CEDAR RAPIDS — Extended spring training is basically hell for a minor league baseball player.
You want to be with a full-season team, anywhere else basically but a place you’ve been since March. You’re not getting paid, the games don’t count for anything, the monotony of it all is excruciating.
But outfielder Jared Akins of the Cedar Rapids Kernels had the perfect mindset to cope.
“I couldn’t control it,” he said, after a home run and three hits helped his club to a 2-1 win Thursday night over Burlington at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “In extended, I just focused on getting better every day. I knew my chance would come, and I had to be ready for it. Don’t be mad being down there, because that wouldn’t help.”
Akins got the call to come to the Midwest League about a week and a half ago and has been just this short of great at the plate. He is 13-for-34 in nine games for the Kernels, with a double, a triple, four homers and 10 RBIs.
His home run Thursday night was a no-doubter: 400-plus feet down the right-field line in the second inning. There is a ton of power in his left-handed swing.
It’s just a matter of getting to it consistently.
“Just being confident in myself,” the muscular Akins said. “This offseason, I really got to learn how my swing works, how my body is supposed to move and how to move my body efficiently. I think that’s really paid off. I wouldn’t say there have been a lot of changes in my mechanics. It has been my set-up, I would say, just to where it allows my swing to be more efficient.”
Akins was a 13th-round draft pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in 2017 out of Fresno State. He mashed his first week at Rookie-level Elizabethton last season, got promoted to the Kernels and promptly went 0 for his first 20.
He stuck with Cedar Rapids for about a month until getting sent back to E-town in late July.
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“I feel like last week he kind of won three games for us by himself with big home runs,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He’s got power, we knew that last year. It’s just (about) making sure he swings at strikes. When he gets a ball in the zone, and he puts the barrel on it, he can hit it a long way. It’s good to see him having some success.”
The Kernels (23-24) scored what turned out to be the winning run in the seventh. Estamy Urena perfectly executed a hit and run, placing a ball through the right side to send Andrew Bechtold from first to third.
Bechtold scored on the play, when Burlington right fielder Jordyn Adams failed to cleanly field the hit, the ball scooting under his glove just far enough to allow the runner to come home.
Moises Gomez got the win in relief, with Derek Molina earning his fifth save. Molina was the beneficiary of a sterling defensive play from center fielder Gilberto Celestino, who ranged far to his right on a dead sprint and laid out in the gap to rob Adams of an extra-base hit in the ninth.
Peoria comes to town for a series beginning Friday night at 6:35.
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