelson said. “Intimate would be the best word to explain it.”
What is important is that there is a connection between the team and the community, which is crucial in minor league ball. The feel is even parochial in nature.
Cedar Rapids Kernels Manager Jake Mauer says the fans are coming out in a big way.
“This is a great town. We had 5,000 people here last night. We’re probably averaging around 2,000. Now the weather is warming up, we’ll probably get closer to 3,000,” Mauer said. “People here are knowledgeable about the game. There’s been a minor league team here for a long time.”
What also makes it appealing is its proximity to Target Field – just four and half hours away. This means Cedar Rapids has always been, at least a little bit, in Twins Territory.
It doesn’t hurt that this team is winning, and more importantly dangling the hope that you might be watching a future big leaguer, like Byron Buxton.
Fan Josh Trueblood says there’s nothing like minor league baseball in the summer.
“This is what summer is to me. I’ve always loved baseball. When I was younger I used to play,” Trueblood said. “I’m from the Quad Cities, so I’d always go see the Quad City River Bandits. It’s so much fun to be in a small ballpark, and you get to sit so close to the players.”
And the players, like Byron Buxton, understand that these stops, while temporary by design, are important.
“This has been a fun experience so far. I know we moved from Beloit this year, now we’re here. The fans have been nice. All the people in the organization [are] very helpful,” Buxton said.
So they come to the ballpark to feel a little old school, to feel a sense of what might be and to feel it is all right at their fingertips. And that new marriage seems to be a home run between the Twins and their Cedar Rapids fans.
“They know what’s going on, they love their players, they back us whether we’re doing well or whether we’re not doing so well,” Mauer said.