A Tour of Jim Crikket’s Cedar Rapids

Acquiescing to an outpouring of demand, I’ve put together a little bit of information about my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Of course, I understand that the only reason so many of our readers seem to want that information has nothing at all to do with it being my hometown, but rather because our fair city is now the home of the Minnesota Twins’ Class A minor league affiliate, the Kernels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI guess as long as I’m being honest, the whole “outpouring of demand” thing might have been a slight exaggeration. But one of our Twitter followers, @CSwamptown, did ask for it last week and by God we’re so thrilled to find out we actually have Twitter followers that we’re going to try to be responsive to that kind of request!

Cedar Rapids is the second largest city, by population, in Iowa. Almost 130,000 people call Cedar Rapids home and when you add in the other nearby cities and towns in Linn County, the total pops up above 210,000 people.

Cedar Rapids is home to multiple campuses full of Rockwell Collins and Transamerica Insurance Company workers, as well as significant General Mills and Quaker Oats plants. Coe College (my alma mater), Mount Mercy College and Kirkwood Community College all are located in town and the University of Iowa’s campus in Iowa City is just 20 miles or so south of Cedar Rapids (Go Hawkeyes!).

But you’re coming here for baseball, so you probably don’t care about any of that. That being the case, let’s get started with this little tour of Jim Crikket’s Cedar Rapids.

Getting Around

Cedar Rapids is laid out roughly in quadrants. Every address will include its quadrant (NW, SW, SE, NE). Know this, however… the quadrant boundaries are established by the Cedar River (north/south) and First Avenue (east/west). Both the river and the main street wind more than a little bit as they work their ways through town, so take the whole NW, SW, SE and NE thing more as general guidelines than rules.

Don’t Speed. Seriously. Don’t do it. At least don’t go much more than 5 mph over posted speed limits, especially on I-380 through town. Cedar Rapids uses cameras placed strategically behind many of the overhead signage on the highway to take your picture (specifically a picture of your license plate) as you drive through and at a number of intersections in town. If you speed or run a light, you’ll be getting a “thank you letter” from local law enforcement shortly after you get home with instructions on how to make one more final financial contribution to our local economy.

Sleeping

I’ll start with a confession: If you ask me for hotel recommendations, you’re really asking the wrong guy. I live here. I’ve lived here since 1977 for all but a handful of months in 1979 (and that’s a story you really don’t want to hear, so let’s just pretend it never happened). Since I live here, I’ve had very little cause to stay in a hotel. I have no idea which hotels have soft beds or are pet friendly.

However, as frequent readers here know, I’m not one to let a little thing like lack of knowledge about a topic keep me from expressing thoughts on said topic.

There are two “clusters” of  hotels for the budget conscious in Cedar Rapids. One on the north side of town (between Blairs Ferry Rd and Collins Rd, about half a mile east of I-380) and one on the south side (at the 33rd Ave SW Exit off of I-380). On one end or the other, you’ll find pretty much every hotel chain you can think of represented.

I’m guessing the hotels on the north side might be quieter, since they’re located in more of an office park area (very near the large Rockwell Collins campus). The south grouping is much more clumped together and interspersed with various restaurants (especially of the fast-food variety). There aren’t many restaurants in easy walking distance from the hotels on the north side.  You’re not going to be walking to Kernels games either way, but the hotels on the south side are a bit closer to the ballpark.

If you’re not as concerned with cost, there’s a nice Marriott on Collins Rd on the north side. There’s also a new convention center nearing completion downtown and there’s a high rise (at least high by Cedar Rapids standards) hotel attached to it. The hotel has been in the process of being renovated for the past couple of years and has not yet reopened, but when it is, it will be a DoubleTree Hotel. Last I knew, the plans were for it to open at the end of May.

Eating and Drinking

It’s not hard to find a place to eat in Cedar Rapids. We have all of the same chain restaurants you’ll find everywhere else (no Famous Dave’s, though, Twins Citians… sorry). If you’re like me, though, you might prefer to check out the local “independent” restaurants and bars. So if you want to go to Buffalo Wild Wings, Granite City, Red Lobster, Applebees or any other fine national chain restaurant, they aren’t hard to find here. But if you want to try a place you won’t find back home, consider one of these:

BushwoodLogoBushwood Sports Bar & Grill (350 Edgewood Road NW… a couple of miles west of the ballpark): This is my family’s regular Friday night hangout. The food’s good and there’s a pretty broad menu for a sports bar. There are more TVs than you can possibly watch and the service is excellent. Then again, maybe they just really provide great service to my family because we’ve spent so much money there the past few years that we really should own a share of the business by now. But I’m pretty sure the waitresses will be nice to you, too.

