Druley: Cougars beefing up Fifth Third Bank Ballpark

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Can there be such a thing as a five-tool baseball stadium?

Cougars brass continued to groom Fifth Third Bank Ballpark as a landmark candidate by recently adding “craft beer festival host” to the park’s ever-expanding list of multipurposes.

The club announced the Sept. 21 festival last week, and on Wednesday – in its best steel guitar twang – informed the masses that country music star Sara Evans is coming to town for an Aug. 4 concert.

A 5K run and walk already starts and stops on the field, so make Fifth Third a polling place and the former Elfstrom Stadium really will be spraying to all fields.

“We want to be able to use the great facility that we have here not for just baseball,” Cougars general manager Curtis Haug said. “Obviously, Cougars baseball is the main reason Fifth Third Bank Ballpark exists, but we feel we’ve got other opportunities to provide the community with some entertainment, whether it’s beer fests or Team USA baseball or concerts and things of that nature, 5Ks. Different things like that.”

Haug wasn’t trying to slip that Team USA bit in there. The club announced last week that the Cougars will host separate Team USA Collegiate National Team wood-bat games on July 15 and 16. USA Baseball officials reached out to the Cougars about the opportunity a few weeks ago.

Alt-rockers Wilco played Fifth Third last summer, a couple months before a Cougars employee brainstormed the beer fest in an annual October planning meeting.

“We’re always thinking ahead,” Haug said. “Even during the course of the 2013 season, we’re thinking ahead.”

Watch their speed: There was a method to St. Charles North’s supercharged summer of boys basketball. And it wasn’t methodical.

“We’re trying to get it and go,” North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “We’re looking for early offense in transition, and if we don’t have it, then we’re going to be patient and give somebody either a good look from 3 or something going toward the basket. But our initial offense is going to be transition.”

Early returns were promising, as North finished 11-1 in the Geneva Summer League behind versatile athletes such as Erik Miller, who doubles as a track standout in the spring.

While coaches know to carefully digest what they see each summer, Poulin can’t help feeling good about a bunch that jelled quickly on the heels of heavy graduation losses.

“I’m excited and our coaching staff’s excited. We really like this group,” Poulin said. “They’re already teammates, and they’re already team-first kids. We’ve got a lot, a lot of work to do on both ends of the floor, but like I’ve said, sometimes you spend a lot of time just getting them to play together and get along, and that’s already happening, so it’s going to be fun.”

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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