CEDAR RAPIDS — Everything around the ballpark looks pretty much the same as it did 17 years ago. At least from what Dallas McPherson can recall.
The Lansing Lugnuts manager was part of the very first Cedar Rapids Kernels team to play at the newer Veterans Memorial Stadium.
That 2002 club was a good one, producing 12 guys who eventually went on to play in the major leagues. That included McPherson.
“That team was tight, man,” he said, after Lansing beat the Kernels, 2-0, Sunday afternoon before 2,477 fans. “We were close. That first full season for us flew by. We were just getting introduced to pro ball. Just a lot of fun.”
McPherson, 38, made it to the bigs a mere two years after his full season here. Injuries, especially a back problem, limited him to just 138 career MLB games.
After hanging up his spikes following the 2012 season, he started a baseball instruction business for youths, then was tipped off by former Los Angeles Angels teammate Paul Byrd about a coaching opening at a high school in suburban Atlanta. McPherson won a state championship there, was contacted by the Toronto Blue Jays last year about a position in their system and is in his first season as a pro manager.
Lansing is 45-47 overall, 13-10 in the Midwest League’s second half.
“I loved the heck out of being a coach,” the North Carolina native said. “One thing led to another, the Blue Jays gave me a call and talked me into it. It’s been great, just getting used to the length of the season again and trying to help these guys. Make them realize the importance of getting into their routines and what the season in pro ball is like and what they need to do to prepare themselves on and off the field.”
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Hagen Danner’s two-run home run in the seventh inning produced this game’s lone runs. Starting pitchers Eric Pardinho of Lansing and Kai-Wei Teng of the Kernels combined for 11 shutout innings.
Proving how worldly the game of baseball is, Pardinho is an 18-year-old kid from Brazil, Teng a 20-year-old from Taiwan. The Kernels (52-41, 13-10) host Lansing again Monday at noon to conclude a six-game homestand against the Eastern Division.
“I remember there was snow on the ground when we got off the airplane (in 2002),” McPherson said. “I remember our manager, Todd Claus, tackling the freaking mascot (Mr. Shucks) and breaking that broom across his leg after we swept that team. I remember tarp sliding. And I remember Jeff Mathis (still in the major leagues) getting hit in the face with a pitch. Those are the memories that really stick out for me.
“Then there’s Roady (Ron Plein) as the clubby. I remember Brick’s downtown. Just a lot of memories.”
The Kernels announced prior to Sunday’s game that catcher Chris Williams has been placed on the Injured List with an ankle injury. Infielder Spencer Steer, a 2019 third-round pick of the Minnesota Twins out of the University of Oregon, was promoted from Rookie-level Elizabethton, where he had five hits in his final game.
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