GENEVA – Cougars manager Mark Johnson already has guided many of the same players who’ll suit up for tonight’s season opener against Quad Cities.
Johnson spent the past two seasons managing the parent Cubs’ Class A-Short Season affiliate in Boise, Idaho.
In 2012, the Hawks advanced to the Northwest League championship series.
Johnson realizes fans have heard good things about highly-touted hitters such as former Boise regulars Dan Vogelbach (first base) and Jeimer Candelario (third base), and were intrigued by the prospect of seeing outfielder Albert Almora until he suffered a spring training injury last month.
There’ll be some mixing and matching, but whatever the lineup’s configuration, expect some runs, Johnson said. Trust him.
“If you look at the roster and the lineup, you’ve got speed at the top and power in the middle and a little of both at the end,” Johnson said. “And then speed again at the very end.
“Even the speed guys have got some power, too. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Take it from Heesch: Left-hander Michael Heesch, who grew up in Crystal Lake but now spends offseasons in Bartlett after his parents’ recent move, tasks himself with versing his teammates on the basics of Cubs culture.
“He said fans are great and it’s cold around here,” was outfielder and Atlanta native Trey Martin’s summation.
Heesch admittedly was fuzzy on at least one matter, recalling how the commercial for the video game “MLB 12 The Show” nearly sent him into a frenzy.
Footage depicts the bedlam in Chicago after the Cubs win the World Series in the present day.
In real life, that feat hasn’t occurred since 1908.
“If we ever won a World Series, you would never have to pay for a meal ever again in the city,” Heesch said. “There would be a museum, there’d be statues.”
Et cetera: General manager Curtis Haug said separate templates for white Cubs “Cs,” to be stamped into the berm down the left- and right-field lines, are on order. Using a darker color, namely red, threatens the life of the grass. ... Quad Cities signed a two-year player-development contract with the Houston Astros in September, rekindling its Midwest League partnership from 1993-98. The River Bandits spent the past eight seasons as a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. ... The Kansas City Royals, the Cougars’ parent club from 2011-12, shifted to the South Atlantic League, aligning with Lexington (Ky.). Buck Buchanan, who managed the Cougars last season, will fill the same role for the Legends. ... The Cougars play a home opener each spring, but 2006 marked the last time they began the season in Geneva. A crowd of 1,836 watched the Cougars defeat Quad Cities, 6-3. The club expects a much larger gathering tonight.