Kernels “Use the Force”

This post has almost nothing whatsover to do with the Twins. Since this is pretty much a Twins blog, I thought I should say that up front. So if you want to just go read something else about the Twins, I understand.

I spent Saturday night watching my hometown Cedar Rapids Kernels (an Angels Class A affiliate in the Midwest League) take on the Peoria Chiefs (the Cubs’ Class A affiliate).

After dinner with my wife and some friends at a local downtown restaurant in Cedar Rapids (Saturday was our 33rd wedding anniversary), the four of us made our way to Memorial Stadium to catch the Kernels/Chiefs game. I thought about stopping at the box office on the way to dinner to get tickets, but decided that probably wasn’t necessary. Mistake.

By the time we got to the parking lot, still several minutes before the first pitch, the place was packed. Maybe it was because the Cubs affiliate was taking on the Kernels and the Cubs are popular around here. Maybe it was because it was “Star Wars” night. Maybe it was because there were postgame fireworks planned for after the game. Maybe it was the perfect weather. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above, but the stadium was full.

A full house at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids

I absolutely love to see a full ballpark for a Kernels game. It makes me feel good when the community so clearly appreciates this kind of entertainment.

The Chiefs scored four runs in the top of the 3rd inning. The Kernels scored five runs in the bottom of the same inning. And so the game went. In the end, the Kernels emerged on the winning end of a 7-6 score.

If you don’t regularly attend minor league games, you probably don’t understand the whole “Star Wars” night thing.  Minor league teams generally schedule several special events during the season to (a) generate some publicity and (b) raise some money for a local charity. The players wear special jerseys, which are sold via silent auction during the game, with the proceeds going to a charity. Tonight’s Star Wars Night benefited the Make-a-Wish Foundation, for example.

Cam Bedrosian's "Star Wars" Kernels jersey

I shelled out a few bucks for Cam Bedrosian’s #30 jersey. The 20-year old right-handed pitcher was the Angels’ first round draft choice in 2010. If his name sounds familiar to you, it may be because his dad, Steve Bedrosian, had a pretty nice Major League career and was a member of the 1991 Twins World Series Champions (see… I managed to find at least a LITTLE connection to the Twins). Oh… and by the way… one of his teammates here in Cedar Rapids is infielder Matt Scioscia, son of the Angels current (somewhat beleaguered) manager, Mike Scioscia.

The jersey itself is one of those so-corny-its-cool things… a Chewbacca brown jersey with neon green lettering. I love it! And Cam was good enough to autograph it for us.

The Twins won their fourth game in a row Saturday and I’m happy about that. But as much as I enjoy following the Twins, it’s really tough to beat a beautiful night watching the Kernels at a ballpark full of families with kids and adults of all ages. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about because you’ve never had the pleasure of attending minor league games… well… I feel sorry for ya. You have no idea what you’re missing!

- JC

St. Paul Saints Opening Day!

There is other baseball to watch in the Twin Cities! We are actually a blessed community to have options. So if & when you are frustrated with watching the Twins at points during the season – and even if you’re not! The Saints make a great show of 9 innings in addition to the ballgame. And the Saints actually made it to the playoffs last year.. and took it all the way through Championship only to lose out in the last possible game.. I’m hoping for one game better this year!

 

Since the Season Opener is at home, they have a GREAT week of activities planned for all the fans that show up to enjoy this great May weather. This is all after a fun week of exhibition activities that culminated in the World’s Largest Game of Catch yesterday where the team mascot was introduced to the public.. in case you don’t already know, the Saints pick a little piggy to represent them until roasting time at the end of the season. This year is breaking tradition just a bit! They have Co-Mascots this year.

Introducing Kim LARDashian and Kris HAMphries!

Better news is that their union will actually last longer than their namesakes.. *snort*

There are a LOT of other things going on this week that you would love to be a part of!

Tickets are so affordable, you can bring the whole family!

BTW, in other news from this years legislative discussions regarding stadium funding, the Saints were also at the capitol looking for some funding to move from Midway to a new home base in Lowertown, St. Paul. They certainly don’t have the weight to throw around that the Vikings or Twins do nor are they looking for anything like the amount of money as the big boys.. And the news at this point is that while they did not receive any direct funding, they most likely are eligible to apply for an economic development grant to fulfill their needs. That will take some more time to work out but I’m sure that further announcements will come later.

Until then, as old as it is, Midway is a fun place to watch a baseball game and I hope you all will make an attempt to go out and join the fun!