Third Base Brewery (500 Blairs Ferry Rd NE… maybe a mile east of the “north cluster” of hotels): To be honest, I’ve rarely been here, but they brew their own beer on site so it can’t be too bad, right? I have nothing against the place, it simply is located on the east side of town and I live on the west side.

La CantinaLa Cantina (corner of First Ave SE and Second Street SE, Downtown): This has become my family’s “go to” Mexican restaurant. We really like the food, but I’m not so sure that the fact we made our first visit there on a “two-for-one margaritas” night might have influenced us favorably and permanently. If you stop there and they’re really busy, but you really have your heart set on Mexican food, just walk around the corner on First Avenue and go to Gringo’s. It’s good, too.

Leonardo’s Restaurant & Pizza (2228 16th Ave SW): While my family and I really like the pizza at Bushwood, I have to admit that my favorite pizza in town is the sausage pizza at Leonardo’s. That’s been the case pretty much since I moved here because “Leo’s” has been in Cedar Rapids longer than I have. Located maybe a mile west of the ballpark and the adjacent high school football stadium and hockey arena, this is a popular place for locals after sports events.

RedsAleHouseRed’s Ale House (405 N. Dubuque Street, North Liberty IA): Red’s isn’t really in Cedar Rapids, but I felt compelled to include it anyway. If you’re feeling adventurous enough to drive 10-15 minutes south on I-380 to North Liberty and you have a penchant for craft beers, Red’s is a must. Their motto is “no crap on tap,” so if your idea of a great beer is a Bud Light draft, go elsewhere. But if having a choice among a couple hundred craft beers sounds appealing to you, Red’s is your kind of place.

The Breakfast House Café (820 6th Street SW): If you’re like my family, you’re probably staying at a budget hotel with a free continental breakfast. But in the event your idea of breakfast is more than donuts and coffee, check out the Breakfast House Café. It’s your basic little breakfast diner kind of place and it’s been around for over 30 years, so they’re doing something right. In fact, they do a lot of things right.

(Photo: Cindy Hadish)

(Photo: Cindy Hadish)

NewBo City Market (corner of 12th Ave and 3rd Street SE in New Bohemia district): The NewBo City Market isn’t a restaurant, but if you’re in town over a weekend, it’s worth checking out and you can certainly find food there, among many other things. The folks who run the place describe it on their website as, “a dynamic public space where local entrepreneurs create an environment of fresh, wonderful food, products and experiences.” Sound interesting? It is.

Baseball

Lest we forget, the reason you’re coming to town is for baseball, right?

Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium is where the Kernels call home. It’s located about two blocks south of First Avenue SW, on Rockford Rd SW. (Drive west from downtown and look for the lights.) The current Veterans Stadium was built in 2002, replacing the old “Vets Stadium” that had been home to Cedar Rapids minor league teams for over 50 years. The old stadium sat where the parking lot now sits between the new Vets and Kingston Stadium, which is home to the local public high school football, track and soccer teams (not to mention their marching bands).

The ballpark’s concourse faces inward toward the diamond, allowing fans to keep abreast of the action on the field while they visit concession stands. There’s a variety of seating choices for groups of pretty much any size, whether in picnic areas down the left field line, an outdoor mezzanine above the bowl behind the Kernels’ first base dugout, or one of the indoor suites (that also include outdoor seating in front of the suite).

The friendly folks in the Kernels’ front office will be more than happy to find you the perfect spot for you and/or your group. They’re particularly proud (and rightfully so) of the new high-def video scoreboard that looms over right-center field.

The Kernels have more “Special Events” than we can possibly list, along with almost a dozen “giveaway” nights (I’m especially looking forward to Mr Shucks/TC Bear Bobblehead night on June 7). There will also be eight “special jersey” nights this season. The jerseys the Kernels wear on those nights are auctioned off for charity in a silent auction during the game and winning bidders get to go down on the field afterward and quite literally take the jersey off of the back of a player and get him to autograph it for you.

The Kernels organization’s tagline is “Party at the Park!” and they do everything in their power to make sure that’s exactly what you’ll do when you make a trip to Cedar Rapids to see the Twins’ future on display.

I hope you’ll find the time to check out the Kernels in action this summer. If you need information beyond what I’ve covered here, just click the “Contact Us” link on our site’s banner at the top and drop me an email with your question.

