On the Road: All Shucks, No Jive in Cedar Rapids

To see all of my posts from my May 27, 2015 visit to the Cedar Rapids Kernels (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

When the previous post in this series had concluded, a ballgame had just begun in Cedar Rapids. Mr. Shucks, Kernels mascot extraordinaire, was overjoyed at the sight of players on the field. He always is.

042A fairly decent crowd had filed in, by Wednesday in May standards, to watch the Kernels take on the fearsome Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

040I spent the first several innings of the game with one Tim Mullin, who served as my “designated eater.” We’ll get to Tim in a separate post, but here’s a sneak peak of who we’ll be dealing with.

037After parting ways with Mr. Mullin, I was led down to a clandestine field-level area with an interesting view of the action.

052While in this area, I came face to face with the immortal Mr. Shucks.

054Meeting Mr. Shucks provided me with the opportunity to work on my “I, too, am a mascot” face.

055But I wasn’t in this ballpark location for mascot shenanigans alone. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. For I was to be a contestant in the nightly “Fish Fling” contest.

051The Fish Fling is pretty simple. I, as the contestant, would hold the net, and the fish would then be “flung” in my general direction via a slingshot. I was told that if I caught three fish in a row I’d become the inaugural member of the Fish Fling Hall of Fame, and that no one had yet earned these aquatic accolades because this game is harder than it looks. The fish, when in the air, vacillate wildly like the fish out of water that they are. Their aerial path from slingshot to net is unpredictable at best.

My camera and phone were handed off to members of the Kernel promo team, who amused themselves accordingly.

057 Mr. Shucks gave me some last minute pointers.

060And then it was time to meet my Fish Fling destiny.

062This might sound ridiculous, but I really (really, really) wanted to get into the Fish Fling Hall of Fame and I took my participation in this contest very seriously.

The first shot….

065…was a success!

064And things only got more intense from there. Let’s go to the tape.

So close, and yet so far. When the contest began I could smell, however faintly, the sweet notes of success wafting through the air. But in the end, I was yet again overwhelmed with the pungent funk of failure. (Or maybe that was just the fish?)

A defeated man in a wrinkled shirt, making the best of a deeply disappointing situation.

067Alright, enough with the self-aggrandizement cloaked in a disingenuous shroud of humility. Let’s move on.

My next stop was the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ clubhouse, which is inhabited (literally) by legendary 71-year-old clubhouse manager Ron “Roady” Plein. Here’s Roady standing in front of his in-stadium apartment, which is located directly next to the laundry room.

072And here’s Roady’s bulletin board, at the end of the hallway, showcasing many of his career highlights.

068For the full-lowdown on Roady, please refer to my MiLB.com story. This story also includes the perspective of Roady’s “protege,” 56-year-old clubhouse managing rookie Eric Oliver.

075While I was in the home clubhouse, each of the two Kernels players who passed through immediately identified me as “The Fish Guy” and remarked how entertaining my on-field failure had been to those in the dugout. Guess that’s gotta count for something.

Anyhow, after exiting the clubhouse the first thing that I saw was the Tooth Fairy. Just another night in Minor League Baseball.

076Taking inspiration from the Tooth Fairy, I then fluttered up to the press box and did an interview with Kernels broadcaster Morgan Hawk. Welcome to the Hawk’s Nest.

IMG_1314While in the Hawk’s Nest, I came face to face with the “Roady” bobblehead. Roady’s on the right, while on the left is a bobblehead honoring long-time bat boy “Jon-Jon” Teig.

IMG_1315In the press box, the Kernels honor their Major League alumni in just about the coolest way I’ve ever seen: with framed jumbo-sized baseball cards.

078Fun fact: While playing in Cedar Rapids, Trevor Hoffman made the decision to convert from infielder to pitcher. That ended up working out pretty well for him.

079While I was in the press box area documenting these photos, someone (I don’t know who) popped out of the control room and said “You came all this way and dropped the third fish? C’mon!”

It was that kind of night. Nothing much left to do but make a groundbreaking and subversive joke.

Further hallway explorations revealed this “Kernels Quilt,” designed by JoAnn Nelson (wife of former general manager Doug Nelson) and stitched by Jeannie Ellers of Guttenberg, Iowa.

085Time, it does not stop when I’m the midst of these baseball wanderings. A game was going on and in fact had been going on the whole time.

087But not for long, as the Kernels won by a score of 7-3. After securing victory, they mocked the visiting Timber Rattlers by forming a snake-like handshake line back into the dugout.

091And then, just like that, everybody disappeared.

093That it was it for the evening.

094

But, really, there’s no need to thank me. It was my pleasure.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: