A Snapper Weekend

As I mentioned in my little essay about minor league baseball on Saturday, the Twins’ Midwest League (low-A) affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, are in Cedar Rapids taking on the Kernels in a four game series that runs through Tuesday. I’ve been to the first two games of the series, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and I’m hoping to get out to the Tuesday game, as well. Monday’s game is a noon start so that would could be a bit iffy. (The blogging gig hasn’t blossomed to the point where I can quit my day job… yet.)

Saturday night, I was at the game with family and friends and friends of family, so the social aspect was fine. It was a pleasant enough evening, just a bit on the humid side, but nothing compared to what it was a week or so ago (or what it would be on Sunday). But the game itself was among the more difficult professional games to watch I’ve been to in a while.

Snapper/Kernel games are always a bit of a challenge for me, anyway. I’m a Kernels fan, of course, since they’re my hometown team. But when the Snappers come to town, I also look forward to seeing the Twins’ young prospects do well. So I root for the Kernels to win and the Beloit players to do well individually.

Pitcher Pedro Guerra and Danny Rams (1B)

Saturday night, the Kernels won the game 10-4, and it wasn’t among the better efforts I’ve seen out of the Snappers.  Top prospect Aaron Hicks, had a nice double down the LF line in the first inning and I got to see Pedro Guerra get his first start since being called up to Beloit. The Snappers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead through two innings. Guerra had a respectable debut, though he didn’t throw the ball particularly hard. He gave up a couple of runs in the third inning and left after giving up a walk and a double to the first two hitters he faced in the 5th.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

The Kernels sent 8 players to the plate in the 5th inning while taking a 7-5 lead in what had to be one of the longest half innings I’ve witnessed all year, purely in terms of time elapsed. Deliberate pitching, hitters stepping out of the box over and over, an error or two and a pitching change made that half inning drag on forever.

There aren’t many bright spots among your pitching staff in a 10-4 loss, but Nelvin Fuentes entered the game in the bottom of the 7th and went on to strike out 3 in two scoreless, hitless, innings to finish the night. It was also a tough night for the Snappers in the field as they ended up being charged with 5 errors on the game. Second baseman Reggie Williams had a nice night at the plate, going 2 of 4 with a double (that I thought should have been ruled a triple).

After doubling, Aaron Hicks takes his lead in front of Kernel SS Jon Karcich

But the great thing about baseball is that there’s always another game tomorrow. In this case, the Snappers bounced back from Saturday’s 10-4 loss to win Sunday afternoon 10-9. Yes, they did still have some pitching issues and yes, they did rack up 4 more errors, so it may not SEEM like it was much of an improvement, but I’ll guarantee it was a happier clubhouse after the game than the night before.

Pitcher Martire Garcia and 3B Reggie Williams

Danny Rams leads off behind Jeremy Cruz and in front of Jean Segura after a walk. He added a 2B and a HR in the game.

For the second straight game, Beloit manager Nelson Prada sent a pitcher to the mound for his first start as a Snapper. Sunday, it was Martire Garcia making his MWL debut. Garcia got off to a bit of a rocky start the first two innings but settled down and hung a couple of zeros on the board for the Kernels in the 3rd and 4th innings before calling it a day.

Nelson Prada's not telling the umpire a fish story

Of course, Prada didn’t see much of Garcia’s performance as he was tossed early in the bottom of the first inning for arguing with the home plate umpire over whether a Kernel double down the RF line was fair or foul. That left the team in the capable hands of Twins fans’ old friend Tommy Watkins, who’s the Snapper hitting coach.

And his hitters were doing their jobs at the plate (if not so much in the field). 1B Danny Rams and CF Aaron Hicks brought the big lumber. Rams went 2-3 with a walk, double and a home run. He also scored 3 runs. Hicks was 3-4 with two doubles.

Tommy Watkins signals pitches to his catcher

Once again, the pitchers struggled a bit, but lefty reliever Matt Tone managed to shut the Kernels out in his two innings (the 7th and 8th) of relief. That allowed Beloit the cushion to withstand a 9th inning rally and hang on to their 10-9 win.

It was one long, hot day at the ballpark for these guys following a very long game the night before.  We’re approaching mid-August. It’s hot. They’ve been playing baseball virtually every day since they reported for Spring Training over five months ago. But that didn’t stop Aaron Hicks and Steven Liddle from diving for balls in the outfield (Liddle also showed off his arm on an impressive throw to the plate) or Reggie Williams from diving for hard ground balls down the line at 3B or James Beresford and Derek McCallum from hanging tough on double plays at 2B. And Josmil Pinto caught a day game in oppressive heat and humidity after catching the game the night before. The execution isn’t perfect, but there’s no doubting their effort and that bodes well for the future of our favorite Major League team.

Finally, just because we’re all Tommy Watkins fans, one last picture of Tommy positioning his outfielders from the bench Saturday night. – JC

6 thoughts on “A Snapper Weekend

  1. Thanks, Dez!

    It looks like the guys may be getting an unscheduled day off today. We had thunderstorms through the night and continuing this morning so the game scheduled for noon today has to be in jeopardy. If they don’t get it in, I assume we’ll be looking at two 7-inning games tomorrow night.

    It does make one wonder what 25 young ballplayers with no cars and their coaching staff do on a rainy day in Cedar Rapids IA.

  2. Awesome write-up & pictures, Jim! Have you ever been to Pohlman Field in Beloit before? I envy that you got to see a Snappers game in a stadium that isn’t worse than most high school fields (like Pohlman is). I’m going to have to go check out an away game next year.

    Great job!

  3. The noon game between the Snappers and Kernels IS being played today as the skies have cleared. I snuck out for an hour or so over lunch and caught a few innings. Things weren’t looking good for the Snappers when I left in the bottom of the 5th. I missed the first 2 innings but the Kernels pitcher Buddy Boshers was perfect through 5 innings but gave up back to back doubles to Yorby Martinez and Wang-Wie Lin to start the 6th.

    The worst sight, however, was Snapper pitcher Tom Stuifbergen collapsing to the ground in the bottom of the 5th while backing up home plate. He left with some sort of leg injury and he was clearly in considerable pain. Hoping for the best, for Tom.

    Once again, our server is playing tricks on us today. Our apologies to anyone who tried to access the site and/or leave comments and had trouble doing so.

  4. Josh, I’ve never been to any other MWL stadium other than here in Cedar Rapids, but I seem to recall hearing Beloit’s is pretty old. Cedar Rapids’ is a little under 10 years old, I think. The city faced the choice of building a new one or losing their MWL team. The Angels wouldn’t have stayed here without a commitment to a new ballpark. If Beloit’s is so bad, I’m a little surprised the Twins keep their affiliation there. You’d think there would be similar sized midwestern communities who would jump at the chance to bring a Class A team to town. I’ve always thought CR would make a great partner for the Twins, but the folks who run the Kernels are really happy with the Angels’ organization.

  5. From what I understand, the Twins don’t want to abandon the Snappers while they’re on their quest of trying to fund a new ballpark. Obviously, they probably get along well with the front office there too.

    I bet that the Twins still wish that they still had an affiliation with Quad Cities.