116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — In the soccer-crazed country of Brazil, Gabriel Maciel chose another sport.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder is, well, obviously, a baseball player. One who continues to wiggle his way up the minor-league ladder.
“I continue to learn every day,” said Maciel, whose team lost to Lansing in 11 innings, 5-4. Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “Because in Brazil, the guys play more soccer. But when I come to the United States, I learn something every day about baseball.”
Maciel, 22, is from Londrina, a city in the southern part of Brazil where there are a lot of Japanese immigrants. One of his neighbors growing up was a former professional player in Japan, and he introduced Maciel to baseball.
That was when the love affair began.
“When I was still in school, I played a little bit of soccer,” said Maciel, through translator and Kernels coach Jairo Rodriguez. “But in Brazil, there are a lot of Japanese, and they love baseball and educate you. I told my mom, hey, I want to play baseball because I want a better education, I want a better everything.”
He signed as a 16-year-old with the Arizona Diamondbacks as an international free agent in 2015 and was acquired by the Minnesota Twins with minor-league pitcher and former Kernel Jhoan Duran in a 2018 trade for major league infielder Eduardo Escobar.
This is part of his third season with the Kernels. A switch hitter, his game is more about speed and small ball.
“He is a guy who plays (good) defense, puts the ball in play, drives the ball once in a while,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “The home run is just not part of his game, so he does some other small things for us: runs the bases well, steals some bases.”
Maciel did drive a walk-off grand slam 439 feet against Lansing earlier this week, so it’s not as if he is incapable of hitting a ball a long way. He went into Saturday hitting .260 in 30 games, .300 in June, with just four extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases.
“I’m working right now on that every day. Hitting the ball on line drives, more into the gap,” Maciel said. “I continue to work hard because I need hard contact all the time.”
Maciel went 2-for-4 with a run scored in this game. Lansing scored the winning run in the 11th on a Zach Feathstone wild pitch.
The teams complete their six-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:05. Cedar Rapids is 25-22.
The Kernels activated outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. from the injured list prior to Saturday night’s game. Keirsey has dealt with a hamstring problem much of the season and has played in only five games.
The active roster now sits at 27 players.
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