Now, how did we exactly get here?
What seems like not too long ago, we were looking at trees that had barely blossomed, 40 degree temperatures, and the arrival of the 2013 Cougars from the Cubs’ spring training home in sunny Arizona.
And now – just like that – the season’s halfway point is upon us.
Some random thoughts as we prepare for a fun 2nd half of the season…
– Tonight’s Midwest League All-Star Game includes a half-dozen deserving Cougars who are part of the festivities in Dayton as I write this blog. Dan Vogelbach has played in all 66 games for Kane County – the only player to do so this season. Rock Shoulders leads the team with 13 home runs. Bijan Rademacher, despite a nagging injury that kept him on the DL for a small part of the season, is batting .323. Pitcher Nathan Dorris has allowed just one hit in 25 at-bats against left-handed hitters. Tayler Scott has worked 7 innings or deeper in 3 of his last 6 starts and Felix Pena has posted a 2.89 ERA in 9 games. Despite the team’s sub-.500 record in the first half, there are some compelling storylines with quite a few players on the team and some well-deserved accolades to be shared.
– One day, you may be telling yourself that you saw Albert Almora before he became a big leaguer. That’s not to put any more pressure that’s already been placed on him by virtually everyone else, but after 22 games with the Cougars, you can see definitive proof every day of why the sky’s the limit for him. Taking away the one game where he left early due to an injury, Almora has recorded a hit in 19 of 21 games. He’s batting .402 after joining the club in May. He’s played an error-free outfield. And as far as I can tell, he’s answered the bell with nearly everything that involves a high-profile first round pick playing in a hometown market – autographs, media, fans – you name it.
– In order for the Cougars to reach the Midwest League playoffs, they’ll need to grab one of two second half postseason berths that are up for grabs in the Western Division. All teams in the league start with a clean slate beginning on Thursday – a record of 0-0. Both Cedar Rapids and Beloit clinched first half spots in the division, so the Cougars are 1 of 6 other division teams vying for one of those two second half postseason berths. The team leaves Thursday morning for a four-game road trip at Quad Cities before returning home on Tuesday for a four-game set against Beloit.
– Cougars fans have come out in full force so far with this being the first season of our affiliation with the Cubs. The Opening Night crowd on April 4th doubled the previous season’s opener, while Sunday’s first half finale on Father’s Day was the largest Father’s Day crowd here since 2007. Despite Mother Nature having her way with any sort of outside event in April and May, more than 176,000 fans have attended a game this season. Stay tuned – we’ll reach our 10 millionth fan in franchise history later this summer.
– And among those 176,000 fans, we’ve had enthusiastic supporters of the team, hyped-up-on-sugar enthusiasm from thousands of young fans who attended an Ozzie’s Reading Club kids day games, and young fans who, every once in a while, need to call on Superman to save the day.
Thanks for reading and thank you for being a Cougars fan…we’ll see you at the ballpark soon!