The Braun Legacy (in theatres soon)

I realize I’m several days late to the party in terms of discussing the arbitrator’s ruling in favor of Brewers’ star Ryan Braun, but it took me a while to come to grips with exactly how I feel about it. I’ve now done that and I’ve concluded one thing for certain…

I want the movie rights.

Before you scoff, remember that Hollywood made a successful movie last year about Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Sure, it helped that Brad Pitt starred in the movie, but if Aaron Sorkin can put a winning script together centered on the value of on-base percentage, imagine what he could do with the mystery surrounding Braun’s urine sample!

Most accounts of the Braun issue begin with that sample he provided last fall. But to set the stage, we need to go back much further. Let’s run the opening credits for our film over scenes of Congressional Hearing Chambers and various players, MLB executives and Players Union representatives being challenged by our duly elected representatives, intent on ridding baseball of performance enhancing drugs. Then we’ll kick off the first scene of our movie in a conference room where MLB’s Commissioner and The Executive Director of the Players Union ponder what can be done to get Congress off their collective backs.

The Commissioner is desperate to impose a drug enforcement program with teeth, but the Union insists that any program must include pesky safeguards to assure any tests performed are accurate and that players are afforded due process. There’s particular sensitivity to confidentiality issues, in light of the fact that the last time the Players Union agreed to “confidential” testing by baseball, MLB’s mishandling of the testing data resulted in test results being widely publicized.

In the end, the two sides come to an agreement. The testing program includes protocols assuring that samples will be secured from the time they’re given by the athlete up through and including the time tests are performed in the lab. Players will have the right to have an arbitration panel (consisting of one MLB representative, one Union representative and one “independent” arbitrator) hear appeals, and all of this will be confidential until the process is completed and any penalties enforced. The scene ends with everyone slapping one another on the back and telling one another how smart they all are.

Now, we fast forward a couple of years and introduce our Midwestern hero… a talented ballplayer with a sterling reputation who has just helped his team (and coincidentally, the very same team that the MLB Commissioner used to own) to a playoff run and has been voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player in the process. There’s only one problem… it seems Mr. Clean was so stupid that he had no idea he might be tested for PEDs during the playoffs and filled himself with so much juice that he tested positive for unprecedented testosterone levels right in the middle of that playoff run.

How do fans find out about this? Is it announced by MLB, along with the requisite 50-game suspension, once the appeal process had been completed? No… America finds out from a National Sports Network (we’ll use a “fictionalized” name to protect ourselves from being sued by the real network, but everyone will know exactly who we’re talking about), thanks to an anonymous source who leaks news of the positive test before the star player can have any appeal heard. Ah… intrigue!

Our hero subsequently (and loudly) proclaims his innocence. But then, don’t they all? The repercussions are swift and loud, especially from those appearing on the aforementioned National Sports Network that broke the story. How can we take back his MVP award? We can’t? Why not? Heisman Trophy winners have had their awards repossessed and the NFL has had a re-vote when a “cheater” won a similar postseason award. The good of the game requires correction of this travesty!

Though the appeal process moves forward, the assumption is that this is just a formality. After all, no player’s appeal has ever been successful… has it? Well, not that anyone knows of. But then again, if the confidentiality of the process is maintained, how would anyone know if prior appeals were successful? The player certainly won’t say anything and undermine his own reputation and MLB would have no interest in admitting a failure of the testing program they tout as being the best in professional sports. But those are just dry details, so we’ll leave them out… after all, the National Sports Network says no appeal has ever been successful, so it must be so!

Taking dramatic license, our appeal hearing takes place in a hall much like what we’d expect to see at the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than some bland conference room. In a scene reminiscent of something from “My Cousin Vinny,” the player’s counsel gets the part-timer that MLB entrusted to promptly FedEx the urine sample to the lab to admit that, instead, he took the sample home with him because FedEx isn’t open on Saturday. But did he not store the sample in a secure, cool place, as called for by the league’s protocol? Well, not exactly. He left it on his desk in a Tupperware container for the weekend. The camera focuses on the Commissioner, sitting at the table with the league’s lawyer, as he nods and whispers, “That seems reasonable to me.”

Of course, the predictable plot twist unfolds as our hero is acquitted… I mean he wins his appeal… and the half of the courtroom donning Brewers jerseys stands and cheers, while the suits on the other half loudly voice their displeasure using multi-syllabic words nobody understands.

Now, the hero stands at the courthouse steps, smiling to the cameras as he reminds everyone, “I told you I was innocent!” His supporters, across the country, rejoice and call for apologies to be made (mostly via Twitter).

The Commissioner, however, rails at the injustice. He blames the “independent” arbitrator (apparently not having expected him to behave as though he actually were independent) and loudly declares that the evil ballplayer escaped justice on a technicality.

