Cedar Rapids has been home to a minor league baseball team since the Benjamin Harrison administration, when the Cedar Rapids Canaries took the field in 1890.
Our Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, will take the field again in 2020. But beyond that, there’s only uncertainty for minor league baseball here and in cities across the country.
The Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball expires at the end of next season. Dashing hopes for a swift compromise is a proposal by Major League Baseball to contract 42 teams as part of an effort to cut costs and streamline player development, as The Gazette’s Kernels beat writer Jeff Johnson explained Sunday.
A leaked list of possible contracted teams included clubs in the Quad Cities, Clinton and Burlington, all Midwest League counterparts of the Kernels. But Kernels officials contend the list is fluid and that any minor league team could find itself called out, including Cedar Rapids.
“This is a really important season coming ahead. We have to show wide community support, because they are really going to be looking at every minor league team,” Kernels President Greg Seyfer told Johnson.
“So our emphasis going into this is we need to show Cedar Rapids belongs. That we can support, and we can exist,” Seyfer said.
First, the Major League Contraction proposal would be a colossal blunder. Ripping home teams out of communities would deal a permanent blow to baseball’s already dying popularity. Wiping out local affiliates and closing down stadiums that serve as beloved summertime gathering places for organizations, businesses, families and, most of all, kids, baseball’s future fan base, will damage the sport’s value far beyond any savings from streamlining. It’s the definition of shortsighted.
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Contraction threatens previous public investments in minor league venues and uncertainty discourages further improvements.
But all we can do locally is follow Seyfer’s advice and show support for the Kernels. We can’t imagine summers in Cedar Rapids without minor league baseball. No more Mr. Shucks. No more Thirsty Thursdays. No more Bark in the Park, Star Wars Night or fireworks. No more getting a chance to see future big leaguers up close in the friendly local confines.
Baseball is part of this city’s fabric and history. Sustaining it could hinge on more of us getting out to the ballgame next season. Grab a beer, a hot dog and maybe a foul ball. Root for the home team, and maybe help save it.
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