Nelson Ready to Run the Show for Kernels
By Jeff Johnson
CEDAR RAPIDS Doug Nelson was a fan first.
He and his wife, JoAnn, started buying season tickets in the 1980s. Not that they have to do that any more.
Nelson will officially take over as general manager of the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Nov. 1, attempting to fill the considerable shoes of Jack Roeder.
"Don't fix what's not broken," Nelson said prior to last night's Kernels' 8-3 win over Kane County at Veterans Memorial Stadium. "In 2008, the club was awarded the John H. Johnson Award for being the top minor league franchise. The front office team has created a very successful operation, so I'm just trying to continue moving it forward and fine tuning it so we continue to get better."
If you've spent any time at the ballpark, you've probably run into Nelson roaming the concourse. He's been with the Kernels since late 2003, including full time from 2004 to 2007.
A self-proclaimed numbers guy originally from Greenfield in southwest Iowa, he was hired to help the club go from a mom-and-pop operation into a new ballpark. Rumors abounded that the Kernels had some fairly significant financial difficulties that Nelson straightened out, though he poo-poos that talk.
"I don't know if I'd say dire financial straits," he said. "What I would say is the club was going through a transition. The old stadium was a much smaller staff with a much smaller budget versus this stadium."
He went part time with the Kernels in 2008, continuing as the club's Chief Financial Officer, but was tabbed by the Kernels' board of directors when Roeder announced he was stepping down after 30 years in baseball. Nelson, who will turn 47 in September, was asked why he wanted this job.
"People. First and foremost, the people," he said. "Everybody around baseball is so enjoyable to be with. The fans, the vendors. What other job can you have where you're working when you are on the concourse like baseball? That's the first thing.
"The second is the fun of this position in the different types of businesses you get to be in. We're a restaurant business, we're a retail, souvenir business, we're an entertainment venue. That poses a great challenge for me."
Nelson has been able to job shadow Roeder this season, if you will, learning the ropes on the baseball side of things and helping implement a three-pronged strategic plan of preserving the game of baseball in the area, supporting the community and making certain the club's financial outlook continues to be positive.
Then, again, he's always done that last thing.
"What I didn't expect when (he first got hired) was that baseball would get into my blood," he said.
Randal Grichuk's two-run home run in the sixth broke a 3-3 deadlock as the Kernels improved to 69-44. Eric Oliver had three hits as Cedar Rapids rebounded from an 11-2 loss Wednesday night.
The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.