CEDAR RAPIDS — Their parent club is threatening to obliterate the Major League Baseball record for most home runs in a season. The Minnesota Twins are called the “Bomba Squad” by their fans.
These Cedar Rapids Kernels comparatively aren’t anywhere near the Twins. They’re more like Bomba Squad Lite.
Albee Weiss and Tyler Webb went deep Sunday afternoon in C.R.’s 12-4 win over Burlington at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Those were the 90th and 91st homers the Kernels have hit this season in 112 games.
That leads the 16-team Midwest League.
“Our philosophy is we’re trying to hit the ball hard,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “When you hit the ball hard, it has a chance to get into the gaps or go over the fence. The boys are doing a good job of having better at-bats and making solid contact.”
With the exception of the elevated short porch in left field, Veterans Memorial Stadium is definitely a pitcher’s ballpark. Though it’s just 315 feet down the left-field line, the distance increases in a hurry and is 407 feet at its deepest in left-center field.
It’s 325 feet down the right-field line, but, again, juts out quickly to 390 in right-center underneath the giant scoreboard. There are some guys on the current roster who can hit it out anywhere: outfielder Jared Akins, outfielder-first baseman Weiss and first baseman Gabe Snyder come to mind immediately.
Snyder has a team-leading 12 longballs, with Akins and promoted catcher Chris Williams next at 10. Those aren’t eye-popping totals, which means the Kernels lead the league because just about everyone has popped some out (pun intended).
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Twins minor-league affiliates up and down the system are either first or second in their respective leagues in homers. But farm director Jeremy Zoll, in town to observe the Kernels, insists home runs are not the organization’s philosophy.
“It’s hitting the ball hard. We are not (intentionally) trying to hit home runs,” Zoll said. “When you hit the ball hard at good angles, good things happen.”
Cedar Rapids (64-48, 25-17) went into Sunday with just a .231 team batting average and has been shut out 11 times this season. So there is a bit of an all-or-nothing feel to the offense.
But, as the record indicates, it has worked. The Kernels scored four times in the second, including a three-run double from Gilberto Celestino, and got Weiss’ three-run homer in the fifth to win going away.
Starting pitcher Tyler Palm (3-7) got the win. The teams play again Monday night at 6:35.
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