–  JC

GameChat – Marlins @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

Since this is not a regularly scheduled game, it’s fighting for local broadcast time with Wild hockey tonight. So the Twins game is on that FSN+ channel that gave us all fits during Spring Training. Hope y’all remember where to find your game!

This afternoon’s game was cool and sunny and it looks as though this evening will be the same way. It’s actually warmer now than when the earlier game started so that isn’t bad. Frankly, most locals are just happy to see the sunshine. This is actually pretty similar to Pelfrey’s start last week.  I would REALLY like to see him step it up tonight – and by that I mean PACE. Something about last week had him slowing to an absolute crawl like watching the Red Sox play the Yankees… I would rather not do that again if my opinion counts for anything (which it doesn’t).

Miami

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Minnesota
Coghlan, LF Dozier, 2B
Polanco, 3B Mauer, DH
Stanton, RF Arcia, LF
Dobbs, DH Morneau, 1B
Ruggiano, CF Doumit, C
Brantly, C Parmelee, RF
Valaika, SS Escobar, E, SS
Mahoney, 1B Hicks, CF
Solano, D, 2B Carroll, 3B
  Nolasco, P   Pelfrey, P

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We had some REALLY fantastic offense from Eduardo Escobar and some pretty phenomenal defense from Brian Dozier but it wasn’t enough to overcome the general malaise that seemed to exist from the poor tone set by Pelfrey.  I KNOW I’m biased but once again his pace was painfully slow. If he was being successful at that speed, I might steel my patience to wait out the 4 hour games but he’s not and they suck.

I will say it was a lot of fun to see Redmond, even if it is in that atrocious Marlins tangerine uni.. ouch.

Next game for the Twins will be much warmer…

GameChat – Marlins @ Twins, 1:10pm

jdun644lWELCOME BACK, RED DOG!!

No, really, ignore all that snow! Go ahead, I’d love to see the naked batting practice! (metaphorically only). Of course, I’m at work so no TV anyway – gameday won’t show it.

I’ve really been excited for this series and the ONLY reason is because I’m so excited for Redmond having this opportunity. I just wish his team was doing a little more for him. wow.

That being said, let’s all give major props to the Target Field Grounds Crew! Nothing like 6+ inches of snow overnight to have to remove from the field and the stands in time for a double header. Let’s see what the boys can do with the cool but sunny conditions!

Miami

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Minnesota
Pierre, LF Dozier, 2B
Polanco, 3B Mauer, C
Stanton, RF Willingham, LF
Dobbs, DH Morneau, 1B
Ruggiano, CF Parmelee, RF
Mahoney, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Olivo, C Arcia, DH
Green, N, SS Hicks, CF
Solano, D, 2B Florimon, SS
  Fernandez, J, P   Correia, P

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It was a cold but beautiful afternoon for baseball!! Correia had his 4th consecutive start go at least 7 innings for us so that is definitely a great deal. I wish they’d let him try for 8 today because Burton didn’t have his best stuff and almost let the Marlins of all teams, back into the game but Perkins shut the door hard and fast.

My heartiest congratulations and BOD as well go to Oswaldo Arcia for his first MLB Home Run!! The only player for the Twins who has hit a home run at a younger age was Joe Mauer in 2005. Now I feel old. But still… it was a great shot – 401 ft – and we needed every single one of his 3 RBI to keep a hold of that lead and get the win. So congrats Oswaldo – you are this afternoon’s BOD!

Minnesota+Twins+Photo+Day+Arcia

Today’s Twins/Marlins Game Postponed

Once again, the weather in Minnesota is getting in the way of baseball. We are expecting 3-6 more inches of snow tonight.. *sigh*

At least this time, they are just postponing the game until tomorrow. There will be a split double-header with games at 1:10 and 7:10 on Tuesday and maintain the off-day on Wednesday. At least that is the plan.

Best wishes to the Grounds Crew getting Target Field ready for play tomorrow.

baseball-in-snow

Reviewing “42” and Honoring Jackie Robinson

Margaret Mead is credited with saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Those who gave us the film 42 have provided a reminder of that truism, as they told the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey and how, together, they put an end to the “unwritten rule” that kept African-American ballplayers from playing Major League Baseball before 1947.

Let’s get this much out of the way right up front: It’s a very good movie. It was well written. It was well acted. The computer generated images of all of the old ballparks portrayed in the film were pretty amazing, really. The baseball scenes themselves were good, if perhaps not great.

