Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids Kernels get an invite to remain in affiliated professional baseball

Local club would be high-Class A affiliate of Minnesota Twins

Cedar Rapids Kernels right fielder Jared Akins (30) scores a run during a baseball game at Veteran's Memorial Stadium in
Cedar Rapids Kernels right fielder Jared Akins (30) scores a run during a baseball game at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Sep. 9, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

CEDAR RAPIDS — They got the official invitation they assumed was coming.

There wasn’t a rose attached or anything. It was just a plain email containing a 56-page document, the first page essentially saying they have the right to continue to exist.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels apparently will be sticking around for a while after being one of 119 franchises told Wednesday by Major League Baseball they could be affiliated minor league clubs for the 2021 season. If they want to and can afford it.

The Kernels will continue to partner with the Minnesota Twins, though now as their high-Class A farm team. The Midwest League will move up a level in the radical reorganization of the minors, a “negotiating” process between MLB and Minor League Baseball that has been ongoing for months and that will eliminate 43 clubs from affiliate ball and an entire level (Rookie ball).

The MWL will downsize from 16 teams to 12, with Clinton, Burlington, Kane County and Bowling Green out, though Bowling Green will rejoin the high-A South Atlantic League. Clinton, Burlington and Kane County could be part of an independent league or perhaps a college wood bat league of some sort, though that’s yet to be determined.

Clinton had been the longest-tenured Midwest League ballclub, joining in 1954. A very sad day for two Iowa communities, but a good one for Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities with their invitations.

“We are excited to share this news with the Cedar Rapids community and are eager to begin the 2021 season,” Kernels President Greg Seyfer said in a statement. “The Minnesota Twins are an excellent organization, and we are thrilled to continue our eight-year partnership with them.”

“To your point, we certainly felt good about our relationship with the Twins,” said Kernels CEO Doug Nelson. “It is a relief because, in a sense, the ball is now in our court. Major League Baseball has essentially said that they want us. Now our job is to go through the player development license and determine if those are acceptable terms that we can live by.”

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MLB is taking over the minors and will issue licenses to its minor-league clubs that could last 10 years or more. It is believed minimum specifications for ballparks (the size of home and visiting clubhouses, rooms for video study, multiple batting cages are examples) will increase, and there will be additional costs for minor-league clubs when it comes to travel and hotel stays.

Cedar Rapids, for instance, made commuter bus trips to three cities (Burlington, Clinton and Davenport) each season, which saved the club money. Those commuters are expected to completely go away in the new MLB/MiLB agreement, once it’s finalized.

Keep in mind, the Kernels did not have a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to take out a loan over the fall to continue operations. Nelson did not have a specific date for when the Kernels would receive their official license agreement.

“We’re on standby. I’m not trying to be elusive, it’s just how this whole process has played out,” he said. “We have not seen the actual player development license that we will eventually need to sign. So much of that document (they received Wednesday) contained a summary of that agreement.”

Nelson said the Kernels will have 30 days upon receipt of the final player development license to decide if they are officially in or out. The Kernels are owned by several members of the community and essentially run as a non-profit organization.

“I can tell you we will do everything we can to make sure affiliated baseball continues in Cedar Rapids,” he said.

The Twins, by the way, announced they have extended other invitations to Fort Myers (low-A), Wichita (Double-A) and St. Paul (Triple-A). The Kansas City Royals have invited Quad Cities to be their high-A affiliate.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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