GENEVA – Sitting in the conference room in the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark front office Monday, Cougars general manager Curtis Haug uttered the following:
“It just seemed like it was destiny for it to happen, and it happened,” he said.
Then, moments later: “They had so much confidence. It was unbelievable.”
Haug spoke of the Cougars team that clinched the Midwest League championship Saturday night, not of the Cubs executives with whom he hopes to extend the club’s player-development contract beginning in 2015.
That matter is hardly as cut-and-dried as the Cougars’ on-field success this season.
“At this point, we don’t know much,” Haug said. “We’ve had on-and-off discussions for over a year now, so we’ll see what happens here.”
The Cougars ended their two-year PDC with the Cubs in the best manner possible, going 98-49, including postseason, to win the franchise’s first MWL title since 2001.
Much of the Cubs brass descended on Fifth Third Bank Ballpark during the season and in 2013, a nod to the convenient commute from Wrigley Field. Despite optimism from both sides – new Cougars owner Dr. Bob Froehlich and Cubs president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod both lauded the arrangement this summer – the Cougars enter an important week without a 2015 affiliation.
Beginning today, major league teams can negotiate with unattached minor league clubs for two weeks. The Cubs’ decision to end their PDC with Short-A Boise and possibly do the same with Advanced-A Daytona has the Cougars and those in other MWL circles cognizant of a possible change.
Per ballparkdigest.com, the Cougars, Beloit, Fort Wayne and South Bend are the lone MWL clubs that haven’t renewed PDCs. Each team in the corresponding Class-A South Atlantic League is attached to a PDC next season.
“At the end of the day, we’ve done everything we can for the Chicago Cubs organization, and we feel good about that,” Haug said. “And they’ve been a great partner for the last two years, and we’re looking forward to many more years with them.”
On Sept. 2, the day after the regular season ended, the Cougars announced a capital improvement project for the 2015 season, the club’s 25th in Geneva.
Construction projects include a high-definition video replay board, expanded weight room, advanced video room, new batting cage and climate-controlled hitting tunnels and a permanent music pavilion/concert area.
The Cougars already have removed seats from behind home plate for a premium viewing area that includes wait service, and plan to begin concrete work on that phase next week.
Haug said those projects were in the works regardless, and not a bid to woo the Cubs back.