Kern still taking in midsummer classics

Former Minor League owner attends nearly every All-Star Game

Two-time champion Lloyd Kern holds onto programs from the various All-Star Games he's attended. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Jared Ravich / MiLB.com | July 12, 2017 8:55 PM ET

TACOMA, Wash. -- Crown-jewel events like the Triple-A All-Star game bring familiar faces from around the country together in beautiful settings like the Pacific Northwest and the shadow of Mount Rainier. The most familiar of all to Minor League insiders probably belongs to Lloyd Kern.

"I always run into Lloyd at special events and I know the event is official when I see Lloyd," said Minor League Baseball president and chief executive officer Pat O'Conner.

"Lloyd being a former owner, he's got roots. He's got relationships. He's a dedicated fan. He's very knowledgeable."

Kern bought the Eastern League's West Haven Yankees in 1977, moved the team to Lynn, Massachusetts as the Mariners-affiliated Lynn Sailors in 1980 and then sold the team in 1981.

"We won two championships with the Yankees there in three years," Kern said. "The year that we didn't win, we had the best record in the league, but it was a split season and we finished in second in both halves."

Since then, he's been in constant contact with his friends in the world of baseball, visiting ballparks and attending All-Star Games at every level.


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In fact, Kern probably holds the title of most All-Star Games ever attended. He's been to 29 of the 30 Triple-A All-Star Games and frequents the Major League festivities as well.

"The only one I missed was in Buffalo, which was No. 25," said Kern of the 2012 midsummer classic. "I had tickets for that and also for Kansas City. On Saturday morning, the morning I was supposed to go to K.C., all of a sudden, my right leg sort of collapsed. I really had trouble walking. First thing I did was cancel my plane tickets. Thank God it happened at home."

Fully ambulatory now, Kern arrived in Tacoma after three full days in Miami with the big leaguers.

"The All-Star events, all three days, were the best in total that I've ever seen," Kern said. "Starting with the Futures Game, which was going to be a blowout, but ended with the tying run on third base in the ninth inning. The Home Run Derby was phenomenal. And yesterday's game going 10 innings was great.

"I've been to big league All-Star games every year since '76 with two exceptions -- the Kansas City year [2012] and last year in San Diego. I went to the Futures Game and then flew to Charlotte [North Carolina]. The first All-Star Game I went to was in Yankee Stadium -- the old, old, old Yankee Stadium [in 1960]. I was at the '64 game at Shea Stadium where Johnny Callison hit the home run off Dick Radatz to win that game. There was no such thing as a 'walk-off home run' back then, but that's what it was. That was [my best MLB All-Star Game memory]."


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But Minor League All-Star Games seem to be the most fun for Kern, who recently retired as CFO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. He attends midseason classics at every level, from the Northwest/Pioneer, South Atlantic, California/Carolina, New York-Penn, Eastern All-Star Games to this Triple-A competition at the home of the Rainiers.

"There was a California/Carolina game in Frederick [in 2005]," said Kern, reflecting on his favorite Minor League All-Star memories. "The star of that game was Nick Markakis. I believe he hit a game-winning home run and he had already won the Home Run Derby for Frederick [Keys], which was in the Orioles chain at the time.

"Also, there was a regular Carolina League game at the time played in Hagerstown back in [1983], North against South. The starting pitcher for the South was a kid by the name of Doc Gooden. But he was just Dwight back then. And playing center field for that team was Lenny Dykstra."

Kern's stories about the various games he's attended share a common theme -- the quality of the games and the thrill of catching stars before they were stars. He feels strongly that the competition at all the events remains top-notch and make the respective levels immaterial.

"It's not like you know anybody in that game. It's like last night in Miami," Kern said. "You want to see Judge, you want to see Stanton, you want to see all the names you know about. One of the reasons I keep the programs is because I look back 30, 40 years later and see all the Hall of Famers that were playing in the Minors. That's fun."

Kern has held onto programs from All-Star Games at all levels dating back to the mid-1950s. He has one from the first integrated MLB All-Star Game and programs from Japan that he can't read but marvels at the photography in. He remembers fondly how he once sold programs himself as the owner in West Haven.

"If you have to define who Lloyd Kern is, you're never going to have a full appreciation," said Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III. "He's such an institution and a loyalist to this Minor League game. So unabashedly modest. I don't think I've ever met anybody with less self-promotion to him. He's always just a supporter, an ally. If there's ever anything you can ask of him, he wants to do it. He's the old school. He is really the old school.

"I don't know whether he's part of the fabric of baseball or baseball's the fabric of Lloyd Kern."

A day after sitting down the right-field line in Miami in close proximity to Bryce Harper, Kern is ready to keep his season going.

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"I like Harper. The first time I saw him was in a South Atlantic All-Star Game in Salisbury [Maryland in 2011]," Kern said. "He was on one side and Manny Machado was on the other. That's the wonderful thing about Minor League Baseball.

"I've been to all of the New York-Penn League All-Star Games since they started doing it. I went the first time [in 2005] because I was born and grew up in Brooklyn, and the first one of those games was in Brooklyn. They did such a great job, I kept doing it. I'm hoping next month to go again."

Of course, before that, he'll be back in the Pacific Northwest for the Northwest/Pioneer All-Star Game hosted by the Hillsboro Hops in Oregon. Kern expects a great event after 2015's spectacle in Spokane.

"Great game. Much better game than I expected at that level."

Jared Ravich is a senior software engineer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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