For about 20 years, the Cedar Rapids franchise in the Class A Midwest League has been affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels, which meant there was a pro baseball presence but little else in the way of a connection to the majors.
That will change next year when the Twins leave Beloit, Wis., for Cedar Rapids, which is about a 4 1/2-drive from the Twin Cities -- about an hour or so closer than Beloit.
The move, which will be made official today, is being greeted with some enthusiasm in Cedar Rapids, despite the Twins' recent struggles. A reader poll in the Cedar Rapids Gazette had 81 percent of those who voted approving of the switch.
The team, by the way, is called the Cedar Rapids Kernels. More on that soon.
Bob Hoyt, who has done some PA announcing for the Kernels, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette: “This makes much more sense than being with the Angels. I never thought it made much sense to be affiliated with a team that was 2,000 miles away. I just think it makes total sense to be affiliated with a team that actually has fans around here.”
TK likes the move too.
Not the former manager who earlier this month had his number retired by the Twins, but the Tom Kelly who is president of the Kernels' booster club: “I think it’s great. ... One, I believe having a Midwest affiliate will really help the ballclub. You can market it as seeing the ballplayers here, then traveling four hours (Note: Kelly must drive fast) to see them when they’re in the major leagues. Two, like the Angels, I think the Twins have that philosophy of getting their ballplayers out in the community. That’s important here.
The Kernels also come with a potential soulmate for TC Bear -- the mascot Mr. Shucks, seen recently on Coe College night at the ballpark ...
... and on video.
If you look hard enough on the web, you can find Mr. Shucks engaged in a little bit of bathroom humor. But we're too classy to show that here.