Minor League Sports

Michael Helman raking in first pro baseball go-around

Cedar Rapids Kernels beat Burlington 6-2 Wednesday

CEDAR RAPIDS — Hitting a baseball is probably the most difficult thing there is to do in all of sports, though Michael Helman is making it look easy in his first month at the professional level.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels second baseman had three hits and drove in three runs Wednesday night as his team beat Burlington, 6-2, at Veterans Memorial Stadium. His batting average in 34 pro games is a robust .375.

He hit that number in 12 games at Rookie-level Elizabethton. Promoted to the low-Class A Midwest League, he’s now hitting .375 again, this time in 22 games.

“Honestly, it’s just sticking to an approach,” Helman said. “Kind of the same approach I carried through at Texas A&M, something the coaches instilled in us there. I just have brought that here, and it has worked out so far.”

“He’s been great ever since we got him here,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “He’s got a nice, short swing, and he’s got a good approach at the plate. He hits line drives all over the ballpark, he’ll hit it the other way, to the pull side. He gets his hands to the ball really well. Just a good hitter, and he’s done a heck of a job since he came here.”

Helman, 22, is a Lincoln, Neb., native who burst onto the scene at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he was named junior college player of the year. Weirdly, he never was recruited by his hometown Nebraska Cornhuskers, ending up at Texas A&M, where he led the team in hitting this past season.

Forecasted by many to be taken in the top 10 rounds of this past June’s MLB Draft, Helman instead lasted until the 11th round, when he was taken by the Minnesota Twins. They were able to entice him to sign instead of going back to A&M for one more year with a bonus of $220,000.

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“I really wanted to go back to A&M,” Helman said. “I loved it there. Great coaching staff, great teammates. I loved those guys to death. But, ultimately, I think I wanted to get my professional career started. I had that opportunity with the Minnesota Twins, and I decided to take it.”

Cedar Rapids (74-60, 42-23 second half) already has clinched the Midwest League Western Division’s top playoff seed in the second half and needs just one more win to take the division’s outright second-half championship. These teams play again Thursday night at 6:35.

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

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