CORONAVIRUS

Cedar Rapids Kernels wait and wait to see if 2020 season gets played

(Justin Torner/Freelance for the Gazewtte)
(Justin Torner/Freelance for the Gazewtte)

CEDAR RAPIDS — From this day forward, griping about crappy weather in April is forbidden when it comes to Cedar Rapids Kernels staff. Crappy weather any month, to be honest.

You just won’t hear any moaning from anyone. Not a word.

“You will never hear me complain about a rainout again,” Kernels CEO Doug Nelson said.

That’s because it would mean the Kernels actually are playing baseball games. They’re not, no one is, right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kernels were scheduled to open the 2020 Midwest League season April 9 at Kane County, with the home opener slated for April 13 against Kane County.

“I understand that everybody is going through this,” Nelson said. “Quite frankly, at this point, minor league baseball isn’t all that important compared to the big scheme of things.”

This sports pause will be temporary, but no one knows how temporary.

Will things improve enough for the Kernels to play at least a half-season? Will they not be able to have any season?

Nelson remains optimistic, at least as optimistic as he can, while also being realistic.

“We are preparing for both scenarios,” he said. “We are preparing for maybe getting half of a season in. But on the flipside, I’m preparing for what if we lose the whole season? We’ve certainly been in contact with the Twins organization (C.R.’s MLB parent club), but the reality is no one really knows. And, as you are aware, it changes on a hourly basis.”

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Veterans Memorial Stadium was closed to the public last week and employees have the option to work from home. Nelson lauded his staff for volunteering in the community, specifically with the Meals on Wheels program and helping prepare lunches for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Others are making sure the stadium is ready for fans, in case some games are played.

Baseball America magazine published a story last week that mentioned not having a season could be catastrophic for as many as 40 minor league clubs. Nelson was asked if the Kernels might be one of them.

Minor League Baseball already was playing the 2020 season under the cloud of possible contraction of multiple franchises by Major League Baseball.

“We’re the definition of a seasonable business, and we depend on Kernels games in the summer to keep the books balanced,” Nelson said. “So we have taken a significant financial hit. Quite frankly, it’s not only the Kernels but every small business in the community. That’s why disaster relief funds are going to be so important for us and so many others.”

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

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