In about a week, the World Series begins which will determine the world champion baseball team. Many players in both the American and National leagues got their start in the "minors". And many may even have started their professional careers right here in Iowa ... where a half-dozen communities boast pro baseball ... some with affiliations to the Majors.
Radio Call:"Welcome back to Burlington Bees Baseball on 1490 KBUR as we get set for first pitchbetween the Burlington Bees and the Cedar Rapids Kernels."
Baseball evokessentimental thoughts among many-- reflecting on childhood memories of thatfirst game, taking in the well manicured turf and dirt, a night on the townwith friends and the repetitive nature of the game from the nod of the pitcher'shead, snapping of the glove or the crack of the bat.
Six Iowa communities have aform of professional baseball. 4 towns in eastern Iowa form part of the Midwest League of a16-team league in six states. The league is expanding before the 2010 season furthereast-- to suburban Cleveland and Bowling Green Kentucky.
The farthestwest of the 16 Class A Midwest League team, Cedar Rapids, entered the league in 1962. TheKernels are now affiliated with the Anaheim Angels and play at Veteran'sMemorial Stadium. "Vets'" went through a renovation in time for the 2002season. The 16 million dollar project included 12 skyboxes.
Most of the IowaMidwest League parks have undergone renovation or improvements from new lockerrooms in Clinton at Alliant Energy Field, to anew grandstand cover and press box at Burlington'sCommunity Field to a 12 million dollar interior makeover at Davenport'sModern Woodman Park.
The franchisesoperators say the upgrades help keep fans happy and the business of baseballsuccessful in their communities.
Kirk Goodman, GeneralManager, Quad City River Bandits: "We put an amazing emphasis on our fans andguest service and customer service and we'd like to consider this to be – welike to consider Modern Woodman Parkthe friendliest ball park in America."
Emphasis on thefans is just one side of the business. Major League baseball also has demands. Thelocal ballpark needs expanded locker rooms, training facilities and fieldstandards. If values of the local park aren't met, the major league teamaffiliation will head to a town that will provide what they want.
The players mustalso hold up their end of the game throughout a rigorous season.
Manager SteveDillard of the Quad City River Bandits says new guys coming in are adjusting tothe length of the season on the professional level.
Steve Dillard:Manager, Quad City River Bandits: "It's an every day grind. You play 140 gamesin A ball, 162 when you get to the big leagues. So, it's coming out everydaygetting yourself ready to compete and I think that's the toughest thing."
If a playercan't hit consistently or catch a fly ball, he's cut loose, his locker cleanedout and his dream of reaching the major leagues may be over.
Players in 'A'ball know the odds are long on making it to the majors. Even advancing to AA isa big deal.
Chuck Brockett, GeneralManager, Burlington Bees: "You know here you got the kids that are just gettingstarted in baseball. This is their full season of baseball in A Ball. They'revery hungry to move on. "
Radio call:"Melville looks into the catcher Bonilla, the 2-0 delivery, hit out toleftfield, fairly deep, Van Stratten going back, at the track to the wall, heclimbs the wall but he cannot make the catch. That's a homerun to left to makea 2-0 ballgame."
And maybesomeday they'll be playing on a big stage for all the world to see.