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Vogelbach leaves Cougars missing more than his brawn

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sean King for Shaw Media)
Kane County Cougars first baseman Dan Vogelbach scores on a Carlos Escobar sacrifice fly against Cedar Rapids Monday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.

Dan Vogelbach often awoke well before his former Cougars host family housemates to attend yoga classes.

He zipped from first to third before scoring his final run in a Kane County uniform and played in 114 of the team's 115 games until his promotion to Advanced-A Daytona late Monday.

Fans awaiting the next phase of the Cubs' rebuilding project hear Vogelbach's name and rightly conjure images of the burly 6-foot, 250-pound first baseman slamming home runs. They shouldn't shy away from visions of durability, though. Those might be less celebrated, but they certainly apply.

"I don't think people realize that I played point guard my whole life. I've always been playing a lot of sports. I've always been athletic," Vogelbach said. "So that's something I take pride in and always will take pride in."

Vogelbach answered the latest mobility challenge upon his promotion. Cougars manager Mark Johnson and hitting coach Tom Beyers informed the 2011 second-round pick of the move around 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Vogelbach's ride to the airport was set to pick him up around 4 a.m. Tuesday, with his flight departing about three hours later. Vogelbach was in the lineup for the opener of Tuesday's home doubleheader against Clearwater, batting fourth as Daytona's designated hitter. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

Vogelbach batted .284 with 17 home runs and 71 RBIs with the Cougars, closing his stay on a seven-game hitting streak. He was named the Cubs' organizational minor league player of the month for July.

Well-liked by the Cougars' faithful throughout the season, Vogelbach knows he'll miss many things about Geneva, but perhaps the big crowds most of all. The Cougars eclipsed 10,000 in attendance twice during what proved to be Vogelbach's final homestand, and drew a season-high 11,979 fans Saturday.

"It's awesome. I mean, you go out and you play in front of a crowd like that, it makes your adrenaline go and it makes you realize how lucky you are to play the game you love for a living," Vogelbach said. "And it also makes you realize when you get to Wrigley Field how much better it's going to be. These Cubs fans are so passionate, and when we do win that World Series, it's going to be awesome."

Gretzky Geneva-bound: Cubs outfield prospect Trevor Gretzky – son of former NHL superstar Wayne – tweeted Tuesday that he has been promoted from Short-A Boise to the Cougars.

Gretzky, 20, batted .256 in 27 games with Boise this season, collecting three doubles and six RBIs while competing for playing time with a strong Hawks outfield.

In 2012, he hit .304 in 35 games for Rookie League Mesa after the Cubs selected Gretzky in the seventh round of the 2011 draft out of Oaks Christian High School in California.

Cougars' fans' first chance to see one of The Great One's offspring will come when the team begins a seven-game homestand against Clinton and Beloit on Saturday night.

Wayne Gretzky won four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, the favorite team of Cougars left-handers Sheldon McDonald and Rob Zastryzny, both born in Canada. Trevor Gretzky wore No. 9 for Boise, a number Cougars hitting coach Tom Beyers currently occupies.

Allen making name: Geneva product Brad Allen, a right-hander in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, pitched at least six innings in seven of his nine starts before throwing a no-hitter for South Bend Saturday night.

Allen retired the last 25 West Michigan batters in order after a two-out walk in the first inning. He struck out nine.

Out of baseball for much of last summer, Allen went undrafted out of Arkansas State in 2011. A late 2012 resurgence with the Florence (Ky.) Freedom earned him an invitation to D'backs spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Showed up to spring training and kind of showed the organization what I could do. A couple people liked me here or there, so they sent me to A-ball," Allen said. "I've worked through some tough times, but also, the past two months I feel like I've made good strides and made a pretty good story. It's nice to get your name out there this way."

Shucking the system: Monday's last at-bat victory helped the Cougars improve their season record against Western Division-leading Cedar Rapids to 4-10. The teams play three more games in Iowa from Aug. 28 to 30.

Cedar Rapids hasn't just handled the Cougars, though. Kernels manager Jake Mauer credits the parent Minnesota Twins' deep stable of prospects for easing the team's transition when the organization recently promoted highly-touted talent such as first baseman Dalton Hicks and outfielders Byron Buxton and J.D. Williams to Advanced-A Fort Meyers.

"Obviously, we've had the Buxtons and the Hickses and the Williams of the world and some of those guys," Mauer said, "and now they're moving on in the Florida State League. And the guys that are here are still pretty good players.

"We still have the same kind of core guys … and then guys that have come up have been ready and contributed and really kind of kept the team chemistry pretty good."

Right fielder Adam Brett Walker definitely fits in the "core" category with his league-leading 26 home runs and 103 RBIs.

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