Results tagged ‘ Kane County Cougars ’

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:

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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

In Which We Bravely Enter A New Decade

dadtime.jpgHello, and Happy New Year.

As many teams are pointing out via various social networking applications, Opening Day is only 94 days away. In my own world of self-contained, obsessive-compulsive rituals, this means that there are 94 days until my next haircut.

But that is neither here nor there (it is “hair”). What is “here” is that the holidays are over and my benevolent overseers expect me to work on a regular basis. So hair here goes!

I’m going to start 2010 with — what else — a team-produced video. This, which escaped my attention when it was first released, comes courtesy of the Yakima Bears. Witness the “Superfans” of Yakima, hardy denizens of the Pacific Northwest who have nonetheless mastered the proletariat patois of the Second City:

And speaking of the Second City, the Chicago-area Kane County Cougars have posted what I believe is the best mascot photo to come down the pike in at least three weeks. Behold, Ozzie, a young girl, and a boa constrictor:

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That will do it for me on this chilly January day. Here’s to a stellar (or at least “acceptable”) 2010.

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

Simply the Best

best.gifEach year, the indispensable Gameops.com announces its “Best of Awards”, which recognize the year’s highest-performing teams when it comes to game operations, promotions, and entertainment (my post on last year’s awards can be found here).

The winners (all of whom were awarded the coveted “Golden Steagle”) hail from throughout the world of sports, but the affiliated Minor Leagues are particularly well-represented. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows this industry, as there are many teams that walk that fine, beautiful line between genius and insanity.

The full awards listing is well worth checking out. However, due to my unquenchable compulsion to distill, condense, and summarize, I will now highlight the Minor League teams and personalities that were recognized. 

Myron Noodleman recieved an “honorable mention” in the “Best Act” category. I have a lot of respect for this clown prince uber-nerd, as he bases a large part of his routine on improvisational antics from the crowd. It’s tough to stay “on” and focused throughout the duration of a ballgame, but he has found a way to pull it off.
 

Moving on, the Kane County Cougars were co-winners in the “Best Promotion” category for their “World Record Pillow Fight Night”. This promo was also nominated as one of my 10 best of the year, and was covered in this post as well. Here’s the video:

Those who have been following the Minor League “scene” this season will not be surprised to learn that the Fresno Grizzlies were named co-winners of the best team operations award. If you were somehow surprised by this, then click here, here, or here to get at least somewhat up to speed.

Finally, the indomitable Reading Phillies received an honorable mention in the “Best Team Operations” category as well. The R-Phils are a fantastic franchise in many ways, but gameops.com chose to highlight the mascot band. Far from just being a gimmick, these costumed characters are genuinely good at playing rock and roll. The following video contains performances of “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Rocking in the Free World”, but it got me thinking about other songs I’d like to see them cover. Such as:

Black Sabbath — “Hole in the Sky”
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Born on the Bayou”
Neil Young and Crazy Horse — “Hey Hey My My”
Guns ‘N Roses — “Night Train”
Deep Purple — “Speed King” (or anything off of the masterpiece that is “In Rock”)

Make it happen, mascots!
 

So, there you have it, folks. Congratulations to all the clubs that were honored by that illustrious online vessel of industry info which is gameops.com.

In other, more narcissistic news, this fine blog has once again cracked the Top 30 on MLBlogs most-viewed “Pro” blogs. Keep spreading the word about Ben’s Biz, because I’m gunnin’ for that number one spot.

That would show them. That would show them all!

Kane County Able to Capitalize on MLB's Skyrocketing Cougar Population

cougars.gifAs regular readers of this esteemed blog are well aware, there is nothing I like more than writing unsolicited commendations of Minor League PR innovations in exchange for little or no recognition. That’s what I was put on this Earth to do, and who am I to argue with my cosmic destiny?

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I direct your attention to a novel and interesting contest that was staged by the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars. At the start of the 2008 campaign, 96 former Cougar players had appeared in the Major Leagues. I’ll let the press release take it from here:

This past March, the Cougars began a “100th Cougar Contest” in
conjunction with the organization potentially reaching the milestone
this season. Fans were encouraged to submit a guess from a preselected
ballot of nine former Cougars who were on the verge of becoming
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Leaguers this season.

One of these pre-selected Cougars was right-handed reliever Jeff Gray, who played for Kane County in 2006. Gray made his Major League debut with the Oakland Athletics on September 8, and in the process became Cougar #100 to make it to the bigs.

Take it away, press release:

Cougars fan Kerry Palmiter of suburban Romeoville was the randomly
selected entry winner. Palmiter submitted the correct guess earlier
this summer and will receive an authentic Cougars home jersey with
special #100 embroidery.

This is the first time I have ever heard of such an innovation, and it is definitely a good one. Focusing on alumni success in the Major Leagues encourages the team’s fans to follow former Cougars as they climb the Minor League ladder. Perhaps more importantly, it drives home the point that fans are watching future Major Leaguers each and every time they attend a Cougars game. Perhaps this is obvious, but it is a distinction that can be lost on casual fans, due to the fact that the level of play at Class A (and lower) often seems worlds away from “The Show”.

In Other News: Congratulations to the Fresno Grizzlies for winning MiLB.com’s “Promotion of the Year” for 2008. The club’s Mascot Showdown netted more than half of the 9,149 total votes cast, while the Lancaster JetHawks came in second with 23% of the vote.

Featherweight Fighters Do Battle In Kane County

Thumbnail image for kcc.gifAccording to the fine folks at Guinness World Records, the largest pillow fight ever occurred at the University of Albany in 2005, and featured 3,648 combatants.

Last season, the Kane County Cougars attempted to break this record by staging a “World’s Largest Pillowfight” promotion. They made a good show of it, but ultimately fell short as they were able to entice “just” 3,085 fans to engage in post-game cushion combat.

In a display of the indomitable spirit that characterizes those from the great Midwest, the club simply decided they needed to try a little harder this season.

“After coming so close last
season and seeing the tremendous response towards the event,
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no doubt in our mind that we were going to take another crack at
breaking the world record this season,” Cougars Assistant General
Manager Jeff Ney said in a press release announcing this year’s feather-filled battle royale.

And break the World Record they did, as 3,872 fans took part in a post-game pillow fight on July 19th. The aforementioned fine folks at Guinness have not officially confirmed the Cougars’ triumph over the University of Albany, but hopefully they will legitimize the proceedings in the very near future.

In the meantime, the Cougars’ website features a video of the event as well as a post-fight wrap-up. Click here.

If Guinness confirms the record and the Cougars achieve pillow fighting immortality, it will be interesting to see if they can break their own record next year. Perhaps they could generate further interest in the event by snagging an endorsement from Speaker of the House Nancy “Pillow”-si.

It’s worth a shot.

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