I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? The final pitch of the 2013 Cougars season was thrown 3 months ago at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Here at the office, it’s been an exciting off-season as we continue to make preparations for a great 2014 season.
Here are some odds and ends to throw your way as the calendar has flipped to December.
FEEL GOOD STORIES: Cougars staff has been out in the community, assisting with various organizations this off-season. It’s our goal to be good neighbors and we’ve volunteered our time at several locations this off-season including Feed My Starving Children, Hesed House, and the Tri-Cities Salvation Army. For the trip to Feed My Starving Children (located in Aurora), Cougars staff helped pack boxed meals for malnourished children throughout the world. We packed a total of 48 boxes, which translated to 10,368 meals.
Hesed House (also in Aurora) is an area homeless shelter. We were fortunate to help out with some of their jobs throughout the facility one morning and served lunch to residents while visiting with them afterwards. Next time you walk your dog when the temperature hovers in the single digits, think about the residents of Hesed House who would otherwise be forced to survive in those conditions each night.
And just before Thanksgiving, Cougars staff partnered with the Tri-Cities Salvation Army. We purchased 100 frozen turkeys and handed them out to families who attended the Salvation Army’s annual distribution day in St. Charles.
Fortunately, none of us experienced what Paula Deen did several years ago:
You can click HERE to see the story from the Daily Herald, along with video taken from our time at the Salvation Army that afternoon. I can confirm that nobody suffered any Deen-like turkey injuries.
Give any of the above locations a call if you and your staff would be interested in volunteering.
NEW CUBS MANAGER: Last month brought exciting news for Cougars and Cubs fans, as former Cougars skipper Rick Renteria was named field general for our parent club. HERE is our official press release on the news from back in November. Renteria skippered the ’99 Cougars team which advanced to the Midwest League playoffs that season.
CSN’s Tony Andracki recently caught up with Cougars GM Curtis Haug for his take on Renteria. Click HERE to read the story.
Back to the ’99 season for a second. Under Renteria’s guidance, the Cougars advanced to the second round of the MWL playoffs that season and faced Burlington, a team that featured new Cubs bench coach (and former Cubs player development director) Brandon Hyde when he was a minor leaguer. In a decisive Game 3 between both teams here in Geneva, Burlington’s Eric Battersby belted a whopping 4 home runs to lead his team to a series winner over Kane County. In Renteria’s final game as Cougars manager, Battersby put on a hitting display that is rarely seen at any level of baseball. Burlington, a White Sox farm team at the time, went on to win the Midwest League Championship. It’s a game (and a name…Battersby) that several of our front office staff who were here in 1999, remember very clearly. Perhaps some of our readers were at that playoff game as well.
As for Battersby (because my curiosity was killing me), he advanced as high as Triple-A Charlotte in 2002, was out of affiliated baseball following the 2003 season, and ended his playing career in 2004.
A quick “google” of his name led to this page, which includes a game story from that September night that ran in the Beacon-News.
Here’s the quote from Renteria following the game:
“Battersby swung a real good bat today,” said Renteria. “Obviously four home runs is quite an accomplishment. We didn’t expect it (the season) to end today, but you have to tip your hat to the Bees. They played real well. I wish them the best in the next series.”
HOT STOVE: Trades and free agent signings are in full force as the MLB hot stove continues to burn as it will be next week with the Baseball Winter Meetings. There wasn’t much out there involving former Cougars. And then, Tuesday happened.
Oakland, arguably one of the busiest teams so far in the hot stove derby, shipped ’08 Cougar Jemile Weeks to Baltimore as part of the Jim Johnson deal. And ’10 Cougar Michael Choice was traded to Texas. Washington sent three players, one of which was ’10 Cougar Ian Krol, to Detroit while receiving starter Doug Fister.
Some quick observations on the Cougars-related players with new homes. For Weeks, a change of scenery is much needed. A former first round pick of the A’s in 2008, Weeks spent a portion of that season at Kane County before suffering an injury at the inaugural “Road to Wrigley” game that ended his season prematurely. Weeks made his big league debut in 2011 and batted .303 in 97 games, but inconsistency has plagued him since then.
Krol, a Cougars Midwest League All-Star in 2010, made his big league debut last summer with Washington and pitched in 32 games for the Nationals. I would say that a big league spot isn’t going to be promised to him at spring training next season, but Krol will have every opportunity to break camp with Detroit in March.
And Choice is probably surprised, yet extremely happy, with the news of being traded to Texas. Choice is from the Arlington area and attended UT-Arlington. Like Weeks, Choice was a first round selection of the A’s. Like Krol, Choice made his Major League debut in 2013. And like Weeks, Krol participated in a “Road to Wrigley” game as a Cougar, pitching in 2010.
Former Cougars who were non-tendered – meaning that they are currently free agents who can sign with any team – include Boston’s Andrew Bailey (’07 Cougar), the Dodgers’ Ronald Belisario (’02), and Miami’s Ryan Webb (’05).
Bailey is a fairly high-profile free agent right now. The right-hander and former American League Rookie of the Year suffered a season-ending shoulder injury but contributed during the regular season for Boston, eventual World Series champs. Some talk on Twitter (all unofficial and speculative, of course) this afternoon indicated that there’s a chance the Cubs would look at Bailey as a possible free agent signing. Now that would be cool. One of my favorite Cougars alums pitching for our hometown affiliate as a Cub.
Needless to say, the hot stove is burning with Cougars news at the big league level as trades and signings run rampant. You’ve got to assume that the rumors and possible trades will continue as we look towards the Baseball Winter Meetings, scheduled for next week.
WINTER MEETINGS: Speaking of, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter next week. We’ll have updates from Orlando, which will be hosting the annual Baseball Winter Meetings. I’ll try to do at least one blog post from there as well. I blogged a little bit about last year’s Winter Meetings in Nashville (read last year’s post HERE). And as a sure sign towards where technology is going, there is an official Baseball Winter Meetings app that includes event, speaker, and exhibitor information. It also includes maps so the chances of getting lost can be minimized!
SANTA AND OZZIE: Be sure to circle Saturday, December 14 on your calendar. We’ll be hosting our “Santa and Ozzie” Christmas event that morning from 9-Noon. Bring a gently-worn winter coat and you’ll receive 2 ticket vouchers (per coat) for a 2014 Cougars game. The kids can pose with Santa and Ozzie for photos, and we’ll have some cool holiday-themed decoration stations available as well. Get more info HERE.
And as always, thanks for reading! Feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments!