Diamonds and Ice

Why isn’t this guy with the Kernels?
August 31, 2008, 3:04 am
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Was checking out some Orem Owlz players the other day. That’s where most of the guys on next season’s Cedar Rapids Kernels’ team will come from. Noticed first baseman Roberto Lopez was hitting a robust .395 in 63 games for the Pioneer League’s top team record-wise. He leads the league in doubles (26), RBIs (65) and hits (101). He also has 10 more walks (33) than strikeouts. If that’s not conquering a level, I don’t know what is.

Lopez is a soon-to-be 23-year old who played college baseball with Kernels second baseman Hector Estrella at the University of Southern California. So why the heck isn’t he helping the Kernels in the upcoming Midwest League playoffs?

He’s too old for the level he is at, essentially a college player in a league full of high school guys. Yes, the Kernels already have a capable first baseman in Gabe Jacobo. But perhaps Lopez could do some DHing or something.

There’s long been this conspiracy theory in Cedar Rapids about how Orem is stacked every season to appease longtime scout and manager Tom Kotchman, at the expense of the Kernels. That a guy like Lopez is hitting almost .400 and is still playing in Utah supports that theory.

No Kernels on MWL postseason all-star team
August 26, 2008, 9:41 pm
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It’s not a big surprise, but no Cedar Rapids Kernels were named to the Midwest League’s postseason all-star team. The team was announced Tuesday.

Outfielder Ben Revere of the Beloit Snappers was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and Prospect of the Year. Revere hit .400 most of the season but has settled near the .380 mark as the regular season winds down to its final week.

Joining Revere on the postseason all-star team were outfielders Larry Cobb (Kane County) and Evan Frey (South Bend), catcher Sean Coughlin (South Bend), first baseman Mitch Moreland (Clinton), third baseman Brandon Waring (Dayton), shortstop Zach Cozart (Dayton), infielder Andrew Lambo (Great Lakes) and designated hitter Ian Gac (Clinton).

The all-star pitchers were West Michigan’s Alfredo Figaro (right-handed starter) and Jonathan Kibler (left-handed starter), Fort Wayne’s Jackson Quezada (right-handed reliever) and Lansing’s Edgar Estanga (left-handed reliever). South Bend’s Mark Haley won the league’s Manager of the Year award.

Five teams were not represented on the postseason all-star team: Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Quad Cities, Peoria and Wisconsin.

Doug Eddings = White Sox fan
August 25, 2008, 7:32 pm
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Let me preface this by saying I am a Minnesota Twins fan. Believe it or not, there are folks around these parts who root for a baseball team other than the Chicago Cubs. It was great to see a plethora of Twins hats and shirts in the crowd at the Cedar Rapids Kernels-Beloit Snappers game last week. But I digress ….

My blood pressure hasn’t been raised higher recently than it was Sunday afternoon after watching the end of the Chicago White Sox-Tampa Bay Rays game. Maybe you saw it. Then again, I know both White Sox fans in town. One of them is personally responsible for putting their games on radio here in Cedar Rapids.

Anyway, somehow a fielder’s interference was called on Tampa’s Willy Aybar in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game when he was alleged to have interfered with A.J. Pierzynski (the man you love to hate) during a rundown between second and third. Never mind that Aybar immediately turned out of the baseline after tossing the ball to a teammate at second base. Never mind that Pierzynski intentionally stuck his elbow out to try and touch Aybar … and missed!

Where I’m going with this, other than to vent about one HORRIBLE umpire’s call that directly decided the outcome of a big game, is that the umpire involved was Doug Eddings. You might remember him as the umpire who somehow allowed Pierzynski to reach first base after striking out in the 2005 ALCS. It was a call that turned the entire series around and led to the White Sox’ gift World Series championship.

So I ask you, conspiracy theorists out there, if there should be an investigation into Eddings and whether or not he’s on the take. How much are the White Sox paying this guy to hand them important games? How much is Pierzynski paying him?

