Diamonds and Ice

Thanks to Chris Rosenbaum
May 28, 2008, 8:55 pm
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If you haven’t done so, check out Chris Rosenbaum’s blog “Looking Through The Mask.” You can access it at

The Cedar Rapids Kernels catcher was writing a blog on his experiences as a professional baseball player for his hometown newspaper in New York and graciously asked The Gazette is we wanted to run it, too.

It’s well worth your time to read it. Chris is an intelligent young man (he has his degree from the University of Tampa and is working toward his MBA) and puts good thought into all of his posts. He gives great insight into what it’s like to be a minor-leaguer.

Thank you for including us, Chris. You’re one guy I’ll definitely be rooting for to make it to the major leagues.

By the way, I’ve changed the title of my blog to “Diamonds and Ice.” Thanks to Gazette staffer K.J. Pilcher for coming up with the name. It’s a reference to the two main things I cover for The Gazette and the two sports I love the most: baseball and hockey. This will make my wife and mother-in-law happy, too, because they didn’t particularly care for my previous blog title: “Thoughts From An Empty Mind.”


Casual observations
May 20, 2008, 6:23 pm
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A few thoughts that came to this empty mind while he’s watching the Cedar Rapids Kernels play a Tuesday afternoon game:

— If you’re an Iowa State basketball fan, how concerned are you about head coach Greg McDermott? The Cyclones suffered yet another blow Monday when outstanding young forward Wesley Johnson announced his intention to transfer. If you’re counting at home, that’s six McDermott recruits that have transferred out of the program in two years. McDermott was considered one of the bright young coaches in America with what he did at Northern Iowa, but his star has seemed to lose quite a bit of its brightness.

And before you start making too fun much of ISU’s woes, Iowa Hawkeye fans, just remember Tony Freeman.

— I’ve never seen so many broken bats in minor league and major league games than I have so far this season. Not sure of the reason. Could be that bat handles are too thin for bat heads. Guys want skinny handles to be able to whip the bat quicker through the strike zone. But the bat heads are too big to support the skinny handles. Maybe it’s just the fact that some bats are being made from Maple wood instead of Ash.

— Los Angeles Angels general manager Tony Reagins is in town to watch the Cedar Rapids Kernels play. No one wants the Kernels to partner with another major league organization more than I do, but you’ve got to admit it’s a classy gesture when the major league GM takes the time out of his busy schedule to travel to Iowa. Reagins is in his first season as Angels general manager after a stint as the club’s farm director and has always seemed to be a good guy.

— Former Kernels infielder Alexi Casilla hit his first major league home run Monday night for the Minnesota Twins. It was a three-run shot to boot.

— Former Cedar Rapids Xavier and University of Iowa standout Travis Sweet has been assigned by the Houston Astros to their low-Class A affiliate in Salem, Va. Sweet, who was in extended spring training, went 2-for-4 in his first game with the Avalanche.

— So Jason Giambi told a New York City newspaper that he and Derek Jeter wear gold thongs during games to break out of batting slumps. If you’re a New York Yankees hater like me, that’s some golden ammunition.


Sandberg suspended, Jr. Blue Jackets fold
May 12, 2008, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Peoria Manager Ryne Sandberg has been suspended by the Midwest League for three games for his role in a bench-clearing episode Thursday night at Clinton. Sandberg was apparently upset by a sacrifice bunt attempt made by a Clinton player in the sixth inning of a game his team trailed, 6-0. He voice his displeasure to Clinton Manager Mike Micucci as he trotted out to his third-base coaching duties an inning later, and things escalated from there, with both teams’ dugouts emptying. No punches were thrown, though Sandberg and Clinton player Tim Smith were ejected.

Sandberg has been ejected three times this season and seven times in two seasons as Peoria manager.

“It was a little disagreement on style of play,” Sandberg told the Peoria Journal-Star. “Like anything, baseball has a way of taking care of things.”

The USHL has taken care of one of its problems, as the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets have ceased operations, the league has announced. The Junior Blue Jackets were a failure on and off the ice during their two seasons in the league, finishing last in the East Division both seasons and drawing very few fans to their games – which were played primarily at the Columbus Blue Jackets’ practice facility at Nationwide Arena.

The league has voted to give rights to all Junior Blue Jackets players to the Fargo Force, an expansion franchise that will begin play in the 2008-09 season. A scheduled expansion draft May 13 has thus been cancelled. 

“Many people, from Tom Goebel and his ownership to others around the USHL worked tirelessly to find a location where this franchise could be a success,” USHL President Gino Gasparini said. “But with the timing and the lack of an adequate facility in potential new centers, it was decided that it was in everyone’s best interests that the franchise cease operations.”

If you didn’t catch it, Omaha won the Clark Cup by beating Waterloo in overtime in a deciding Game 5 over the weekend. Barry Almeida’s goal just over six minutes into the extra period won the game and Clark Cup. Omaha trailed the series, 2-1, but won the final two games, including a 2-0 shutout in Waterloo in Game 4.







Sign this
May 9, 2008, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you’re a big Chicago Cubs fans or Ryne Sandberg fan and haven’t acquired his autograph, yet, you’re not trying. In his two years in the Midwest League, Sandberg (who managed the Peoria Chiefs) has been incredibly gracious giving his time to sign, sign and sign for fans.

For instance, Sandberg signed for about 10 to 15 minutes prior to each of the three games his team played last week against the Cedar Rapids Kernels at Memorial Stadium. Then he’d sign autographs for a couple minutes after games as he was walking from his team’s clubhouse to its bus.

The Kernels did a good job of organizing things. Autograph seekers were ushered down the left-field line in the lawn section along the wall. An usher was constantly seated at the side of the Peoria dugout to shoo away anyone who didn’t have a ticket to sit in the area.

After games, barricades were set up to allow Peoria players and coaches a clear path to their bus following the game. Fans lined up along the barricades in hopes of having Sandberg sign for them.

Went to the Peoria game at Clinton on Thursday night (yes, I’m a loser) and the LumberKings had a similar pregame and postgame setup. Interestingly, Peoria and Clinton got into a bench-clearing episode late in the game, with Sandberg apparently upset with Clinton Manager Mike Micucci over one of his players bunting with his team up 7-0. Sandberg and Clinton player Tim Smith were ejected. At one point in the scrum, someone pushed Sandberg hard in the chest, knocking him over and into a roll. So much for respecting a Hall of Famer, huh?