Kane County Crushes Kernels, Molitor Reflects On MWL Days

By Douglas Miles (Writing) and Josh Christensen (Video)


By Josh Christensen

CEDAR RAPIDS – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Minnesota Twins roving instructor Paul Molitor has been in town since Thursday to work with the hometown Kernels, and the seven-time All-Star sees a talented squad in spite of their three-game losing streak.

“Well, they’re getting a lot of attention, they had a tremendous start,” Molitor said Saturday night before Kane County mauled Cedar Rapids, 15-1, in front of 5,251 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “When we look at the number of potential Major League prospects on this team, it’s fairly high for a low-A ball team.

Molitor’s primary instructional responsibilities include infielders and base-running for all of the Minnesota Twins’ minor league affiliates.

“It’s a great opportunity for me because I get to stay involved and teach the game a little bit and still have some personal flexibility,” said Molitor, 56. “To be able to go around and try to help these young players develop and hopefully help them reach their dreams of becoming Major League players.”

Molitor’s Thursday debut on the Kernels’ bench presented him the opportunity to put his vast knowledge to immediate use when second baseman Candido Pimentel committed three errors, including two consecutive plays in one inning.

“A big thing for, especially young infielders, is trying to slow them down and get the outs you’re supposed to get,” Molitor said. “We got him out the day after that night and tried to slow him down and focus on making sure to really watch the ball into his glove.”

“Those are teaching moments that we really try to take advantage of,” he continued. “We want to compliment them on their successes as well as making sure they learn from their failures.”

The Kernels are sitting up and taking notice.

“It’s awesome, it’s a honor to have him around and just try to pick his brain, ask him as many questions as possible,” Kernels’ third baseman Travis Harrison said. “I feel very lucky to have him here and get out on the field with him.”

The native of St. Paul, Minn., is no stranger to Cedar Rapids. After being drafted third overall out of the University of Minnesota by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977, Molitor reported to Burlington mid-season and led the Bees to the Midwest League title while garnering league MVP honors by hitting .346 with 50 RBIs in just 64 games.

“For any young kid who aspires to be a professional athlete, that dream for me began with signing with Milwaukee and playing in Burlington,” Molitor said. “It’s where it starts. You have to find a way to advance and listen to the instruction that you get.”

Molitor’s Bees eliminated the Cedar Rapids Giants in the first round of the playoffs on their way to the title.

“I have memories, I remember coming here to Cedar Rapids in the old ballpark,” Molitor said. “All these places bring back memories of playing way back then.”

Molitor went on to enjoy a 21-year career with the Brewers, Blue Jays, and Twins. He was 12-for-24 in the 1993 World Series for Toronto and was named series MVP. He finished his career with 3,319 hits and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility.

Molitor is very comfortable living in the Twin Cities and any potential coaching opportunities would take a backseat to his current location.

“I don’t think about it a lot, I’m kind of locked into the Twin Cities now,” Molitor said. “If something opened up there coaching-wise, I’d have to seriously consider that.”

Kernels’ starter Brett Lee (4-4) surrendered 11 hits and eight earned runs in four innings for Cedar Rapids (37-23). Kane County tacked on four more runs off the latest addition to the Cedar Rapids roster, reliever Kaleb Merck.

Kane County pitcher Michael Heesch (3-4) yielded just one run in 6 1/3 innings, while Chicago Cubs’ 2012 first-rounder Albert Almora drove in four runs with a 4-for-5 night which included his first home run this season.

Byron Buxton and Tyler Grimes each had three hits for Cedar Rapids. Kernels’ backup catcher Jhonatan Arias pitched the ninth and allowed three earned runs, walking four.

The teams play again Sunday at 2 p.m

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