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Former Sox catcher Johnson first Cougars manager as Cubs affiliate

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 5:33 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Former White Sox catcher Mark Johnson will be the Kane County Cougars’ first manager as a Cubs affiliate.

The Cougars, in conjunction with the Cubs, announced Tuesday the field staff for the 2013 season – the 23rd season of Cougars baseball and the first season of the franchise’s affiliation with the Cubs.

Johnson, 37, has been named the 15th manager in Cougars history, receiving a promotion from the same position with the Boise Hawks, the Cubs’ Short-A affiliate. Johnson spent the past two seasons in the managerial post for Boise, guiding last year’s squad to the Northwest League Championship Series. His team included numerous Cubs prospects such as last year’s first-round draft pick Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez and Jeimer Candelario.

Johnson’s big league playing career included portions of eight seasons as a catcher, beginning with his major league debut in 1998 with the White Sox. After his time with the Sox (’98-’02), Johnson played with Oakland in 2003, Milwaukee in 2004, and closed out his major league tenure with St. Louis in 2008. Johnson hit 16 home runs and drove in 83 runs in 332 major league games.

Johnson, who could not be reached for comment, was a first-round pick of the Sox in the 1994 draft, chosen as the 26th overall selection. Last season’s Cougars manager, Buck Buchanan, was selected 24th in that same draft by the New York Yankees. Johnson has some familiarity with the Midwest League, having played in 67 games during the 1996 season with South Bend – a White Sox affiliate at the time.

Ron Villone has been named Cougars pitching coach after serving in the same role for Peoria last season. Villone, a first-round pick of Seattle in the 1992 draft, played for 12 teams during his major league career and recorded a 61-65 record with 717 appearances.

Tom Beyers has been named Cougars hitting coach. Beyers has been a coach or coordinator for more than a decade in the Cubs system, dating back to 2000. A 15th-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, Beyers advanced as high as Triple-A as a player and spent time in the Midwest League with Clinton in 1979 before concluding his playing career in 1983. Beyers managed the 2004 Boise squad which won the NWL championship.

Shane Nelson has been named Cougars athletic trainer. Nelson served in the same role with Peoria last season and began as a Cubs athletic training intern in 2011.

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