CEDAR RAPIDS — With a baby girl at home and knowing full well about the grinding lifestyle of minor league baseball, Brian Dinkelman and his wife, Randi, decided to live full time in Cedar Rapids when Brian was announced as Cedar Rapids Kernels hitting coach in 2016.
They’ve never left town.
“We have enjoyed it here,” the new Kernels manager said. “We like Cedar Rapids. Our families aren’t far away.”
Dinkelman officially was announced as 2019 Cedar Rapids skipper Monday by the parent Minnesota Twins. He’ll be joined on staff by hitting coach Ryan Smith, pitching coach Virgil Vasquez and infield coach Luis Rodriguez.
This will be the fourth season with the Kernels for Dinkelman, who was hitting coach here in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Toby Gardenhire, last year’s manager, has moved up to high-Class A Fort Myers, while co-pitching coaches Cibney Bello and Justin Willard will be at Double-A Pensacola.
Tommy Watkins, the 2017 skipper, has been named Minnesota’s first-base coach. He also is living in town this offseason.
Dinkelman also worked with Jake Mauer, who left baseball after the 2017 season and is working at the family’s Mauer Chevrolet car dealerships in the Twin Cities.
“Baseball has always been such a big part of my life,” said Dinkelman, 35. “I’m excited to get this opportunity ... I’ve been able to watch (Gardenhire, Watkins and Mauer) three different personalities and how they have worked differently with the players. I’ve learned a lot.”
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Dinkelman originally is from Centralia, Ill., and was drafted in 2006 by the Twins out of McKendree College in Illinois. He hit .301 in 23 big league games in 2011, then played a couple more seasons in the minors before moving into professional coaching.
Smith is in his first season as a pro coach, coming to the Twins from College of Central Florida, where he was an assistant. Vasquez was pitching coach last season for the Rookie-level GCL Twins, making 19 appearances in the major leagues during his playing career for the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rodriguez also coached last season in the GCL. He played 497 career major league games with the Twins, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners, posting a .238 career batting average.
The Kernels’ annual Hot Stove Banquet is Jan. 23, at Eastbank Venue and Lounge in downtown Cedar Rapids. Appearing as part of the Minnesota Twins annual Winter Caravan will be radio play-by-play man Cory Provus, farm director Jeremy Zoll and outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff, who starred in a half-season of play with last year’s Kernels before a promotion to high-A.
Cedar Rapids begins its 140-game Midwest League season April 3 at home against the Peoria Chiefs.
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