On the Road: The Season Goes Kaboom in Kane County

My Midwest meanderings concluded yesterday, as did the 2010 regular season. Empty dugouts are going to be the norm from here on out. Get used to it.

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Before saying goodbye, I spent an intermittently rainy Labor Day afternoon at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, IL. The Kane County Cougars reside therein.

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The players were clearly in a hurry to bring things to a close, as the game was played in just two hours and five minutes (with visiting Wisconsin cruising to a 7-0 win). But it was an action-packed two hours and five minutes, filled with many memorable moments.

For starters, I got to meet Jack “Mr. Kaboom” Phelan. For the last 10 years, this one-time usher has been responsible for shooting off in-game fireworks. He resides on a small platform next to the right field picnic area, launching pyrotechnics during the National Anthem, Seventh Inning Stretch, and after every Cougar home run (read more about “Mr. Kaboom” on MiLB.com, coming soon).

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During the seventh-inning stretch, Mr. Kaboom gave me the honors of launching the fireworks. I was psyched.

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All I had to do was flip three switches in quick succession on the trusty ol’ Delcor-MP20 control board. 

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The Delcor MP-20 is connected via cable to a blue wooden box approximately 150 feet away. In this box, fireworks can be found:

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Walking even further behind the ballpark, toward centerfield, Mr. Kaboom showed me where the team shoots off fireworks for its large-scale post-game shows (these are handled by the folks at Melrose Pyrotechnics).

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My meeting with Mr. Kaboom was arranged by Cougars media relations director Shawn Touney, who was a gracious host throughout my Kane County cameo. Touney coordinates between-inning games and contests throughout the game, and brought me onto the field for a closer look at the action.

Here, contestants are briefed for the upcoming shopping cart race as a member of the Timber Rattlers looks on.

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The racers in action:

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An even more unique between-inning race involved these, parked directly beside the third base dugout.

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The Bed Race involves two teams of racing families navigating this unwieldy piece of furniture across the outfield, stopping along the way to don bedclothes. It’s a bit chaotic, but I tried my best to capture the action:

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While on the field, I tried my hand at being an actual photographer.

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And what do you know? I succeeded at an honest-to-God action shot:

But I didn’t have time to pat myself on the back. Touney gave me a brief tour of the upstairs area, added as part of a $10.5 million renovation project in 2009 (more on that HERE).

The spacious interior of the “Super Suite”, which seats 200 and hosts events year-round.

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Views from the top:

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Of course, I also did my best to document the scene from down below.

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Options:

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You can wash down concessions with a regional beer whose name I can’t pronounce:

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The grass berm down the third base line slopes down to the home bullpen:

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One of the most striking aspects of Elfstrom Stadium is how much land the team has to work with. The facility is located within the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, and named after one of the preserve’s former presidents.

The sheer acreage is apparent almost right away. Here’s a parking lot view:

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Walking past the third base line, beyond the stadium, one truly gets a sense of how large the stadium grounds really are. How many other teams would need to display a map of the area?

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There’s plenty of room for group outings.

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The most scenic play area in the Minors?

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This wilderness adventure offered a welcome respite, but soon it was time to return to the field for the final post-game “Run the Bases” of the season. The Cougars allow all fans to run the bases, after every game, and many took advantage of the opportunity. Fans enter the stadium from center field, and the line snaked from there all the way to the basepaths.

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Another action shot!

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Doing my part to enforce the rules:

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After the last runners had crossed home plate, the b
eds were wheeled into storage and a silence descended upon the stadium.

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Rest in peace, 2010 Minor League Baseball season.

It was fun while it lasted.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

5 Comments

I was at this game too!!! Looks like you enjoyed it as much as I did!!! Kane County is always one of my favorite teams to visit!

I stopped by the stadium in Kane County, and watched some high school teams, but didn’t have a chance to see the Cougars play there yet. It looks like a great little ballpark, though. Fireworks and the promotions definately make the Minors so special. I’ll be missing the season also…You certainly have the best job in the world, Ben!
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

you did get a great action shot AND and you got to launch fireworks! thanks for the fun stories on your travels and throughout the season Benjamin!

I know this comment is… basically two years late… but Leinenkugel isn’t very regional. I’ve found it both in California and in Florida. It may not be in every locale, but I don’t think you can call something available on both coasts regional anymore.

I agree. That visit to Kane County marked the first time I’d ever seen Leinenkugel, but this season I’ve seen it available in a variety of diverse locales. I’m not sure if their distribution methods increased since 2010, or if it was simply a case of me having never noticed it before.

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