Diamonds and Ice

Boys of summer go home
September 9, 2008, 7:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So long to the Cedar Rapids Kernels, who are headed home (and most of them to Instructional League next week) after concluding their Midwest League season Sunday with a loss to Burlington in Game 2 of the Western Division championship series.

That this team got as far as it did is a testament to the players and coaches. There was not a whole lot of eventual major league talent on this roster, especially compared to last season. Was there anyone on this team you could look at and say “there’s a big leaguer?” You’d have to think pitcher Jordan Walden (who was promoted to high-Class A about halfway through the season) will make it eventually because of his powerful right arm. Lefty Trevor Reckling would seem to stand a good chance, too.

But other than that … you can make cases for some guys (pitcher Ryan Brasier, shortstop Andrew Romine, outfielder Clay Fuller) but there’s still questions in your mind about them.

The Kernels won more games than they lost (74-68) and made the playoffs because they truly played as a team, doing the “little things” you so often hear about to win ballgames: solid defense, good pitching, aggressive baserunning. The Kernels finished last in the Midwest League in team batting average and first in stolen bases.

This is where you say “That’s Angels baseball,” as I so often did in jest whenever a guy would get thrown out trying to steal third base this season or get thrown out trying to go from first to third on a hit to the outfield. The Angels teach their guys to play aggressively on the bases. Whether too aggressively is for you to decide.

Also, this was one of the better groups I’ve dealt with professionally in the 10 years I’ve been on the Kernels beat. Almost every guy was amenable when asked for a quick interview. Most of them would greet you hello whenever you passed them in the clubhouse or outside the stadium. The coaching staff of Manager Keith Johnson, pitching coach Brandon Emanuel and hitting coach Damon Mashore also were great to deal with (or have a beer with after the game). Thank you guys for all of your help this season, including catcher Chris Rosenbaum, who came to us to see if we wanted to run his season-long blog, which was simply outstanding.

As you know, I think it’s ridiculous that the Kernels’ Board of Directors don’t even look at bringing a Midwest major league affiliate in here (hello, Minnesota Twins). But I have to say that most of the players and coaches I’ve dealt with the past 10 seasons have been good guys. That is a testament to the Angels.

So we bid the 2008 season farewell. It’s Burlington against either South Bend or Dayton in the Midwest League finals. Just think, opening day 2009 is only about six and a half months away.


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