CEDAR RAPIDS — John Shoemaker has been in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for 43 years.
A beloved figure, “Shoe” was drafted by L.A. in 1977 and made his professional baseball debut as a member of the Midwest League’s Clinton Dodgers that year.
The Great Lakes Loons manager remembered meal money for players in that day and age, when they were on the road playing in a commuter series such as Cedar Rapids-Clinton, being $3.25 a day. If you had to stay overnight somewhere, it’d be a whopping $6.50.
Now meal money for guys at this level is $25 a day, $12.50 for a commuter trip. And Shoemaker and his Loons don’t have to spend a dime of it, if they don’t want.
Great Lakes has its own traveling kitchen, a trailer that goes with the team bus, with traveling chefs cooking mostly organic lunches, pregame snacks and postgame meals for everyone. The parent Los Angeles Dodgers pick up the tab for the food and cooks.
“A lot of things have happened over my 43 years, and I think this is a really good thing,” Shoemaker said, prior to his team’s 3-1 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “Giving the players quality meals, they are going to perform better if they eat better meals.”
Long gone are the days when ballpark hot dogs and pizza was a minor leaguer’s diet. Strength training and nutrition are of optimal importance.
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Major league clubs have roving nutritionists who go around to affiliates to educate players on eating properly. The Kernels have catered meals home and away, paid for by the parent Minnesota Twins.
The Dodgers and Loons are just kind of one-upping that.
“The players are all getting good quality food,” Shoemaker said. “They don’t have to scramble and find a place to eat after the game. There is a nice meal here for these guys. It has worked out really well.”
The Kernels (51-39, 12-8) dropped a second straight to the Loons when Leonel Valera hit a two-out, two-run single in the seventh against tough-luck C.R. starting and losing pitcher Luis Rijo. Valera’s line drive was ruled to have been trapped by diving left fielder Trevor Casanova, with replays of the play proving inconclusive.
The only Cedar Rapids run came in the fifth on a solo home run by Trevor Casanova that clanked off the “Scratch and Dent Appliance Warehouse Free Fridge” sign down the right-field line. That earned a local resident a certificate for a free refrigerator, the first time the promotion has cashed in this season.
The teams conclude their three-game series Friday night at 6:35. Before Thursday’s game, the Kernels and Twins announced relief pitcher Moises Gomez (1-2, six saves, 2.84 ERA) has been promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers and replaced on the active roster by fellow righty reliever Nate Hadley, a 25th-round draft pick last month out of UCLA who was 1-0 with a save and 1.13 ERA in six appearances at Rookie-level Elizabethton.
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