A good guy gets released
August 19, 2008, 11:56 pm
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Was sad to see Kernels first baseman Gordie Gronkowski get his release from the Los Angeles Angels organization Monday night. You always know something’s up after a game when a player walks into the manager’s office and the door closes. The look on Gordie’s face as he headed into that office kind of tipped you off that he knew what was going to happen. A few minutes later and he was packing up his gear into a bag.

Gronkowski hadn’t played in about two months because of a chronic back problem that nagged him back when he played collegiately at Jacksonville University. He was 25 years old and hitting under .220, so you put all three of those things together and his release probably wasn’t too surprising. The timing of it kind of was.

Gordie is perhaps the nicest player I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in the 10 years I’ve been covering the Kernels for The Gazette. He always greeted you when he saw you, extending his hand and giving you a pat on the back. That stuff goes a long way with a reporter who has dealt with his fair share of, well, a**holes over the years.

I wanted to shake hands and wish Gordie well while he was packing up his stuff in the clubhouse last night, but didn’t really want to bother him during what must have been a difficult time. So consider this post that handshake, Gordie. Good luck with whatever you do with the rest of your life. I know you’ll be successful with whatever it is.

Believe it or not, nice guys do finish first plenty of times.

Twins’ Casilla to play in C.R.
August 17, 2008, 10:48 pm
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The Minnesota Twins announced Sunday that second baseman Alexi Casilla is going to play two injury rehab games for Beloit on Monday night and Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids.

Casilla, who was a member of the Kernels in 2004 and 2005, has been on the disabled list since July 29 with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He is hitting .313 with four home runs and 39 RBIs in 243 at-bats this season for Minnesota, which is tied with Chicago for first place in the American League’s Central Division.

“He seems to think that this is going to be all he needs (to be ready to rejoin the Twins) – two days,” Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said.

And the new RoughRiders’ owner is …..
August 7, 2008, 3:48 am
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the Philadelphia Flyers. OK, not really the Flyers, but the group that owns the NHL franchise. A couple of sources have confirmed that the likely new owner of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is Comcast Spectacor, a Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment firm that owns the Flyers, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

Comcast Spectacor also owns the Wachovia Center in Philly, which is home to the Flyers and Sixers, as well as the soon-to-be-torn-down Wachovia Spectrum. A subsidiary of CS is Global Spectrum, which advertises itself as “the fastest growing firm in the public assembly management field.” Global Spectrum manages and operates “public assembly facilities” throughout the United States and Canada, which would seem to indicate an additional purchase of the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena could be included in this deal.

You can read more about Comcast Spectacor on its Web site:

Word is the deal to buy the RoughRiders from primary owners Michael Reinsdorf and Stephen Edelson is still being finalized but is close to fruition. Stay tuned.

Former Kernel Mendoza suspended
August 2, 2008, 1:24 am
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Former Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Tommy Mendoza has been suspended for 50 games for violating minor league baseball’s drug policy. Mendoza, 20, was playing for high-Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He pitched all of the 2006 season with the Kernels and part of last season.

Mendoza was apparently suspended for amphetamines. He was 4-12 with a 4.73 earned run average in 20 games this season for Rancho.

Here’s link to an Inland Daily Bulletin story on the matter:

New RoughRiders owners
August 1, 2008, 4:27 am
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Rumor has it the prospective new owners of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders were in town Thursday to check out the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Sources say you might be surprised by who those new owners will be. The only hint you’ll get from me is the word “flyer.” At any rate, expect the official announcement of the club being sold fairly shortly.

In other matters, Cedar Rapids Kernels General Manager Jack Roeder told me that Los Angeles Angels GM Tony Reagins is expected to come to town over the Labor Day weekend to hand off some sort of check from the Angels for Cedar Rapids flood relief.

Where exactly that money will go hasn’t been determined, though helping rebuild the Boys And Girls Club and/or YMCA are options. So is helping out a specific flood-affected family.

The Kernels wore special pink jerseys for Thursday night’s game, which was part of a cancer awareness promotion, that auctioned off silently auction to benefit Oncology Associates’ “Relay For Life.” The jerseys were sharp, with black pinstripes and sleeves.