Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids Kernels expect attendance to rebound in 2nd half

Minor league notebook: Club down 500 per game at end of 1st half

Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — On the surface, it doesn’t look good.

But Doug Nelson isn’t concerned about a drop in attendance at Cedar Rapids Kernels games so far this Midwest League season. There are underlying circumstances for that.

Not really underlying, but more like obvious. It’s the weather extremes around these parts.

“It’s absolutely weather related,” the Kernels Chief Executive Officer said. “My joke with the board of directors has been our average game-time temperature this season has been a very comfortable 76 degrees. The problem is that is pretty much an average of 50 and 90.”

The Kernels ended the first half of the season averaging 1,878 fans. That’s a decrease of exactly 500 per game from the end of last season.

The club has gotten off to a better second-half start, with crowds of 1,860 Thursday night and 3,419 Friday. The Kernels were expecting 3,500 to 4,000 fans for Saturday night’s home game against Wisconsin.

Nelson said MWL attendance is down 3 percent from last season. The league had 48 first-half postponements to 32 this year.

April weather included extremely cold weather and snow so bad that Wisconsin, for instance, had to play one “home” series at Peoria. An entire series for the Kernels at Beloit was cancelled by snow and cold, with Cedar Rapids having to absorb those three games as parts of doubleheaders.

Temperatures soared into the 90s then in May and June.

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Going into Saturday, Dayton, of course, led the league with an average attendance of 7,850. The Dragons are a Triple-A sized market that sells out every game.

Fort Wayne was next at 5,005, followed by Kane County at 4,723. On the other end of the spectrum is Beloit at 712 a game and Burlington at 850.

Cedar Rapids is placed 13th, also ahead of Clinton and just behind Great Lakes.

“We’re down, but, quite frankly, I’m not worried about it at all,” Nelson said. “The second half is where the bulk of our attendance comes. We have a ton of groups planned. So it will certainly come back. It’s disappointing with the cold weather just because I see how hard the staff works during the offseason to plan events. They could have done everything perfectly right, and if it’s a rainy day, it doesn’t matter because no one is going to show up.”

Kirilloff, Rortvedt raking early in high-a

Outfielder Alex Kirilloff went into Saturday having gone five for his first 12 since being promoted from the Kernels to high-Class A Fort Myers after the all-star break this past week. That included a home run and five RBIs.

Kirilloff hit .333 for the Kernels and led the Midwest League in extra-base hits, home runs and RBIs.

Catcher Ben Rortvedt has played in nine games for the Miracle since his promotion out of the Midwest League. Rortvedt is hitting .355 in 31 at-bats, with two homers and eight RBIs.

Daniels still waiting for pro debut

Former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep and Iowa Hawkeye pitcher Zach Daniels has yet to make his professional debut after signing a contract last week with the Atlanta Braves that included a bonus of $125,000, according to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline.

Daniels was Atlanta’s 19th-round draft pick a couple of weeks ago and had one season of college eligibility remaining. He has been assigned to the Danville Braves of the Rookie-level Appalachian League.

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East wins MWL All-Star Game

Montrell Marshall of the Dayton Dragons singled home the winning run with two outs in the 10th inning Tuesday night to win the Midwest League All-Star Game for the Eastern Division, 3-2. The game would have ended in a tie without Marshall’s heroics.

Three Kernels played in the game at Lansing, Mich.

Shortstop Royce Lewis led off for the Western Division and went 1-for-2. Kirilloff batted third and went 1-for-4 with a RBI. Pitcher Jared Finkel came on in relief in the fourth inning, allowed two hits but no runs, striking out one.

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

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