The most wonderful time of the year…

How great is it to read and see baseball in the news every day this week? Despite a good-sized snow hitting the Chicagoland area (see the photo below of a snow-covered field here at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark), we know we’re getting closer to Opening Day when baseball talk is everywhere you look.

One of the neat parts of Spring Training is obviously following your team of choice. But from a Cougars perspective, there’s some representation on so many big league teams, in terms of players that called Kane County home and are now on the game’s biggest stage. Entering the 2012 campaign, a total of 116 former Cougars have made the major leagues since the organization began in 1991.

Here are some Cougars-related storylines to keep tabs on as spring training is underway.

– Each of the three former Cougars who have been named Rookies of the Year filled out “change of address” forms this off-season. Dontrelle Willis (’03 ROY) is going to get a shot to break camp as a reliever for the Phillies, Huston Street (’05 ROY) was moved to the Padres from Colorado last December, while Andrew Bailey (’09 ROY) was one of several players dealt by Oakland this off-season. Bailey is now a member of the Red Sox. Which of the 3 players make the best transition in their new digs?

– Speaking of transitions, pay close attention to Miguel Cabrera’s transition to third base at Detroit. How exciting is a 1-2 punch of Cabrera and Prince Fielder in Motown? Enough to worry at least a few White Sox fans, I’m sure. Cabrera has been the good soldier in making the move defensively to third base, in order to accommodate Fielder.

– Where does Nelson Cruz pick up from last fall’s historic ALCS? If you remember, Cruz hit a postseason-record 6 home runs in the ALCS against Cabrera’s team, Detroit. Cruz was rewarded with a two-year contract extension not too long ago, to keep him in Texas for the time being. The ’03 Cougar is starting to build quite a big league resume.

– Chances are, if you had Adrian Gonzalez on your fantasy team last year, you were pretty satisfied with his production. Offensively, Gonzo batted .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI and perhaps most telling, won a Silver Slugger Award AND a Gold Glove last season to validate his credentials as one of the finest all-around talents in Major League Baseball. Obviously, much has been made of the clubhouse atmosphere in Boston last season. Can veterans such as Gonzalez and another former Cougar in Josh Beckett turn that around this season?

– Finally, there’s always the excitement of following former Cougars who have yet to reach the big leagues, but are right on the cusp. Last year, we were treated to seeing several major league debuts such as Jemile Weeks, Anthony Recker, Justin Sellers and Corey Brown. Keep close tabs on Jermaine Mitchell (’07) and Michael Choice (’10) – a pair of outfielders in the Oakland system who had tremendous seasons last year in the A’s farm system.

And of course, your ’12 Cougars are busy training in Surprise, Arizona at the Kansas City Royals’ spring training site.

As nice as it was to wake up and see snow this morning on the field, seeing the green grass again soon would be even nicer…

Thanks for reading!

-ST

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About Kane County Cougars

The Kane County Cougars are the Class-A Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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