I was in attendance at the Kane County Cougars (the single-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs located in Geneva, Illinois) game Saturday night at Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark as the Cougars fell to the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels (Twins affiliate) 6-0. Even though the Cougars fell to Kernels, the game was a victory to the Cougars staff and to all the fans who were there. There were many attractions at the game that drew many of these fans including a Beatles tribute band concert, a Cougars hat giveaway, a pregame autograph session, a postgame performance from Jesse White Tumblers, fireworks, and running the bases.
You could argue that the Cougars are the most successful minor league franchise in their 23 years of existence, if not in the history of minor league baseball. According to the team’s Facebook page, the Cougars drew 11,979 for Saturday night’s game. That was the highest attendance in all of the minor leagues on that night. It was the second time in three nights the team accomplished that feat. Also, Kane County recently drew their 10-millionth fan, which is the most ever for a single-A team. They also have produced over 100 Major League players including the likes of A.J. Burnett, Miguel Cabrera, Andre Ethier, and Adrian Gonzalez.
The key move of last offseason for the Cougars was to agree with the Chicago Cubs to become their affiliate. The Cougars have previously been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, and the Kansas City Royals. There is a plausible explanation on why the Cougars and Cubs waited this long to partner. The Cubs had a legitimate worry that many of their fans would attend the Cougars games instead of their own (This is the same holdup I believe that is keeping Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Wolves are not partnered to this day). But actually, Wrigley’s attendance is only slightly lower, which is due to their bad play this season and not from the Cougars affiliation. There have been sightings of Cubs President Theo Epstein at the ballpark. His ability to scout prospects within the Chicago area is another advantage of having the single-A club so close to home.
Many fans out in the suburbs are appreciating the sights of highly touted prospects in the Chicagoland area. OF Albert Almora, 1B Dan Vogelbach, and 3B Jeimer Candelario are all top-10 prospects in the Cubs organization that call Geneva their home this season. Many are awaiting the arrival of 3B Kris Bryant to Kane County. He will likely stay in Low-A Boise for the remainder of the season, but he will likely be wearing the green and gold opening day next season. I definitely recommend coming out to see the Cougars in the near future.