With the Kernels – Day Two


Alliant Energy Field opened in 1937.

No matter where I’ve gone this year, I’ve been a curse.

Rancho loses. Salt Lake loses. And Cedar Rapids lost Saturday night to Clinton.

So when the Kernels took a 6-1 lead Sunday at Alliant Energy Field, I figured they’d probably blow it and my self-guilt (aggravated by all those years of parochial school) would be worse.

Well, the Lumberkings posted two runs in the bottom of the 6th and three runs in the bottom of the 7th to tie it up at 6-6, so I was about ready to head back to the hotel and spend the night in self-flagellation.

But the Kernels brought in former outfielder Warner Madrigal to pitch the 8th and 9th innings. He held the line despite giving up three hits, and the game went into the top of the 10th.

Mark Trumbo led off with a single. Cleanup hitter Hank Conger came to the plate and, in an act that would cause the sabermetric zealots to scream heresy, bunted Trumbo to second. With Mark now in scoring position, Julio Perez singled him in.

The Angels expect all their hitters in the minors to learn how to bunt, because you never know when even a power hitter like Conger will be required to move up a runner. Let Conger swing away, and if he makes out then Trumbo is still beyond scoring range with one less out left.

Submariner Aaron Cook came in to pitch the bottom of the 10th. His final batter was Kevin Goosage, a catcher who’s the nephew of Goose Goosage. Aaron struck him out on three pitches.

Curse averted.

I videotaped much of the game. You can watch highlights of the 10th inning on FutureAngels.com. Click Here to start the video stream. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch.

The series comes to Cedar Rapids for tonight and tomorrow. I fly out after tomorrow’s noon game.

Despite the 80-mile long drive one way, I really fell in love with Alliant Energy Field. Originally known as Riverview Stadium, it has that "classic" minor league ballpark feel that’s disappearing all too quickly from the baseball universe.

For those of you who’ve visited Ray Winder Field, the Travs’ old ballpark, the grandstand is very similar in design but much smaller. The listed capacity is 4,000, and it’s about the size of the Orem Owlz’ stadium.

The dimensions are quite modest. It’s 335′ down the left field line, 325′ down the right field line, 395′ just to the left of center, and 401′ just to the right of center.

Behind the ballpark is a road that separates the site from the Mississippi River. One local proudly informed me that the Mississippi is at its widest in Clinton.

If you look at the above photo, I’m standing in the parking lot. Right behind me are railroad tracks that are traversed all during the game. There’s a road just to the left of the point-of-view you see, and a railroad crossing. You can hear the trains and the ding-ding-ding of the crossing bells, and the P.A. will play train sound bites as trains go by.

Oh, parking is free, although you take your car’s life in its hands as foul balls quite easily reach the lot.

Driving to Clinton from Cedar Rapids, I had the misfortune of stumbling across an ESPN Radio host John Kincaid. His schtick seems to be he’s one of those guys who manufactures controversy by distorting facts and taking unpopular positions.

One of his guests was ESPN baseball analyst Peter Pasquarelli. Do you ever wonder how some of these guys got their job?! Pasquarelli impressed me as clueless. He went on a diatribe about how great the Oakland A’s are because they’re playing .500 ball despite injuries to several key players. Then he ripped the Angels for having a "losing" season despite their talent. Now, at the time he said that, the Angels were 21-16 and in first place. Nor did he mention that the Angels have suffered many key injuries themselves — Bartolo Colon, Jered Weaver, Juan Rivera, Garret Anderson, Howie Kendrick, Justin Speier, Maicer Izturis, etc.

Then he says that the Angels are "losing" despite "having the best closer in baseball, Scot Shields." Um, Scot is a setup pitcher. Swear to God, his next sentence was, "They have the best closer in baseball, Felix Rodriguez." Um, his name is Francisco Rodriguez, numbnuts. Apparently we have two closers, which must make the mound awfully crowded in the 9th inning.

Pasquarelli then waxed fondly about the phone call conversation he had with A’s GM Billy Beane, who assured him that all these key players would return soon.

So I’m guessing that Pasquarelli wet his diapers out of ecstasy that Beane actually talked to him.

Anyway, I hope ESPN sacks this guy and hires someone competent instead of a Moneyball fundamentalist.

If I have the time, I’ll post more video clips. There’s a problem with the firewall here in the hotel. I can’t play back the video clips, although I called a technician with my host service who assured me he could watch it just fine, so I’m assuming it’s something local.

I’m hoping to record several interviews today which will show up in the next FutureAngels.com podcast.

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