Of course, the media falls in line behind the revered Commissioner and echoes the “escaped on a technicality” refrain. This is especially true of virtually every celebrity talking head employed by the National Sports Network.

A significant number of ballplayers rise up in vocal support of the hero (again, mostly via Twitter), but they are roundly criticized by the media for daring to support a cheater who’s “beaten the system.” Soon, even a number of players are voicing their displeasure at the “verdict.”

Maybe I’ll make viewers leave the theatre without being told the end of the story, leaving them with as many questions as answers. None of those questions will be bigger than, “what happened to that sample?”

Or maybe I’ll take the “Oceans 11” approach and run quickly through a montage showing how the guy who collected the urine was actually a Cubs fan and how he and a steroid gulping bodybuilder friend of his substituted a testosterone-juiced sample for the player’s in the hope of seeing the rival star suspended.

Better yet, do you remember “Clue”? Maybe I could create an alternate montage that some movie-goers would see… where the hero turns out to be dirty as hell and promised the urine collector 100 grand if he found a way to make the sample unreliable.

The options are endless. I can make up any story line I want because nobody knows what really happened. Face it, this kind of thing is an Oliver Stone wet dream. I’ll make millions!

But seriously, folks…

Whatever happened, aren’t those strict protocols in place for a reason? And isn’t that reason to assure that tampering cannot happen? Given the stigma that goes with even being suspected of using PEDs, don’t we want to be absolutely positive no tampering took place before we brand any player a cheater? Isn’t that also why they’re supposed to protect the confidentiality of the player until the process is complete?

This case never should have come to public light, but once the circumstances did come out, Bud Selig should have stood up and said, “We established protocols for drug testing that are intended to assure that tests are accurate and that samples are secure from possible tampering. In this case, Ryan Braun’s urine sample was not secured appropriately and thus may or may not have been tampered with. In such a circumstance, we must assume he is not guilty of using PEDs.” If Selig felt compelled to rant, he could rant about whoever leaked the results to the media.

That would have been the right thing to do. But, of course, he didn’t do that.

Our film project may leave the audience wondering what happened, but unfortunately, I think most of us know what the future holds for Ryan Braun’s reputation.

Bud Selig didn’t do the right thing in this situation, but he isn’t the real villain. That dishonor goes to whoever leaked the test results and to those in the media who innitially ran the story on the basis of that anonymous source.

Think about that the next time you read someone from the “real” media pontificating about the lack of journalistic ethics and integrity of bloggers. I know I will… and, for me, that will be the Braun Legacy.

- JC

Saints Sneak Peek

So this year will be the Minnesota Saints 20th season.. they’ll be announcing a new logo for the season later today but here’s your sneak peek:

 

The Saints have a lot going on this offseason. They are part of St. Paul’s request to the state legislature for building funds for a new stadium in lowertown…  To be honest, I really don’t know how I feel about that because so much of the identity they have in my mind is wrapped up in their midway location and there are a lot of pros & cons for building a new park for a minor league team – not the least among them is timing. However, if YOU are interested in learning more from the team, they will be hosting a live chat on the facebook St. Paul Saints page from 4-5 pm.

Last but certainly not least is the best Hot Stove League Banquet I’ve ever attended – and it’s going on this Friday. It’s used as a fundraiser for the St. Paul little league although I’m sure that there will be a lot of Saints & Twins baseball discussion. I encourage you to check it out.

 

 

GameChat – World Series Game 3. 7:05 pm

Jayson Stark Tweeted today that, in the past 60 years, there have been only three World Series that have started out with three straight games decided by just one run (1972, 1974, 1995). Will we see another such event tonight?

It has been a great Series so far, but I suspect that we’re going to start seeing more runs scored now that the venue has moved to Arlington, Texas.

Glancing at the line ups, it appears that Cardinal Manager Tony LaRussa has implemented a limit of just one former Twin in his starting line up for any one game. Thus, with Kyle Lohse on the hill, Nick Punto rides the pine.

CARDINALS

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RANGERS
Furcal, SS Kinsler, 2B
Craig, RF Andrus, SS
Pujols, 1B Hamilton, CF
Holliday, LF Young, M, DH
Berkman, DH Beltre, A, 3B
Freese, 3B Cruz, N, RF
Molina, Y, C Napoli, 1B
Jay, CF Murphy, Dv, LF
Theriot, 2B Torrealba, C
  _Lohse, P   _Harrison, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 1 0 0 4 3 4 2 1 1 16 15 0
Texas 0 0 0 3 3 0 1 0 0 7 13 3

In a game that brought back some chilling memories for Twins fans (Kyle Lohse’s evil twin “Lyle” made an appearance in the 4th inning for the Cardinals), the big story was Albert Pujols hitting not one, not two, but three home runs. You KNOW somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s thinking, “Wow, it might be fun to play half my games in this bandbox.”

