116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Jon Teig has been going to Kernels games for 21 years, but you never found him in the stands of Veterans Memorial Stadium.
That changed last week.
A 34-year-old bat boy for the Kernels who has been in his role since 2001, Teig typically spends his spring and summer evenings picking up bats, catching foul balls and firing up the crowd with his “Peanut Butter Jelly” dance.
Now, due to COVID-19 protocols, there are no bat boys at minor league games until further notice.
“Jon is obviously disappointed about the batboy situation, but he understands it and knows everybody has to be safe. And that’s the primary importance,” said Bob Teig, Jon’s father.
Jon Teig has autism, so being part of the Kernels’ organization has provided him an invaluable social environment that is absent with the current regulations.
“There’s a feeling of accomplishment,” Bob Teig said. “It’s just been huge for him as far as helping his socialization, his development. He has met players, and he’s not in awe of these guys. He doesn’t get autographs from these people because they’re his friends.”
Fortunately, the COVID-19 regulations do not keep Jon away from the stadium. You will find him sitting behind the net, just to the right of home plate with his dad. A Plexiglas barrier now separates him and the rest of the crowd from the Kernels’ dugout.
In addition to his on-the-field work, Jon typically is allowed in the locker room with the players. Bat boys are currently restricted from that as well, so he has not communicated with the players this season.
When asked what he misses the most about not being allowed on the field during games, Jon said he is excited to rally the crowd again when the Kernels need a big inning.
“Get those players, get those bats and runs going,” he said.
While he cannot be sure, Kernels general manager Scott Wilson, whose two sons have been Kernels bat boys as well, hopes Jon will be back on the field soon.
“A month, I’m hoping. I’m hoping MLB starts to reduce protocols. Most of the major-league teams have hit the magic 85-percent vaccination that they wanted them to hit, then they promised us they would start to reduce protocols based on that,” Wilson said.
For now, count on Jon to enter Veterans Memorial Stadium the moment the gates open and to be sitting in that front row cheering for the team. He is not interested in any other role at the park in the meantime.
“I just want to be the bat boy,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back to normal.”
Ashton Pollard is a graduate student in the sports specialization Masters program at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Twelve students were in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines and South Bend this week reporting and writing stories on Minor League Baseball.