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KC Cougars

Kane County Cougars excited over Cubs partnership

Wayne Randazzo quickly recorded a corresponding phone prompt after the Kane County Cougars agreed to a two-year player-development contract with the Cubs last month.

A little less than an hour later, those buzzing about a partnership club officials deemed a natural heard notes from the soundtrack to “The Natural” playing beneath Randazzo’s words.

In the two weeks since the Cougars and Cubs teamed at the Low-A level, plenty of fans have called the Cougars front office and waited on hold. Some eventually hear Randazzo live. The club’s radio voice on AM-1280 WBIG doubles as a member of the sales staff, and there have been no worries whatsoever about dead air.

“It’s a great thing for the organization top to bottom,” Randazzo said Tuesday. “It’s definitely been exciting around the office. We got immediate response through season-ticket holders and new people signing up for season tickets. Then talking with potential advertisers, it’s been amazing, too. It’s really a merging of two strong brand names.”

Kane County’s promotions staff arrived in Reno, Nev., on Tuesday for this week’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar, an annual idea-bouncing session between organizations nationwide.

The program focuses on pregame, in-game and postgame giveaways, entertainment and activities.

Individual tickets for the 2013 season are set to go on sale Oct. 20, and surely there’ll be chatter about the future Cubs hopeful to be on hand at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for Opening Day less than six months later.

Baseball America recently tabbed seven players from the Cubs’ 2012 Short-A Boise affiliate among a top 20 list of Northwest League prospects. There’s no guarantee any will appear in the Midwest League next season, but given the natural minor league progression, it’s likely at least a few could play in Geneva.

First baseman Dan Vogelbach was considered the Northwest League’s second-best prospect, and could be part of a potentially solid infield that includes shortstop Marco Hernandez (No. 6), third baseman Jeimer Candelario (No. 7) and second baseman Gioskar Amaya (No. 9).

While Randazzo hasn’t yet taken to officially practicing names, he figures some in Chicago and the suburbs already have – and will hold him to any would-be mispronunciations.

“The Cubs fans have a deep loyalty for this team. They follow these guys from the time they’re drafted through the time they get to Clark and Addison,” Randazzo said. “With these prospects being closer to home, I definitely expect more fans to be tuning in and showing up and getting an idea of who they might be seeing in a few years.

“I even think it will be something that becomes familiar for White Sox fans.”

The White Sox remain rooted in the South Atlantic League with Low-A affiliate Kannapolis (N.C.), which will face farmhands from the Cougars’ former parent club, the Kansas City Royals, in 2013 and beyond.

As part of extensive affiliate shuffling – six of the MWL’s eight Western Division teams signed PDCs with new clubs last month – Kansas City went to Lexington (Ky.), which formerly was aligned with the Houston Astros.

Houston rejoined the MWL from Lexington after partnering with Quad Cities, its affiliate from 1993-98. Other new alliances took root in Peoria (St. Louis Cardinals), Beloit (Oakland A’s), Burlington (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and Cedar Rapids (Minnesota Twins).

“Once in awhile, you’ll get three, four movements. In this case, it was six,” Midwest League president George Spelius said. “It’s hard to say why we could get that many, but we did. I don’t really get too excited about it, but nobody told me they were mad at anybody, you know what I mean.”

Former longtime Cubs affiliate Peoria attracted more than 300 fans to O’Brien Field last month as Chiefs president Rocky Vonachen and St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak officially signed a four-year PDC.

The Cougars and Cubs are on board for half that term, but there’s always the option of renewal.

The Cougars hope that’s a term season ticket-holders will be all the more inclined to embrace with Cubs prospects on the way.

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