Anyway, worst case scenario now for the Cardinals is that they’ll get to play more baseball in St Louis, even if they drop the next two games to the Rangers… and I think we can dispense with all of the “these games are too low scoring” crap.

.

Great Local Minnesota Baseball Story

So this year was a pretty great year for the Saint Paul Saints in the big picture. They took the Championship series all the way out to the final game 5 before losing the title to the Grand Prairie Airhogs. But they brought the fight the whole time and made a great go of it. Congrats to the Saint Paul Saints on a fantastic season.

However, there was a fun story that came out of this season about a hometown Minnesota boy… They shared it with fans and now I want to share it with you.

Plucked From Day Job, Supposedly Washed Up Pitcher Leads Minor League Team To Title Game

Originally posted on ThePostGame: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:09 pm Written by: Josh Weinfuss

Clark Kent had a phone booth.

All Todd Mathison needs is a grayish-blue Dodge Stratus.

After spending most of September 7 driving around Minnesota to meet clients, the 24-year-old financial planner returned to his office about 4 p.m. at Fringe Benefits Design, a Bloomington company that sells and services retirement plans. Within 30 minutes, he was back in his Stratus for the 20-mile drive to his new office, Midway Stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints. By 5:15 p.m., Mathison was in the parking lot, starting his transformation from businessman-by-day to starting pitcher-by-night. He shed his suit and tie for jeans and a T-shirt, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and was in the Saints’ locker room by 5:20 p.m.

He was slated to start the first game of the American Association Championship Series against the Grand Prairie AirHogs later that night.

Then, in what was only the latest scene in the screenplay that is Mathison’s on-again-off-again baseball career, the weekday warrior out-dueled Jason Jennings — the same Jason Jennings who won the National League rookie of the year in 2002 as a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies — to a 7-1 win.

And that wasn’t the end of the story.

***
 Three times Mathison has seen his baseball career revived from near-death and all three times he proved his right arm wasn’t ready to retire.

Example A: After pitching the 2010 season for the Saints, Mathison was let go after an up-and-down summer.

“Numbers are numbers,” Mathison says. “That was the end of my professional career.”

But while at a church function a month ago dining on shish kabobs, he got a call from Saints pitching coach Jason Verdugo. The team was in need of an arm for the stretch run and Verdugo gave Mathison two hours to decide. Mathison called his boss at Fringe Benefit Design, who also happens to be a former baseball player, and said he could handle pitching if the Saints worked around his schedule. Later that night, the shish kabob scent still on his fingers, Mathison drove to Midway Stadium and signed a contract. When Mathison re-joined the Saints — an independent team about the level of Double-A — they were tied for the wild-card berth. They won the final game of the regular season to make the playoffs and won their first series against Winnipeg thanks in part to a game Mathison started and the team won in extra innings.

Example B: After turning down a chance to play shortstop at the University of Minnesota, Mathison chose to play at nearby St. Olaf College because the school offered the chance to play baseball and football. A high school infielder, he began to pitch in earnest during fall baseball before his freshman season. Mathison finished his first season 9-0 with an ERA less than two and was named an All-American. He did that while playing shortstop every other game.

“After my freshman year, I still considered myself an infielder,” Mathison says.

He started his sophomore campaign 6-0 before straining an elbow ligament. Knowing an MRI would bench him for the season, Mathison convinced the St. Olaf coaching staff to let him play the rest of the year at first base and DH. When he had the MRI, sure enough the ligament was torn and Mathison was out for the summer (but his hitting prowess earned him the hitting MVP of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). His college career was capped by going 7-4 and leading St. Olaf to within one game of the Division III World Series.

Then it was off to Zambia, Africa, for a summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ.

“In my mind, thought this was end of my baseball career,” Mathison says. “I was OK with that.”

Example C: When he returned to the states during the summer of 2009, Mathison was playing town ball for the Dundas Dukes and the opposing coach in one of his games happened to be Verdugo. He offered Mathison a tryout with the Saints and eventually signed the 6-foot, 190-pound pitcher for the rest of the 2009 season.

Mathison returned to the Saints in 2010 but was released June 28. And for the next year he worked as a financial planner because, yes, he thought his baseball career was over.

Now, in 2011, he’s still touching 91 mph. And he’s loving it.