(L-r) HARRISON FORD as Branch Rickey and CHADWICK BOSEMAN as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

HARRISON FORD as Branch Rickey and CHADWICK BOSEMAN as Jackie Robinson in “42”

The movie starts out with one of those, “This motion picture is based on a true story,” statements. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s essentially a disclaimer that film makers use at the outset of movies that are about real people or real events, but it really means, “This movie is based on a true story, but not everything said or everything portrayed actually happened. You see, to get a lot of people to spend their money to see this movie, we’ve had to dramatize some things to make the real story more exciting. We hope you understand and maybe even end up believing the scenes in this movie were exactly what really happened.”

As soon as I see the “based on a true story” disclaimer, I resign myself to what’s to come… overly dramatic fictionalized scenes that might have possibly happened, but probably didn’t, to the real people being portrayed.

But in the case of 42 I couldn’t help but come away with a very different sense.

Rather than adding drama to Jackie Robinson’s story, I think the film makers actually sanitized it more than a bit.

Sure, there are scenes depicting Robinson having to deal with Jim Crow laws… being unable to eat, sleep and even go to the toilet in places reserved for “Whites Only.” There are scenes making it clear many of his Dodger team mates didn’t want him on the team to start the 1947 season. There are scenes depicting the kind of racial verbal abuse he had to take from opponents. The movie shows Robinson getting hit by a pitch… once (it happened nine times in his rookie year). There are allusions made to death threats.

But I don’t for a moment believe that the scenes depicting the abuse Robinson and his family received even scratched the surface of what they actually were forced to endure. Maybe the film makers couldn’t go in to all of that in-depth and do so within the limits of a two-hour movie. Then again, had they told the whole story, I’m not sure audiences could have stomached it.

The purpose of the movie was to inspire us… to remind us of what a truly unique and special man Robinson was. Robinson (and Rickey, too, for that matter) certainly warranted us being reminded of the courage it took to break baseball’s color barrier and the role that doing so arguably played in furthering the cause of civil rights in this country.

I haven’t read a single quote from a current professional ballplayer who has seen the movie that hasn’t been highly positive. Most include a reference to the movie reminding them of all that Robinson did to make it possible for today’s players to do what they love to do.

Those are the emotions the film makers wanted to induce in their audiences, no doubt.

The history of racism in our country is, to put it mildly, shameful. Few people alive today remember what it must have been like for Negro League ballplayers before MLB integrated or what it was like for Robinson and others who were on the leading edge of baseball’s integration. Not many today even remember how absurdly people of color were treated in this country in the 1960s… a couple of decades after Jackie first wore a Dodgers uniform.

Few of us remember what Jackie Robinson and those who followed him likely had to deal with. Many of those who do remember, especially those with complexions like mine, often don’t particularly want to be reminded.

So the makers of 42 had to walk a bit of a tightrope. Tell Robinson’s story in a manner that gives him his due… that reminds movie-goers of all ages how courageous he was and how much today’s generations owe to him… that tells the story of the prejudice that he and those that followed him had to overcome, but without dwelling too much in to the horrid details of the underpinnings of that prejudice. They needed to make African-Americans (and all of us, really) proud of Robinson, without making white America too uncomfortable with our own history. In all of this, I believe they succeeded.

So… if you haven’t seen 42 yet, do so. It’s a wonderful movie. Robinson’s story is inspiring and those who made this movie make sure you will leave the theater appropriately inspired. It’s the story of a small group of people, including Robinson and Rickey, who believed there were things being done wrong in this country and set out to try to do something about it.

The movie does a nice job of helping to explain why all of Major League Baseball honors Robinson by retiring his number 42, except for one game every April when every player on every team wears the number on his back.

That’s a nice, symbolic gesture. But we can do better.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey made sure they left this world a better place than it was when they entered it.  If we truly want to honor Jackie Robinson, we’ll all make sure that someday the same can be said of each of us.

– JC

GameChat – TWINS @ White Sox #2: 1:10 PM

I admit that I’ve been paying more attention to the Cedar Rapids Kernels this spring than I have the Twins. So, to prepare for putting up today’s GameChat post, I thought I should kind of check to see how the Twins have been doing.

Guess what? As the construction worker fan in Major League observed about Lou Brown’s Indians, “These guys ain’t so fuckin’ bad.” (Sorry for the f-bomb, but if Big Papi can get away with saying it on live TV, I can get away with it in a movie quote, right?)

In fact, speaking of Lou Brown, the Twins now have accomplished an official Lou Brown defined “winning streak,” by racking up three straight wins!

