Minor League Sports

Season officially canceled for Cedar Rapids Kernels and all other Minor League Baseball teams

The focus now turns to survival

Jim and Sylvia Grant of Marion (from left) sit with Gloria Daywitt of Cedar Rapids for the #x201c;NoOn Game#x201d; at Ve
Jim and Sylvia Grant of Marion (from left) sit with Gloria Daywitt of Cedar Rapids for the “NoOn Game” at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — For the first time since it was created, there will be no minor league baseball season.

That has been assumed for a long time but confirmed officially Tuesday. Major League Baseball informed Minor League Baseball that it will not be providing players to clubs, canceling a season for the first time since Minor League Baseball was founded in 1901, as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

Locally that means no season for the Cedar Rapids Kernels or the rest of the Midwest League.

“We are disappointed with the cancellation of the entire 2020 minor league season by Minor League Baseball,” said Kernels General Manager Scott Wilson. “We understand it is a decision they did not make lightly. We also understand how disappointed our fans and sponsors, who were looking forward to a terrific year of baseball, must be. Kernels baseball will return in 2021, and we look forward to seeing all our fans next season.”

“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization, as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without minor league baseball played,” Minor League Baseball President/CEO Pat O’Conner said. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

The question is which teams. MLB and MiLB are negotiating a new Professional Baseball Agreement, and it is widely assumed 40-plus affiliated minor-league clubs will be chopped, as Major League Baseball looks to streamline its minor-league system.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what that means for the Kernels, or the other three Midwest League teams from Iowa: Quad Cities, Burlington and Clinton.

“We’re very hopeful we will be (in affiliated baseball in 2021),” said Kernels CEO Doug Nelson. “But until Major League Baseball gives us the official ‘You’re in,’ take that as you will. All I can say is I’m optimistic.”

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In a video conference late Tuesday afternoon, O’Conner said the lack of a season is catastrophic for minor league franchises, mentioning “upwards of half” of them will either have to sell to new owners or simply become insolvent. The Kernels are owned by multiple local people and run as a non-profit organization, though they technically are not one.

The club recently announced half of its staff had been let go as a cost-cutting measure. Improvements to Veterans Memorial Stadium (including a larger home clubhouse and addition of multiple batting cages) certainly will be requirements in the new PBA if the Kernels survive in affiliated baseball.

They are affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, and it is believed there is a solid relationship there.

“This creates a very challenging financial situation for us that we are working hard to put forward a plan to resolve,” Nelson said.

He was asked what it felt like now that the other shoe has finally dropped, so to speak.

“In one sense, it’s a relief because we knew it was coming, and it’s OK to finally officially have it out there, to be done with the postponement indefinitely status,” he said. “But obviously it is sad not to have a season. We look forward to 2021.”

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

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