One month from today, the Kane County Cougars open the 2012 baseball season at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark against the Beloit Snappers. It’s the second season for the Cougars under the umbrella of the Kansas City Royals and after a successful first year which included a playoff berth, hopes are high once again as the club trains in Surprise, Ariz.
I wanted to give a glimpse of what Spring Training is like for the players and coaches as they prepare for the 2012 season. As we stand right now, the Cougars don’t have a roster. There’s likely a rough outline of which players Royals farm director Scott Sharp and company think will be coming to Kane County, but they are far from a final team.
Several members of the Royals’ upper-level minor leaguers are training with the big league squad. Left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and righty Jake Odorizzi are two examples of future big leaguers that are getting their kicks in as they get their first tastes of facing major league hitters on a daily basis. Even 2011 Cougars star Brett Eibner has worked his way into a game this Spring.
For the other Royals’ minor leaguers, they get assigned to camps where they are best suited. There’s a camp for each level of the minors including a Single-A camp which is likely housing many 2012 Cougars. The Royals share their complex in Surprise with the American League Champion Texas Rangers. Unlike the big league team which goes through a Spring schedule of playing every team in the Cactus League, the minor league players don’t have that luxury. The Royals and Rangers’ minor league teams are pretty much playing each other everyday until Spring Training ends and final rosters are sorted out.
At that point, the players get shipped off to their new respective homes for at least the beginning of the 2012 season. Minor league rosters experience plenty of turnover so a player’s residence in April is not necessarily likely to still be his residence in August.
One thing that is mostly assured is the Royals will supply the Cougars with another squad chock full of talented players from their deep system. A system that has produced one of the top offenses in the AL, paced by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, all homegrown talents.
As the season rapidly approaches, the weather is starting to turn, and we are feeling that little tickle inside of us that baseball season is right around the corner in Kane County.