Minor League Sports

NoOn Game food, fun at the ballpark for Cedar Rapids Kernels fans

Cedar Rapids Kernels mascot Mr. Shucks gives an air high-five to Matt Collins of Hiawatha and his kids Logan, 13, (middl
Cedar Rapids Kernels mascot Mr. Shucks gives an air high-five to Matt Collins of Hiawatha and his kids Logan, 13, (middle) and Riley, 9, during the “NoOn Game” at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — It was a slice of Americana, a moment of normalcy in a time of great abnormalcy.

A mother and son sat at a table on the concourse of Veterans Memorial Stadium, watching a Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game Wednesday afternoon, albeit a seven-year-old one on the scoreboard jumbotron. They were having a nice ballpark lunch together.

“I think this was a good idea,” said Liam Murphy of Cedar Rapids, as he got ready to take a bite of a foot-long hot dog.

“We’re here because we miss baseball,” said his mom, Sarah McNee of Cedar Rapids. “We thought this would be a fun way to just at least get out here and have some fun.”

The Kernels conducted a NoOn Game promotion for their fans, for anyone who wanted to sit outside for a bit, eat and/or have a couple of their favorite beverages, including of the adult variety. They were supposed to be playing a Midwest League game against Burlington at that exact time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed their season and very likely canceled it.

So you got to watch a 2013 game against the Bees instead, featuring big leaguers like Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco. This was an extension of the Kernels Carryout promotion, in which the club has been selling ballpark-food suppers to fans on Friday nights.

“We weren’t really sure carryout the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend would work,” said Kernels General Manager Scott Wilson. “When everyone is probably grilling and things. We didn’t think it’d be as successful. So we looked and said ‘Gosh, there is a noon game here.’ We would have had one next week, this would have been a really long homestand. This noon game looked like the perfect opportunity.”

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There was a constant stream of people in and out of the ballpark Wednesday, Wilson guessing 100 or so at a time for this NoOn Game. Concourse tables were at six-foot-plus intervals, as were markers for the concession-stand line.

A few fans sat in the stadium seats, with every other row and the two seats on either end of a row unavailable. All Kernels employees wore masks and were at the ready to clean and disinfect tables and seats after use.

“In our world, we like to do things right,” Wilson said. “We like to do things well. We certainly put a lot of thought into this, even though we’ve only been working on it for six or seven days. We thought about it last week, and we’ve been working on it every day, every hour, really.”

You saw a lot of ballpark regulars Wednesday. They miss baseball more than anyone.

Longtime batboy Jon Teig was in the house, too, as was Minnesota Twins First-Base Coach and former Kernels Manager/Hitting Coach Tommy Watkins. He lives here in the offseason.

It’s still the offseason, obviously, for the Twins and everyone else.

“Less than ideal,” said LeRoy Mann, as he stood at a table with his wife, Linda, who is the Kernels housing family coordinator, C.R. Booster Club president Tom Kelly and his wife.

“Heard that the high schools might start, which is a good sign,” Kelly said. “Who knows how long it will be for the minors?”

All things considered, this was a pretty good day. A weird day, but a pretty good one.

“I hated to make people mad, but we are going to social distance,” Wilson said. “We don’t want to be the people breaking the rules. That’s where we’re at ... We have taken a lot of time to put things together and to do things right. I think we all have to know things at a ballgame are going to change now. We want people to enjoy it, but we have to do our part.”

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

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