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Druley: Cougars’ approach to new guys: ‘Let them go get ’em’

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 10:38 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 10:42 p.m. CST

The Cougars’ roster roulette slowed for a change this week.

Transactions have been minimal since the club embarked on a season-high, seven-game road trip to Peoria and Cedar Rapids, although the protocol for welcoming newcomers remains close at hand just in case.

“Introduce yourself and keep it going,” outfielder Trey Martin said. “Just put them in the lineup and time to start playing together.”

Considering all the climbing numbers around Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, that formula seems to be working.

In addition to roster moves – which include 10 players promoted from Class-A Kane County to Advanced-A Daytona – the Cougars’ win total keeps mounting, too.

The team was a Midwest-League best 72-43 entering Thursday’s series opener at Cedar Rapids, 16 wins from tying the 2001 club’s single-season franchise record.

Maintaining a friendly rapport with players, manager Mark Johnson still finds part of the assimilation process hinges on being hands-off.

That’s especially true as the team welcomed right-hander Jonathan Martinez (Dodgers) and catcher Victor Caratini (Braves) from different organizations after the parent Cubs made nonwaiver trades before the July 31 deadline.

“You let them fend for themselves. Just let them go get ’em,” Johnson said. “It’s just like going to spring training for the first time and just like going to instructional league or your new affiliate or going to your new class in high school. Whatever for the first time. It takes a couple days. … No big deal.

“They get on the field and they perform together, and all then all of a sudden, they start clicking.”

“Dudz” redux: Former Kaneland boys basketball standout Dave Dudzinski leaves for Agrigento, Italy, later this month to join his first professional team.

Dudzinski played for coach Milan Brown for four seasons at Holy Cross, so he’s no stranger to Italian place names.

With brothers named Morocco and Marseille, Brown is well-versed in exotic locales, too.

The Browns grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where parents Charles and Pamela both were teachers. Brown’s mother taught Spanish and loved researching and discussing other countries. Apparently, that passion also prompted her to eschew any baby name books.

Brown’s father didn’t mind, under one condition:

“As long as you keep putting out boys,” Brown began, remembering his dad’s words, “you can name them whatever you want to name them.”

Brown met Dudzinski’s parents, David and Barb, several times over, including in late April 2010, as Brown visited the group at Kaneland shortly after joining Holy Cross. Sean Kearney, the coach who recruited Dudzinski, then a high school senior, was fired after leading the Crusaders to a 9-22 record in his lone season.

Dudzinski, of course, remained with Holy Cross, culminating with a senior season that included averages of 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward also earned All- Patriot League honors as the Crusaders won 20 games, a high-water mark in Brown’s four seasons.

“It was a neat thing for us and for the school that he stayed,” Brown said. “I don’t think we want to know what would have happened if he hadn’t decided to stay. We wouldn’t be where we are now, I can tell you that.”

Playing in a conference that produced two 2013 NBA Draft picks – including lottery selection C.J. McCollum, a guard who went 10th overall to Portland – left Dudzinski feeling confident about competing in Europe.

“I kind of look back at some of those games. We beat some good teams and we lost to some good teams,” Dudzinski said. “But night in, night out, you had to bring it.”

Holy Toledo: To paraphrase exiled former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, Toledo, Ohio has been very, very good to Kaneland baseball players past and present.

Last weekend’s tap water contamination scare notwithstanding, of course.

Before those events shortened the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series, former Knights Ty Hamer, Drew Peters and Bobby Thorson helped the Crystal Lake Cardinals thrash opponents by a combined score of 39-2 in three pool play victories.

The Cardinals ultimately were declared the winners of the 16-team tournament this week via the run differential tiebreaker, with Thorson, a right-hander and corner infielder, garnering MVP honors.

In mid-June, Kaneland opened its summer baseball schedule by winning the 17U division at Toledeo’s Battle of the Bats tournament. The Knights pitched three complete games as part of a 4-0 finish.

• 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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