Cubs chatter flooded the Cougars’ front office from the time Kane County announced its two-year player-development contract with the North Siders in September.
An affiliation that officially gets under way with Thursday’s season opener against Quad Cities at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark was even rumored to be adopting a new look and moniker.
Alas, the only Kane County Cubs coming to town will be those big league players and executives who make the trek to Geneva in their free time. The Cougars might don Cubbie blue batting practice jerseys and warm-up jackets, but otherwise are keeping the look of the past two-plus decades.
“There wasn’t much to it,” Cougars general manager Curtis Haug said. “I think we made it clear that we were going to stick with our color schemes and our name. We worked hard for 22 years to develop the brand, and we’re going to stick with it for now, for sure.”
Late Monday afternoon, the Cougars tweeted a picture of the team’s Peoria Charter Coach bus arriving at the ballpark. That’s a popular Midwest League transportation line, one fan told another searching for irony.
Before this season, the Peoria Chiefs were a Cubs affiliate from 2005-12. The team’s uniforms looked a lot like the Cubs’, including home white jerseys and pants with blue pinstripes and blue caps.
First-year Cougars manager Mark Johnson guided the Cubs’ Short-A affiliate in Boise, Idaho, the past two seasons, donning uniforms with hunter green, red, orange and yellow during that time. Boise switched from red, white and blue to its current color scheme before the 2007 season.
While a handful of other Cubs farmhands adapt to the big league brand, it is not an organization-wide mandate.
“[Triple-A] Iowa is red and blue and [Double-A] Tennessee is red and blue and [High-A] Daytona is red and blue,” Johnson said. “Boise is almost the same colors as Kane County, the black and green.
“The only concern is wearing blue shoes with green uniforms. The only reason I say that is we had the same thing in Boise. A little bit of a clash, but when you get out there on that field, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. We’re just coming up there to play ball.”
Haug, who entered the Cougars organization as a group sales representative and souvenir merchandise manager in November 1993, begins his second season as GM.
He’s eager to steer the club into an exciting new era and build the foundation laid by inaugural Cougars general manager Bill Larsen, who Haug called “the pied piper.”
“You just have a lot of new fans out there,” Haug said. “There’s tons of Cubs fans in the market, and there’s a lot of those fans that we’re going to be able to have at our ballpark this summer.”
Blog on: Just as the Cougars expanded the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark press box in anticipation of increased media attention this season, we’ve set out to supplement our Cougars print coverage with a new blog, Wrigley West.
Be sure to check out http://www.kcchronicle.com/blogs/wrigley-west/ regularly throughout the season for the latest info on the Cougars. And don’t adjust your monitors; that’s my mug featured alongside the Cougars/Cubs logos in the blog’s header.
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.