Perfect Game USA, the largest scouting service of amateur baseball in the country, became a major sponsor of professional baseball on Wednesday. And as it turns out, Perfect Game president Jerry Ford only had to walk across the street in southwest Cedar Rapids to find a worthy partner.
Perfect Game has entered into a five-year contract with the Cedar Rapids Kernels for naming rights to the team’s field. Starting this season, the ballpark will be known as Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels are the Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels and play in the Midwest League.
“From a personal standpoint, I’m really excited about this,” said Ford, who grew up on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, not far from the ballpark. “We were honored when the Kernels approached us about the idea.”
Perfect Game replaces the Dale & Thomas Popcorn Company of New Jersey as the title sponsor of the Kernels.
Perfect Game USA began 15 years ago as an indoor practice facility on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, just down the street from the Kernels ballpark, and has developed into a national organization with showcases, tournaments and events across the country.
‘It’s an exciting day for us,” said Jack Roeder, the general manager of the Kernels. “Every time I think about Perfect Game I go, ‘Wow, what a natural fit.’ For all intents and purposes, we’re in the same business, and that’s the business of baseball and promoting baseball.”
Perfect Game and the Kernels have enjoyed a close relationship for many years. Perfect Game holds its annual Pre-Draft Showcase at Veterans Memorial Stadium, and also stages its annual free “Home Run Derby” for kids at the ballpark. Kernels players, in turn, often visit the Perfect Game facility to take extra batting practice in the multiple cages. In addition, Perfect Game is a major supporter of the annual Kernels Foundation/Perfect Game USA Wood Bat Baseball Tournament in September.
‘I think it’s a great, great marriage,” said Tom Barbee, the Kernels president.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Ford stressed the importance of developing baseball fans at an early age. It’s why Perfect Game and the Kernels have been partners in a “Create A Fan” program, and it’s one of the main reasons he wanted to financially support the Kernels as the title sponsor.
“To me, the perfect world would be if everybody were a baseball fan,” said Ford.
Bruce Kimm, a former major league player and manager who is from Norway, Iowa, attended Wednesday’s press conference and saluted Ford for building Perfect Game into a respected and profitable business. Kimm played American Legion baseball at the old Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids and also served as the manager of the Cedar Rapids club in 1983.
“Jerry Ford is the brains of this outfit,” said Kimm. “I’m so proud of him.”
Ford and his partners began the company with a simple vision. “To give young players the best opportunity for success,” said Ford, “to help scouts and college recruiters see and evaluate these players, and to promote the game of baseball at all levels.”
Perfect Game scouts and holds events from coast to coast, and even in Hawaii. During each of the past eight years, Perfect Game has set new records in the Major League draft for the number of its players who were selected. In 2008, a total of 1,164 players who attended Perfect Game events were taken in the draft. This accounted for nearly 78 percent of all players who were selected. There are now more than 200 former Perfect Game players in the majors, and the number keeps growing each year.
During the past 14 years, every Iowa high school player who has been drafted by major league teams and played pro ball was involved with the Perfect Game program. Iowa players who were once overlooked are now getting opportunities at college baseball powers in the south and west. Colleges like Southern Cal, Baylor, Georgia Tech, LSU, Arizona State, Stanford and others are recruiting players who have attended the Perfect Game program.
Every year, in fact, several Perfect Game graduates play for the Kernels and other Midwest League teams that come to Cedar Rapids. Now they’ll be playing on Perfect Game Field.