GENEVA – The Fifth Third Bank Ballpark gates still were an hour from opening Friday when Beloit hitting coach Lloyd Turner surveyed the empty stands.
His first and fondest memory of the Cougars' home remained close at hand. All Turner had to do was close his eyes, and the place was packed.
That's how Turner encountered what was then Elfstrom Stadium in September 2003, an Oakland A's prospect sent from Advanced-A Modesto (Calif.) to join the Cougars for the Midwest League playoffs.
He appeared in all four games of a series Kane County lost, 3-1, to Clinton, then commenced clinging to the memory of the only minor league action he saw in Illinois.
"That was the first time in my professional career where I was going to be able to compete for something that actually meant something to a team that was actually playing well," Turner said. "And to know that I was going to be able to come here and hopefully help in some form or fashion, it was a memorable time for me."
Plenty has happened to both Turner and the Cougars since. For one, Kane County switched affiliations from Oakland to Kansas City before the 2011 season, then aligned with the Cubs beginning in 2013.
An infielder-outfielder hybrid, Turner played in the Oakland system through 2007, reaching Triple-A Sacramento for 36 games that season. The A's drafted him in the 16th round in 2002, and he still appreciates their patience. In 2004, he hit .292 and drove in 51 runs for Modesto in 125 games, but was unable to recapture that consistency after that.
Still just 34, Turner spent five seasons with independent league clubs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before reconnecting with the A's organization. He and current Snappers manager Rick Magnante and pitching coach Craig Lefferts were with Short-A Vermont in 2013.
Although the Snappers have struggled this season, Turner figures the tutelage of Magnante, 66, and Lefferts, 56, will be beneficial as he works to ascend the system as a coach. The age gap hasn't been an issue.
"You know, you'd think it would be that way, that they would be bossy. That they would I guess, kind of in a sense undermine you because of your age," Turner said. "But it's absolutely not that way.
"Granted, they've been around the game a lot longer than me and they've probably experienced way more than I'll ever experience in baseball … but it's good. I don't mind it. Because they're here to teach me, as well. I have a willing ear to listen to the things they have to say from their experiences."
Turner visited with Cougars manager Mark Johnson as the Snappers prepared for batting practice.
Both men hail from Warner Robins, Georgia, and Johnson conceded, "You don't see that too often; two guys from Warner Robins."
A healthy crowd at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark is far more commonplace, as Turner is quick to attest.
"Being able to come here and experience that in a playoff atmosphere was huge," he said.
• 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.
Charting the King
Several Cougars followed Friday's breaking news of NBA superstar LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers from Miami, where he spent the past four seasons and won two titles.
Right-hander Tyler Skulina – a native of Strongsville, Ohio, south of Cleveland – assured teammates that not every Cavaliers fan burned his or her James jersey four years ago.
Walking up to grab some food from the pregame spread, first base coach Chris Gutierrez joked he would buy his James jersey today.
Beloit entered the Midwest League as the Beloit Brewers in 1982 and remained a Milwaukee farmhand until 2005. The franchise was renamed the Snappers in 1995. … The Midwest League, which is in its final season under longtime president George Spelius, is based in Beloit. … The first 1,500 fans for today's 6:30 p.m. game against the Snappers will receive baseball caps courtesy of Athletico. … Four former Cougars – Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Baltimore outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz, Oakland left-hander Sean Doolittle and San Diego right-hander Tyson Ross – were named MLB All-Stars Sunday. This marks the 18th successive season in which the Midsummer Classic has included at least one former Cougar. The Minnesota Twins are hosting this year's game, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
Kyle Schwarber, .364 Cael Brockmeyer, .296 Will Remillard, .284
Jacob Rogers, 8 Yasiel Balaguert, 6 Jake Hannemann, 5
RBIs Yasiel Balaguert, 46 Jake Hanneman, 37 Jacob Rogers, 35
STOLEN BASES Jacob Hannemann, 28 Trey Martin, 18 Carlos Penalver, 16
WINS Daury Torrez, 9 Paul Blackburn, 8 Juan Paniagua, 6
ERA James Pugliese, 1.31 Jose Arias, 1.82 Duane Underwood, 2.54