At home in the minors


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There is no special fanfare when Cedar Rapids native Chad Christensen comes to bat for his hometown Kernels.

Nothing special from the PA announcer or any sort of music that would let the half-capacity crowd of around 1,900 know that the guy at the plate is one of their own.

He is just another minor-league baseball player focused on trying to take that next step up in the ladder to the majors.

And that is exactly how he wants it to be.

“This is a great place to be for now, but all of us are trying to get up to Minnesota at some point,” Christensen said. “Nobody would be here if they weren’t trying to eventually make it to the big leagues — that’s the ultimate goal, and we’re working day to day to get there.”

That goal is something that the 23-year-old Christensen has worked toward for the majority of his life.

Prepping at Cedar Rapids Washington, the then slightly heralded recruit ended up setting program records in eight categories in his four seasons with the Warriors.

After his senior year, he accepted an offer to play baseball at the University of Nebraska and managed to crack the starting lineup half way through his début season. His time playing for the Cornhuskers left an impact on not only him, but also on his head coach — and former World Series champion — Darin Erstad.

“He’s the kind of player that will show up to the ballpark every day with his lunch pail and ready to work his tail off,” Erstad said. “Along with toughness, that mentality really works in professional baseball, and his hard work has and will continue to pay off for him.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a tougher guy in my time here.”

It takes a bit of toughness to swallow the grit-filled life of a minor league ball player. From the long travel days and bus rides to the low pay that comes along with playing single-A ball, the life is not one full of glory — but rather the pursuit of it.

Ten games into the season, Christensen is still in the novelty stage of being a minor leaguer, but reality is starting to set in.

“Baseball is just a grind; there are a lot of good days, and there are a lot of bad days,” Christensen said. “You have to mentally brush off the bad ones and learn from it while you prepare for the next game.”

He has certainly caught the eye of manager Jake Mauer, who Christensen impressed enough in spring training enough to earn a spot on the roster.

Mauer has enough trust in him to bat him third and has given him a chance to play numerous positions in the infield and outfield.

“Chad’s a guy that can play multiple positions, and you can put him pretty much anywhere, which is valuable here, in Minnesota and valuable at all the levels,” Mauer said. “He contributes well with the bat, and if he continues to do what he’s doing defensively, he’s going to move through just fine.”

For now, Christensen is still learning the ropes, along with the majority of his teammates who are also going through their first year of minor-league life. Shared experiences build camaraderie and one doesn’t have to look far past sarcasm and laughter in the club house to see it.

“Chad is an extravagant human being who really makes me laugh, and I like the way he plays baseball,” outfielder Jason Kanzler said. “We hung out a lot last year in the good old [Gulf Coast League], and I think that helps building team unity and a nice, compact winning goal.

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