A Long Weekend With the Snappers & Kernels

It seemed to me like the first game of this Snappers/Kernels series on Saturday night was a long one… and it was. The game took three hours and twenty minutes to play and since the Snappers pretty much dominated the entire game, on their way to a 13-2 rout of their hosts, there really wasn’t enough excitement to make the game feel like it was moving along.

Fortunately, I was in the “all you can eat and drink” picnic area, so I managed to stay well fed and well lubricated.

UPDATE: I also had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Horrorpants and his brother-in-law, who were down from the Twin Cities to check out the Snappers. You should go check out his Twins Daily blog post and his pictures from the night by clicking here.

Nate Roberts went 3-6 on Saturday night and three different Snappers (JD Williams, Tyler Grimes and Drew Leachman) hit home runs. Amazingly, Beloit scored 13 runs while their number 3 and 4 hitters, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas, combined to go 0 for 10 on the night. Cole Johnson gave up 2 runs in his 5 innings of work. Corey Williams threw 3 shutout innings and DJ Baxendale finished off the night with a scoreless inning, as well.

Twins uber-prospect Miguel Sano was not in the lineup Saturday night, but he seemed healthy during pregame workouts, so there seemed little cause for concern. Sure enough, Sano returned to his spot at third base for the game Sunday afternoon.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Sano and Eddie Rosario in the field during the series to gauge how much they’ve progressed defensively. Through the first two games, however, Rosario hasn’t taken the field. He DH’d  on Saturday night and was not in the lineup Sunday.

I’ll say this about Sano, however. He made several plays in the field on Sunday that I don’t believe he would have been capable of making when I saw him here in Cedar Rapids back in April. He may never be another Brooks Robinson at third base, but he has improved this season. If he works hard and continues to improve every season, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him sticking at the hot corner by the time he’s playing ball at Target Field.

Sano was certainly an offensive star of the game on Sunday. He had four hits in six at-bats, including two doubles and his 27th home run. Vargas and Stephen Wickens both homered in the game, as well.

The game itself was one of the better games I’ve seen in person this season… and I arrived too late to see the first highlight of the afternoon. I was late getting to the ballpark and arrived during the top of the second inning. Moments before I arrived, Vargas got the Snappers on the board with a solo home run that cleared the top of the Kernels’ video board in right center field. I haven’t seen that done in the 11 years the Kernels have been playing in this version of Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Snappers put up three runs off of Kernels starter Cam Bedrosian and continued to nick a string of relief pitchers. Snappers pitcher Jason Wheeler gave up four runs in his six innings of work before Mason Melotakis came on to throw 1.2 hitless innings. Melotakis was consistently hitting 94 mph according to the scoreboard speed sign. That sign has a reputation for being a bit over 1 mph slower than scouts’ speedguns. Zach Jones came on to relieve Melotakis and three a couple mph harder. Unfortunately for the Snappers, he lacked Melotakis’ control and ended up giving up three runs and sending the game in to extra innings.

Taylor Rogers went 2.1 innings without giving up a run to the Kernels as neither team could push a run across the plate in the 10th, 11th or 12th inning. In the 13th, Wickens lifted a fly ball to the outfield with Nate Roberts on third base. That’s when things got interesting. The throw was on target and beat Roberts to the plate, where Kernels catcher Zach Wright was blocking Roberts’ path… but the ball came out of Wright’s glove… but Roberts went over the top of Wright and never touched the plate… but it took a moment for Wright to get the ball back. Wright and Roberts did a little dance together as Wright attempted to tag Roberts and Roberts attempted to get a toe on the plate. In the end, umpire Dustin Klinghagen declared Roberts safe and the Snappers had the lead.

The weirdness that inning did not stop there. With JD Williams at 3B, the Kernels pitched around Sano, walking him to bring up Kennys Vargas. On a full count, Sano broke for 2B, Vargas struck out and Wright threw to second, attempting to throw Sano out. Williams broke for home, the throw to 2B was cut off and thrown home, nailing Williams at the plate, for one of the more peculiar “strike em out, throw em out” double play I’ve ever seen.

In the 13th inning Tim Atherton  walked Wright to start the inning and then threw two wild pitches, moving Wright to 3B. One out later, Drew Martinez singled in the tying run and stole second base. From there, he scored on an Alex Yarbrough walk-off single, giving the Kernels the 9-8 win.

The game, which started a half hour late due to rain, took 4:19 to play.

Quite a game… quite a weekend. And there are two more games left in this series.

With that, I leave you with a few pictures from my weekend at the ballpark.

Some of the Snappers indulge a game of “pepper” prior to Saturday night’s game.

Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium from the left field picnic area

Pitcher Jason Wheeler and third baseman Miguel Sano

Kernels pitcher Cam Bedrosian, son of former MLB pitcher Steve Bedrosian

Jason Wheeler

Snappers first baseman Drew Leachman

On Sunday, Eddie Rosario got a day off, but did coach first base.

Snappers relief pitcher Mason Melotakis

JD Williams in left field

Shortstop Stephen Wickens flashes a sign to his middle infield partner

Zach Jones was hitting 96 mph

Leadoff hitter Nate Roberts

Catcher Jairo Rodriguez

Relief pitcher Taylor Rogers

Miguel Sano looks more comfortable at 3B to me.

Kennys Vargas went very, very deep in the 2nd inning.

The scoreboard tells the story at the end. Oh… and Vargas’ home run cleared the “Perfect Game Field” sign at the top of the scoreboard, which is set several feet behind the 390 ft wall.

I also had a few conversations this weekend with various, “sources close to the Kernels,” as they say in the trade, about the upcoming discussions between the Kernels and various potential MLB affiliates. But we’ll talk about all of that in another post, another time. :)

– JC

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