On top of all that, our guys are only a half-game out of first place in the American League Central Division. True, they needed that winning streak just to get their record back up to .500 on the year and both the Royals and Tigers are sitting a half-game ahead of them, but unlike those two teams, the Twins get to play the Bitch Sox today! So, we’ve got that going for us. (Imagine that line in my best Bill Murray/Carl Spackler voice).

One reason I haven’t followed the Twins much this season is that I’m actually getting paid to go to Kernels games (is this a great country or what?). Another, of course, is that I don’t get to watch Twins games due to the MLB Blackout rules.

So, yesterday the Twins were on FOX locally. And I was at a Factory Outlet Mall. Don’t judge me. Like many things in life, it was one of those things that sounded like a good idea when plans were made at a bar on Friday night*.

But today, the Twins are on WGN here in Cedar Rapids, so I finally get to watch a game! (Don’t worry, I’ll have Hawk Harrelson on mute, while I likely listen to the Kernels on the radio). Well, I’ll see MOST of the game, anyway… I’m supposed to go to the theater to see 42 around 4:00. The Twins need to put up lots of early crooked numbers for me today.

So let’s watch the Twins celebrate the 52nd anniversary of their first home game as the Minnesota Twins on this date in 1961 by bitch slapping the Bitch Sox. – JC

*Speaking of things that sound like a good idea at a bar and turn out, well, less good… if you’ve got a couple of minutes, click this link to a pretty entertaining article about being in locked-down Boston the day after a one-night stand. (Hat tip to @TwinsGeek for Tweeting the link this morning.)

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Carroll, 2B De Aza, LF
Mauer, DH Keppinger, 2B
Willingham, LF Rios, RF
Morneau, 1B Konerko, 1B
Doumit, C Dunn, A, DH
Plouffe, 3B Ramirez, Al, SS
Arcia, RF Gillaspie, 3B
Hicks, CF Flowers, C
Escobar, E, SS Wise, CF
  _Diamond, P   _Floyd, P

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BroomDustyEXCELLENT! Yes, it was a shorter series than planned but it’s still a SWEEP! And it’s a series win ON THE ROAD and against a DIVISION OPPONENT! These are all very good things. It also means the Twins are back ABOVE .500. Am I shouting a lot? yep.. considering my outlook at the end of spring training, I consider any win a bonus at the this point and well, it’s ALWAYS good to beat the White Sox. :D

It was nice to see Hicks get a hit today and get a steal besides. It was great to see Diamond have such a great  outing and get his first Win. I hope we get to see a LOT more of those. Perkins got his second save in a row which I ALSO would like to see more of. All in all, it was a great game with a lot of highlights to enjoy but all votes agreed that today’s BOD vote goes to Josh Willingham for the 3 RBI double. I’m sure glad he’s over the flu!

WillinghamST2012aNow if only we could get some warm weather so that it actually FELT like baseball season … here’s the warning: we might actually get snow in Minnesota again tomorrow – just in time for the homestand against the Marlins. yay…

 

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 34

Episode 34 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

Featuring Knuckleballs’ own Jim Crikket along with podcast stalwarts Eric and Cody talk about the Minnesota Twins’ Low-A Minor League affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels.

The Kirby Puckett podcast has Cody and Eric talkin about yoga, going around the league, and creating radio gold for almost 90 minutes.  Enjoy the podcast and thanks for listening!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing here at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Twins @ White Sox, 2:05pm, FOX

It took me a minute to find the game on the schedule – oh yeah, Fox Saturday..

So let’s see what the weather is like in Chicago today – it’s cool but SUNNY in Minnesota. I would totally take an afternoon game in MN right now.. wonder if they are as lucky at US Cellular.

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Chi White Sox
Dozier, 2B De Aza, LF
Mauer, C Keppinger, 2B
Willingham, LF Rios, RF
Morneau, 1B Dunn, A, DH
Parmelee, RF Konerko, 1B
Plouffe, 3B Gillaspie, 3B
Arcia, DH Ramirez, Al, SS
Hicks, CF Danks, Jd, CF
Florimon, SS Flowers, C
  Worley, P   Peavy, P

 

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Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 8 0
Chi White Sox 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1

Well that was a cold day and I’ll give it to all the pitchers who did well with cold hands but I’ll still say this, it was better than it was in Minnesota so it does make me wonder what the weather was like last night for the game they postponed… but anyway, it was still a cold day to play all the pitchers get Hand-warmers as congratulatory gifts for the Win.

But today’s BOD goes to Ryan Doumit for the heads up play in the 10th that finally broke the tie and gave us the win!

Ryan Doumit

Ryan Doumit