116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The City of Five Seasons brings on a whole new meaning when you start talking about Trey Cabbage.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels open their 120-game High-A Central League season Tuesday night at home against the Peoria Chiefs. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35.
The Kernels roster consists of 28 active players, one of them Cabbage. That makes it four seasons in a row as a Kernel for the outfielder-first baseman, who turned 24 years old Tuesday.
That’s perilously close to him matching Cedar Rapids’ moniker.
“I’m glad to have a job, blessed to still have a job, to have the opportunity to play,” Cabbage said. “Yeah, it’s kind of weird to be back up here, even though it’s repeating a level. I mean, it’s my fourth stint up here. I was making a joke that I’m (threatening) to play the most games in a Kernels jersey. So where’s my damn statue?”
As Cabbage mentioned, the Kernels and rest of the HACL (formerly the Midwest League) have jumped a level from low-Class A to high-A. So him being back here isn’t the worst thing in the world.
A fourth-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2015 out of a high school in Tennessee, Cabbage ended the 2017 season in Cedar Rapids, then played the entire 2018 season here.
He also began 2019 here, earning a promotion early to then high-A Fort Myers. Cabbage hit a combined 15 home runs in what was the most-recent minor league season.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled everything in 2020.
“Last year was one of the toughest things we all, all of us players, have had to deal with,” Cabbage said. “Emotionally it was probably more taxing than anything. We’ve got to have kind of a summer vacation and everything, even though we were still getting our workouts in, getting work done in the cage and everything. We had to stay ready.
“We didn’t have games to play, so physically it didn’t take a toll, but you miss the things you love doing. As much as it was nice to have the summer off, you miss your job, you miss going out there and playing with the boys every day.”
The Kernels opening-day roster consists of 21 active players who already have played games for them. Lots of familiar faces abound.
Expect Gabriel Maciel and DaShawn Keirsey to get playing time in center and left field and Matt Wallner a ton in right. Wallner was a Competitive A Balance Round pick of the Twins in 2019, the highest-drafted player on the C.R. roster.
Catcher Chris Williams and first baseman Gabe Snyder return after being named to the 2019 Midwest League All-Star Game and getting in-season promotions. Returnee Seth Gray likely will be the primary third baseman, with Spencer Steer, Wander Javier, Michael Helman and Yeltsin Encarnacion previous Kernels who have experience up the middle in the infield.
Williams, Jair Camargo and Alex Isola are the team’s three catchers.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on the baseball field,” said Manager Brian Dinkelman, himself a returnee. “Some familiar faces with the Kernels again, guys who have been here previous years. I think we’ve got a good combination of some really solid position players, and we have a couple of good starting pitchers to go along with some of our longer-relief guys we’re going to be using.
“So I think overall, I think we’ve got a good team that should be competitive on most nights.”
Dinkelman said he was particularly impressed with right-handed starter Matt Canterino in spring training. He was a second-round draft pick of the Twins in 2019 out or Rice University.
Left-hander Zach Featherstone has been named opening-night starter. Other pitchers who have previously played in Cedar Rapids are Blayne Enlow, Andrew Cabezas, Tyler Watson, Tyler Palm, Melvi Acosta and Derek Molina.
Then there’s Jordan Gore. He was an infielder for the Kernels in 2017 and 2018 but is making the transition to the mound this season. He pitched in emergency mop-up duty for the Kernels in 2018 and showed a low to mid-90s fastball.
All series this season will be six games, in order to limit travel, with the HACL having every Monday off.
“The first couple of weeks are probably going to be an adjustment, just with the new rules, kind of the things we have to schedule out throughout the day. Stuff like that,” Dinkelman said. “So it might take a few days to get used to. But I think once you get into your routine and figure out what works for you, then we’ll be good to go.”