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Inside the Cougars Den: Almora family humbled by looming bobblehead night

Published: Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 11:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 7:11 a.m. CDT

For the second straight summer, a box of bobbleheads depicting Albert and Ana Almora’s son arrived in the mail at their south Florida home.

On Tuesday, the first 1,500 fans through the gates for the Cougars’ 6:30 p.m. game against visiting Quad Cities will get to see the doll, too.

While the model’s muse, Cubs minor league outfielder Albert Almora, won’t be on hand, he appreciates anyone reliving the 61 games he spent in a No. 2 Cougars jersey in 2013.

“You know,” Ana Almora said, “it’s an honor for us.”

At this rate, the Almoras could receive separate deliveries in 2015 after Short-A Boise started the trend last summer.

Albert Almora, the Cubs’ first-round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft, opened this season with Advanced-A Daytona before earning a promotion to Double-A Tennessee last month.

Occasional visitors to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in 2013, the Almoras saw much more of their son at Daytona, just five hours from their home in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, outside Miami.

“We loved the atmosphere there, we loved the team, the coaching staff. Everything was wonderful,” Ana Almora said.

She also spoke highly of Smokies Park in Kodak, Tennessee, where the couple just watched a five-game series against Pensacola.

“Tennessee was just amazing. Amazing,” Ana Almora said. “To have the field that’s gorgeous between the mountains, the area there is beautiful. It gets super crowded. Just tike Daytona, they’re really into the baseball team. It was awesome.”

Albert Almora has remained healthy in 2014, avoiding the hand and groin injuries that limited him in his first full professional season.

Entering Friday, he was batting .271 overall in 102 games, with eight home runs, 53 RBIs and six stolen bases.

Initial struggles at Tennessee – .189 in 13 games – have been a challenge, but the always-upbeat Almora maintains a diligent work ethic to move past them. Ana Almora said her son assures it’s not a crutch, but acknowledged he is affected by his father’s February diagnosis with prostate cancer.

Albert Almora returned home for two days for his father’s April surgery, which was successful.

Ana Almora said her husband appears to be on the mend but has reached “a critical point” of persistent testing to ensure his blood levels are normal.

A former ballplayer in Cuba before he defected, Almora’s father naturally uses baseball to get by. Much like they did with Cougars’ broadcasts in 2013, the family flocks each night to the Internet radio calls of Almora’s games, bobbleheads or not.

“Oh, yes. Constantly,” Ana Almora said. “Constantly. Wherever it’s available.”

• 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.

INSIDE THE COUGARS DEN

One more Mauer

Former American League Most Valuable Player Joe Mauer’s ongoing rehab from a strained oblique coincided with the Cougars’ visit to Cedar Rapids this weekend.

Mauer is a Kernel for the near future, as he spends time with the Class-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins managed by his older brother, Jake.

The Mauers were Midwest League teammates with Quad Cities in 2002.

Joe Mauer sat out Thursday’s series opener against the Cougars after going 1 for 6 in two games against Wisconsin earlier this week. He is expected to play again today before being re-evaluated Sunday.

A full-time first baseman after spending the beginning of his career as a catcher, Mauer has not played in the major leagues since July 1.

One sneaky Bandit

In the latest twist of an already quirky schedule, the Cougars will host Quad Cities for a mere three games from Tuesday through Thursday before hitting the road again. The same thing happened last weekend.

One member of the River Bandits staff who won’t make that or any trip is outfielder/baserunning coach Vine Coleman, a speedster who played with six major league teams – most notably the St. Louis Cardinals – from 1985 to 1997.

Coleman works with Quad Cities only during home games, then serves as a roving instructor for the parent Houston Astros while the club is away.

“Great guy, great teacher,” River Bandits manager Omar Lopez said. “A lot of passion, a lot of knowledge.”

– Kevin Druley, kdruley@shawmedia.com

LEADERS IN THE KANE COUNTY COUGARS CLUBHOUSE (entering Friday)

BATTING AVERAGE Cael Brockmeyer, .299 Will Remillard, .286 Shawon Dunston Jr., .280

HOME RUNS Jacob Rogers, 13 Yasiel Balaguert, 6 C. Brockmeyer/ J.Candelario, 5

RBIS Jacob Rogers, 49 Yasiel Balaguert, 46 Ben Carhart, 41

STOLEN BASES Trey Martin, 24 Shawon Dunston Jr., 18 Carlos Penalver, 16

ERA James Pugliese, 1.74 Jen-Ho Tseng, 2.47 Michael Heesch, 2.57

WINS Daury Torrez, 10 Paul Blackburn, 9 Jonathan Martinez, 8

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