“Throwing as hard as I’ve ever thrown,” Mathison says. “There are 35-year-olds who still have hopes. I still have hopes and I always will. If someone called and said they needed a big league starter, I’d say, ‘Yes.’”.

But first there was the matter of the championship series against the AirHogs. Mathison won the first game but the series went to a deciding Game 5. Once again, the 401K salesman would have to go against Jennings.

Mathison pitched well, but not as well as the former MLB star. The Saints lost, 8-5, after Mathison pitched five innings and gave up three earned runs.

Tuesday morning, Mathison sat in the Denver airport, thinking about the whirlwind month.

“It was an absolute blast,” he says. “Great team. It’s just hard to win a title.”

So what now?

“Get back to the office,” Mathison says. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

And so Clark Kent, suitcase in hand, gets ready to board a flight for his old life and his grayish-blue Dodge Stratus. Again.

Eric Adelson contributed reporting for this story.

Playoff baseball in Minnesota

Believe it or not, there’s actually a baseball team in Minnesota who is WINNING more games than they lose this year! The Saint Paul Saints started their playoff season last night here at Midway Stadium and they started it off WELL by kicking butt 7-1.  Last night’s game sounds like it was a really interesting go of it too – you should read up on the account at the Saints website: Saints are Money in Game 1 Win

They have another game in Minnesota tonight before they head off to Texas for the last three games of the five-game series. Since today is an off-day for the Twins, if you want to see a little Minnesota baseball, I suggest heading over to Midway and enjoying the opportunity! Tickets are available!  As an added bonus – they are still running their Thirsty Thursday promotions with $1 beer!

PS I love their ticket sales advert – subtle! LOL click it for a link to buy tickets online.

2011 All-Star Game, Fox, 7:00 pm

I will admit that just this picture makes the All-Star game seem possibly interesting afterall.  Since Cuddy is the Twins lone representative this year, I’m a little intrigued to see how they end up using Cuddy as the lineups shuffle around.  Word is that even he doesn’t have any idea so he’s bringing ALL his gloves – by now, that’s quite the collection.

 

American League Team

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National League Team
1. Curtis Granderson CF NYY   1. Rickie Weeks 2B MIL
2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS CLE   2. Carlos Beltran DH NYM
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B BOS   3. Matt Kemp CF LAD
4. Jose Bautista RF TOR   4. Prince Fielder 1B MIL
5. Josh Hamilton LF TEX   5. Brian McCann C ATL
6. Adrian Beltre 3B TEX   6. Lance Berkman RF STL
7. David Ortiz DH BOS   7. Matt Holliday LF STL
8. Robinson Cano 2B NYY   8. Troy Tulowitzki SS COL
9. Alex Avila C DET   9. Scott Rolen 3B CIN
        Jered Weaver SP LAA           Roy Halladay SP PHI

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

AL All-Stars

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

0

NL All-Stars

0

0

0

3

1

0

1

0

x

5

9

2

2011 All-Star Game Viewing Party

We will put up a gamechat for people who want to watch the All-Star Game tonight. But if you are in the Twin Cities and want to go a step further in your fan participation, Michael Cuddyer is hosting a get-together. It sounds like a great way to watch Michael in his first All-Star appearance! To be honest, I don’t know what position he’ll actually play – but I’m sure he’s used to having a manager enjoy his flexibility!

All-Star Game Viewing Party

Join MichaelCuddyer.com at Bunny’s Sports Bar in St. Louis Park (MAP) on Tuesday, July 12th to watch Cuddy represent the Twins in the 2011 All-Star Game.  Seating begins at 6:30pm and the game starts at 7:00pm.

Admission to this family-friendly event is free and Bunny’s will provide FREE hot dogs, chips and popcorn from 6:30-7:30.  There will be giveaways and prize drawings throughout the game.

The first 24 people* to arrive will receive an All-Star gift bag with a limited edition Cuddy t-shirt, gift certificates, coupons, and more.  Michael Cuddyer autographed cards will be randomly inserted in the gift bags!

Bunny’s party room seats 70 people and there is ample seating in the main room.  Seating is available on a first-come basis so arrive early to get your spot!

For more information click the CONTACT US link above or call 952-545-6460

*Must be 21 or older to receive a gift bag.

St Paul Saints host Girls Night Out!

Ladies, looking for a night of Beauty, Baseball, and Fun? The St. Paul Saints are hosting a Girls Night Out on Tuesday, July 12 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Join us with your friends for a night of relaxation and pampering from local vendors and enjoy dinner provided by Pazzaluna and the St. Paul Grill.

To register, visit saintsgroups.com, password: girlsnightout.