116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — DaShawn Keirsey Jr.’s first at-bat Sunday afternoon was something.
With two on and two outs in the bottom of the first inning, the Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder drove a pitch to the fence, just to the right of center field. The baseball plunked off the 403-foot sign and escaped Lansing’s center fielder on the ricochet, rolling back toward the infield.
Keirsey sprinted around the bases, which actually was a cringe-worthy moment if you know his story. Hamstring issues have dogged him the entire season and limited him to six games.
The last time anyone saw him play was in mid-May, when Keirsey pulled up lame going from first to second base on a double, his hamstring popping on him. Now here he is rounding them all for a unique three-run inside-the-park home run.
“That’s what we were laughing about in the dugout,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman, after his team’s 6-0 win before 1,648 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “You come back from rehabbing a leg injury, and the first thing you do is hit an inside-the-park home run. It was good for him to hit the ball well and drive a couple of runs in. Good speed, a chance to see if he could make it all the way.”
He made it all the way and unscathed. He doubled off the left-field fence in his second at-bat, again running without issue.
“I was able to get in some rehab games down in Florida, and I was able to test it out and be comfortable not thinking about it so much,” Keirsey said. “Today when I hit that, I was just running. It wasn’t a thing that was on my mind, so I think that’s when I’m at my best. When I’m not worrying so much about those things. I think a lot of times that’s when injuries occur. When you hold back a little, that’s when things tend to go wrong.”
Keirsey said this was the second inside-the-parker that he could remember hitting. The other was his very first collegiate home run for the University of Utah when he was a freshman in 2016.
The heroics were the apex of quite a 24-hour period for the fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2018. He officially was activated from the injured list prior to Saturday night’s game against Lansing but didn’t make it to town until about 10:30 p.m.
He left Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins’ minor-league complex is located, about 9 a.m. Eastern time, got to Chicago but had his flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids delayed twice and then canceled. He was a standby passenger for the final flight to town but made it on.
“It was stressful,” he said. “I was sitting there stressed all day.”
The Kernels (26-22) went 9-3 during their two-week homestand, including winning four of six in this series. Five pitchers (Kody Funderburk, Derek Molina, Ryan Shreve, Jonathan Cheshire and Melvi Acosta) combined for a three-hitter, with Molina picking up the victory.
Jair Camargo also homered for the Kernels, who begin a six-game series Tuesday at Quad Cities. This one was over the fence in left-center field.
“Defense was a little shaky at times, not real crisp, and that kind of hurt us,” Dinkelman said. “But overall, we swung the bats pretty good for the most part, and the pitching staff was really good, not giving up earned runs. They’ve been good for the last two weeks. So it was a good two weeks for us and hopefully it carries over to the Quad Cities.”
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