GENEVA – One scouting report on minor league baseball fans contends they couldn’t tell you which teams were playing if you asked them.
Make sure the vendors are visible and the person operating the PA system occasionally makes them want to shout, and everything will be fine.
There’s no doubt some among the casual set have occupied a Fifth Third Bank Ballpark seat this season. Even as the Cougars trumpet their affiliation with the Cubs, it’s likely that sort of spectator will continue to show.
Should he or she happen to attend a pair of games over the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, however, the opponent had better be on their lips. In a bid to balance the schedule, Quad Cities comes to town from July 4 through 8 in a rare five-game series. That’s as long as the League Championship Series and comes on the heels of the Cougars’ five-game trip to Wisconsin.
“Sometimes, we just try something,” MWL president George Spelius said. “Nothing to fool anybody or anything like that.”
Poll the Cougars’ clubhouse on the quirk and the consensus is there’ll be little secrecy, indeed.
“You make sure you see every starter and you see relievers more than once, so you can see hitters’ tendencies, kind of what and how to throw them,” left-hander Sheldon McDonald said.
“The guys know each other a little bit better on each team,” added manager Mark Johnson, “so you’ve got to execute your at-bats and your pitches a little bit better and have a better game plan going against these guys.”
Recognition oftens comes sooner than the end of a series – three games, four games or otherwise – especially against fellow Western Division clubs.
The Cougars visited Quad Cities for four games last week to open the second half of the season. Center fielder Albert Almora had an idea of how the River Bandits’ staff was going to work him after Game 2.
“It just depends on what’s happening, you know,” Almora said. “How the outcome of the game is going.”
Spelius said the five-game series was in its “embryo stage” in the MWL after he and a panel of general managers elected to integrate a few this season. He can’t recall a wealth of five-gamers in his 27 seasons heading the league, but they’ve happened.
Spelius noted that “there’s never the perfect schedule” as the MWL and its brethren comply with off-day and other quotas set by the MLB commissioner’s office and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
This week in the big leagues, there were two-game interleague series played between travel days Monday and today.
Five-game series are nothing new for many Cougars, who found them to be the norm last season in the Short-A Northwest League. That made slightly more logistical sense in a geographically generous, eight-team league whose northernmost and southernmost clubs play in Vancouver, Canada, and Boise, Idaho, respectively.
While Spelius can appreciate players’ pining for the natural change of scenery a three-game series brings, he also reminds folks to remember the boys in blue as the schedule takes an early July turn.
“When it’s a bus with a club, players can just sit there and sleep,” Spelius said. “When it’s drivers, they can’t when they’re umpires.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on twitter at @kevindruley.
IN THE COUGARS DEN
Outfielder Reggie Golden entered Wednesday’s matinee against Beloit with hits in five of his past 14 at-bats, a .357 batting average.
Left-hander Brian Smith has allowed 13 runs in his past four appearances covering 12 innings. Six of those runs are unearned, including five in Tuesday’s first inning against Beloit.
Before Wednesday, Wisconsin center fielder Tyrone Taylor was batting .474 (18 for 38) in his past 10 starts, albeit with modest power numbers – just one home run and RBI. A second round pick of the parent Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, the 19-year old Taylor will be on the Cougars’ radar when the club visits the Timber Rattlers for a five-game series from June 29 to July 3.
Right-hander Pierce Johnson, promoted from the Cougars to Advanced-A Daytona last week, spaced three runs, six hits and two walks in six innings against Lakeland in his Florida State League debut Monday. “He looks like one of those guys I think you’ll be seeing in a big league uniform, no doubt,” Cougars pitching coach Ron Villone said. ... The Cougars lead the all-time series with Beloit, 177-174, including a 3-4 mark this season. ... A replica 1969 Cubs No. 10 jersey will be raffled off as part of tonight’s Ron Santo Night, with proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Ron Santo, Jr., is expected to be in attendance for the 6:30 p.m. game against Beloit. ... Villone on Johnson’s and all other promotions: “You never see anything coming. If you do, you probably live in Vegas.”
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
LEADERS IN THE KANE COUNTY COUGARS CLUBHOUSE (THROUGH WEDNESDAY)
BATTING AVERAGE Bijan Rademacher, .311 Dan Vogelbach, .276 Rock Shoulders, .268
HOME RUNS Rock Shoulders, 14 Dan Vogelbach, 11 Willson Contreras, 6
RBIs Dan Vogelbach, 45 Rock Shoulders, 41 Oliver Zapata, 28
STOLEN BASES Marco Hernandez, 9 Oliver Zapata, 8 Gioskar Amaya, 8
ERA Nathan Dorris. 2.70 Jeffry Antigua, 2.78 Felix Pena, 2.89
WINS Tayler Scott, 4 3 players with 3