One of the great things about baseball is that at every game you go to, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see or experience something for the first time. My trip to Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids Saturday night was a prime example.
The Twins’ low Class A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, are making their first of two trips to Cedar Rapids this weekend to take on the Kernels (affiliates of the Angels). Both teams are over .500 so far this season, so the series has some potential. Added to that, the Snappers’ starting pitcher Saturday was BJ Hermsen, a “local boy” from Masonville, Iowa (about an hour from CR).
The game started out routine enough… the Snappers scored first with an unearned run in the second inning, before Hermsen got touched for a two-run HR by Kernels’ 3B Jeremy Cruz in the bottom half of the inning.
Michael Gonzales, the Beloit 1B, put his team back ahead in the 3rd inning with a two-run HR of his own. Gonzales launched a line drive over the 400 foot sign in dead center field. It was an impressive HR, but not even close to the most impressive HR I’ve seen Gonzales hit here in CR. I saw him jerk one down the RF line last summer that I think might still be in orbit.
The 3-2 lead lasted just until the 4th inning when things got a bit interesting, on a number of fronts. Hermsen started struggling a bit, giving up four consecutive base hits and a long SAC fly, all of which resulted in three Kernel runs. But Hermsen survived the inning and actually pitched two more innings, facing the minimum of six hitters in those innings.
But the damage had been done and by the 5th inning, the Snappers had Martire Garcia loosening up in the bullpen. From our seats in the first row, just to the outfield side of the Snappers’ dugout, my son and I had a good view of Garcia as he warmed up, just to our left. The bullpens here are in the field of play (like the old Metrodome bullpens), and we laughed a bit about how parents were taking some chances letting their kids lean against the wall right next to where Garcia was warming up, because he was, shall we say, not finding the catchers mitt consistently.
Well, the next thing I know, with my attention turned back to the hitter, I feel something smack me in my left arm. Yes, one of those wild warm up pitches jumped the wall and hit me in the arm. See? There’s always something new at every game… I had never had that happen before!
But the baseball gods had my back. Garcia entered the game to start the bottom of the 7th inning and had barely thrown a pitch when the lights went dark… all of them. Another “first” for me at the ballpark!
It takes a while for lights to come back on, apparently, and that meant about a half hour “break in the action”. When play resumed, Garcia promptly walked the first hitter he faced. In fact, he walked two of the first three hitters he faced… which certainly didn’t surprise me.
But Garcia struck out the fourth hitter of the inning and with Kernels at 2nd and 3rd base, the Snappers’ lone outstanding defensive highlight of the evening bailed Garcia out. Third baseman Andrew Leer may have had a tough night at the plate (never getting the ball out of the infield in four ABs), but he did a terrific Brooks Robinson impression on a hot smash down the line by the Kernels’ Cruz. Leer dove straight to his right to snag the shot, then jumped up and made a terrific one-hop throw to 1B, which Gonzales picked up perfectly to retire Cruz.
The Snappers ended up dropping the game 5-3 on what turned out to be a longer, chillier, evening than I expected to spend at the ballpark, but it was well worth it. I won’t be seeing Sunday afternoon’s game, but I’m planning on playing hooky from work Monday afternoon to catch the series finale. Hopefully, the weather will be a bit warmer and the Snappers a bit more successful!