Organist Nancy Faust intended no puns while assessing the Kane County Cougars’ rumored parent-club limbo.
She revered being treated “royally” when the team was aligned with Kansas City the past two seasons, and “barely” has tracked recent reports that the Cubs could be next to sign a player-development contract with the Geneva-based Cougars.
Turn the conversation to music and her wordplay transforms. Faust captained the keyboard for nine of the Cougars’ Sunday home games in 2012 and will reprise that role next season, keeping an approach that values quick thinking and association like a symphony of spontaneity.
“As soon as I hear a name or I hear a number,” she said, “I usually hear something in my head.”
Generations of White Sox fans can attest. Faust served as the club’s organist for 41 years before retiring at the end of the 2010 season, crediting her longevity to adaptability and an ear for pop music.
Those arriving at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark early enough heard several current top-40 staples during batting practice. Faust fittingly adopted Philip Phillips’ rendition of “Home” shortly after he had performed it on “American Idol.”
While the sounds of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” at each opposing pitcher’s departure became her signature, the more subtle stuff arguably draws equal smiles.
The practice risks being mechanical, much like inserting anything into Shirley Ellis’ mid-1960s hit “The Name Game,” yet Faust always seems to keep things fresh.
Before each game this season, Cougars webmaster and public address announcer Kevin Sullivan handed Faust the opposing team’s roster. She scanned it and started brainstorming, getting occasional feedback from her like-minded husband, Joe, along the way.
Consider an Aug. 26 visit from the Burlington Bees. Outfielder Aaron Shipman prompted “Don’t Rock the Boat” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
For catcher John Nester, it was “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Rockin’ Robin,” among others.
Faust was no different in the big leagues, striking at any nominal inspiration from the Pale Hose or visiting players. Longtime opposing outfielder Pete Incaviglia always got her thinking of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Naturally, Faust only could channel the opening bars of the 17-minute song.
Fifth Third Bank Ballpark’s open-air organ booth offers easier access for fans than the one at U.S. Cellular Field, so Faust gladly pondered requests from passersby.
“I really enjoy the interaction,” she said. “There’s just enough that I don’t feel isolated, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable is just the constant positive feedback. I’m surrounded by people who are having a good time, and that’s contagious.”
In August 2011, Faust doubled as Promotion No. 8 in the Cougars’ “Night of 100 Promotions,” which also featured cohort Mike Veeck, son of former White Sox owner Bill.
The Cougars were happy to have Faust back for their “Sunday Fundays” this past season. Faust certainly should keep in tune before she returns in 2013.
Upcoming engagements include political fundraisers and outings for the Chicago Historical Society and the American Farm Bureau Convention in Tennessee. The convention took her to Hawaii last year.
“There’s just always something on the horizon that I play for,” Faust said. “It keeps me busy enough, but I still enjoy baseball because it affords me that opportunity to be creative with names and situations.”
Baseball is the reason Faust and her husband keep a pet donkey in a barn at their Mundelein home.
Their first donkey resulted from a Bill Veeck promotion in which a braying, four-legged door prize was not claimed.
The next one is called Mandy, and not for any affinity for Barry Manilow or his song.
That’s just the name the donkey came with. For the first time ever, perhaps, Faust’s hands – and fingers – were tied.
Sovacool takes reins of ACC girls soccer: Aurora Central Catholic recently hired Jen Sovacool as coach of the girls soccer program. A former high school standout in Georgia and at Naperville North in the late 1980s, Sovacool went on to play for Wisconsin and the U.S. national team.
Sovacool has coached high school and club teams since her playing days while coordinating clinics and camps.
“We are incredibly excited to have Jennifer as our coach,” ACC athletic director Sean Bieterman said in a news release. “Her experience as a player and coach clearly made her the best candidate for the position. We’re confident that she will build our [girls] soccer program and be a great role model to our female student-athletes.”
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.