GENEVA – Many Cubs minor leaguers Google Lee Tinsley’s playing career when they first learn the Cubs’ roving outfield/base-running coordinator is coming to town.
Tinsley brings better intelligence than that on each individual he’s teaching, but after counseling the Cougars for much of the past week, finds most players fit the same category on the bases.
“A lot of them are still pretty raw as far as stealing and things like that, so they still need a lot of work,” Tinsley said. “But you just have to keep continuing to do it and hopefully they start figuring out what they need to do, what kind of jumps they have and basically, in the end, being their own self-evaluator.”
Some baseball people lament baserunning as a lost art. That hits especially close to home in the Cougars’ current six-game road trip to Beloit and Peoria.
Through Tuesday, the Cougars (70), Snappers (69) and Chiefs (67) have stolen the fewest bases in the Midwest League. Bowling Green leads the 16-team MWL with 170.
Style, not substance, remains Tinsley’s focus, which adds up for a former big league outfielder who registered just 41 steals in 61 attempts in parts of five seasons with Seattle, Boston and Philadelphia.
He admits to taking a “more simplified” approach in Kane County than during stops in Double-A and Triple-A, but the scenarios are mostly similar.
“Paying attention to balls in the dirt, what pitch is being thrown, all the stuff you can do to be advancing,” Cougars left fielder Reggie Golden said.
Tinsley works with players between infield and batting practice, usually beginning at first base and shuttling around the horn, discussing strategies at each stop.
His coaching career followed an equally mobile path. Tinsley is a former Arizona Diamondbacks first-base coach and Seattle Mariners third-base coach. Because he played his final big league game at 28 in 1997, Tinsley’s beginnings as a coach overlapped with the end of the playing careers of Johnson and Cougars pitching coach Ron Villone.
Tinsley joined the Cubs in September 2010. Many current Cougars worked with him at Short-A Boise last season. After spring training, designated hitter/first baseman Rock Shoulders called Tinsley’s help instrumental in his transition as an occasional outfielder.
“They know I played in the big leagues and know I coached there, too,” Tinsley said. “There’s some credibility there, so when I am teaching something like baserunning and outfield, they understand where I’m coming from because I played. It just makes it easier to teach.”
Tinsley has visited the Cougars a handful of times this season. He doesn’t envision himself reinventing the wheel in either area of expertise next time through.
That’s fine by Johnson.
“Just a continual thing, kind of like what we do every day,” Johnson said. “You repeat yourself, repeat things a lot. Just got to keep drilling and drilling the basic fundamentals, because sometimes people will kind of get away from what they need to be doing and you’ve got to get them back on track.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.
IN THE COUGARS' DEN
Second baseman Gioskar Amaya entered Wednesday’s series opener at Beloit batting .486 (17 for 35) in his past 10 starts and .400 in July.
Designated hitter Rock Shoulders is 2 for 28 (.071) with 11 strikeouts since returning from the 7-day disabled list with a sprained ankle earlier this month.
Beloit second baseman Chris Bostick opened the season in a slump, but has batted .323 (88 for 272) since May and ranks third in the league with 71 RBIs. Bostick turned down a scholarship from St. John’s to sign with the parent Oakland A’s, who selected him in the 44th round in 2011.
Entering Wednesday, the Cougars had to win 23 of their remaining 40 games to avoid tying the club’s single-season record of 76 losses. Former managers Joel Youngblood (1992) and Aaron Nieckula (2007) share the mark. ... The team record for fewest home games in a season was 64 in 1999. The Cougars would host 68 in 2013 if there are no more postponements. ... Left-hander Michael Heesch, a Prarie Ridge product whose family now lives in Bartlett, has not recorded a victory since June 8 at Cedar Rapids. ... Midwest League president George Spelius on uptick in MWL attendance: “We’ve drawn pretty good when it’s hot, so I’d rather have that than the sleet and such earlier in the season. We’re going in the right direction.” ... The Cougars commute from Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for road series at Beloit. The team bus departs about 1:30 p.m. for 7 p.m. games.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
LEADERS IN THE KANE COUNTY COUGARS CLUBHOUSE (THROUGH TUESDAY)
Albert Almora, .324
Dan Vogelbach, .293
Gioskar Amaya, .281
Rock Shoulders, 15
Dan Vogelbach, 14
Willson Contreras, 7
Dan Vogelbach, 62
Rock Shoulders, 47
Oliver Zapata, 37
Marco Hernandez, 13
Gioskar Amaya, 11
Oliver Zapata, 10
Nathan Dorris, 2.85
Stephen Perakslis, 3.45
Michael Heesch, 3.56
Nathan Dorris, 4
Tayler Scott, 4
Three players tied with 3