The Cedar Rapids Kernels will have a new manager this year for the first time since 2013. But despite being a new skipper, he will be a familiar face to the Midwest League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins announced Tuesday that Tommy Watkins will take over as manager of the Kernels as former Cedar Rapids skipper Jake Mauer moves up to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. Mauer led the Kernels to the Midwest League playoffs all four years he helmed the team, and fell a game short of winning the league championship in 2015.
Watkins was the Kernels’ hitting coach from 2013 to 2015 before serving in that same capacity for the Lookouts in 2016. This will be his eighth season as a coach in the Twins organization after playing 12 years for Minnesota, mostly in the minor leagues. He played nine games for the major-league club in 2007, going 10-for-28 with four walks and a stolen base.
Watkins played in the Midwest League in 2001, batting .230 with 2 HR and 16 RBI in 73 games for the Quad City River Bandits. His most famous QC teammate was future American League MVP and National League batting champion Justin Morneau, who batted .356 with 12 HR and 53 RBI in 64 games for the River Bandits.
The rest of the Kernels’ 2017 coaching staff will be announced at a later date.