CEDAR RAPIDS — You weren’t taken out to the ballgame or the crowd. You couldn’t get Cracker Jack, though you could get peanuts.
Not to mention hot dogs and bacon cheeseburgers, a little touch of normalcy and comfort in the form of some ballpark food.
“We really miss not being at the field,” said Linda Mann of Cedar Rapids, among those Friday night to take advantage of the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ ‘Hot Corner Carryout’ service. “It (was) fun to do the drive by and wave to the kids and to the staff.”
The Kernels distributed 100 to-go meals for locals in the lower parking lot of Veterans Memorial Stadium. That’s a sellout, if you will, the limit the ballclub put on the first of what it intends to be a weekly, tasty program.
“The first week, we are just trying to ease into it,” said Kernels General Manager Scott Wilson. “It’s going great ... This is outside the box for us, so we want to do it well. We don’t like doing things that aren’t executed well. Let’s ease into it. It’s a simple menu, yet has things for everybody.”
The Clinton LumberKings and Burlington Bees of the Midwest League are among other minor league teams doing the same thing right now: selling some of their normal concession items as a way to make a bit of money and stay engaged with fans during a COVID-19 pandemic that has postponed their seasons and may eventually cancel them.
The LumberKings, for instance, are making available their infamous Garbage Pail, which consists of just about anything you can deep fry: french fries, mushrooms, cheese curds, onion rings, etc.
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As Wilson said, the Kernels are going simple here at the start. Those who were interested placed orders by phone Tuesday and Wednesday, picking them up curbside Friday night between 5 and 7 p.m.
You could have either a half-pound hot dog or half-pound bacon cheeseburger basket for $12.50. The baskets included potato salad, a cookie and chips or peanuts.
“It has been different for everyone,” Wilson said. “I think some teams are doing, like, this package deal, where you buy all the product and go home and create your own meal. Something like that. Or they are doing it as a service of four or six (people).
“We didn’t want to pigeon-hole it where you had to have four people eat. We went through a lot of different scenarios, and decided on this. I know ours is probably a little more expensive than most carryout, but we are talking the premium product: the half-pound bacon cheeseburger, the half-pound, foot-long hot dog ... We just landed on that.”
Wilson pointed out that the club didn’t have any food at the ballpark, so it had to go out this week and buy some for the promotion. The club doesn’t keep leftover stuff from the previous season and there is no need to purchase anything in bulk right now since you don’t know if you’re going to have a season.
He anticipates perhaps adding to the current menu as weeks progress, especially if this level of popularity continues. He mentioned maybe making Philly cheesesteaks and grilled tenderloins available.
“I am making a conscious effort to continue supporting many of the local businesses that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and there aren’t many that I’ve enjoyed more than the Kernels,” said Steve Buhr of Cedar Rapids, a ballpark regular. “The only thing I’ve missed more than baseball in the last several weeks is getting to spend a lot of time with my kids and grandkids, so I’m hoping at least a ballpark bacon cheeseburger will scratch that particular itch for now.”
“It’s great, a way to stay relevant with everything that is going on,” Wilson said. “It gives people a reason to drive over. We’ll have people that call and say ‘Gosh, I miss coming over to the ballpark.’ OK, now you can. Come over and grab your food. We don’t care if you sit in the parking lot and eat your food, stare at the field, that type of stuff. My wife and I have done that, parking-lot dates. Sit there in your car, eat your food. What else can you do right now? Just get out of the house for a couple of hours.”
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If you wish to place a Hot Corner Carryout order for this coming week, you can do so between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday by calling the Kernels at 319-363-3887. You must have a credit card to use.
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