Kane County Cougars not on minor-league contraction list

  • A Kane County Cougars player high-fives young fans as he runs onto the field before a 2018 game. As major-league baseball is expected to cut an estimated 40 minor-league teams before play begins in 2021, the Cougars are not in danger of being cut.

    A Kane County Cougars player high-fives young fans as he runs onto the field before a 2018 game. As major-league baseball is expected to cut an estimated 40 minor-league teams before play begins in 2021, the Cougars are not in danger of being cut. File Photo

 
 
Updated 5/31/2020 5:49 PM

Minor-league baseball is dealing with double trouble.

First, it is "highly doubtful" there will be games this season, according to a source.

 

If major-league baseball is able to return from the coronavirus pandemic and play an abbreviated season, rosters are likely to expand to 30 and the top minor-league prospects will be on a 20-man taxi squad.

Second, if and when a sense of normalcy returns to the game, MLB is eventually going to turn its attention back to eliminating an estimated 40 minor-league teams -- a staggering 25% reduction -- as it looks to cut costs.

"This was a contentious year between major-league baseball and minor-league baseball, even prior to the coronavirus," said Curtis Haug, VP/general manager of the Class A Kane County Cougars. "It's strange because that was the hot thing going on in January and February and all of the sudden the coronavirus hit and the whole PBA (Professional Baseball Agreement) thing has been put on the back burner.

"There's still time to figure that out, while they're trying to figure out when they're going to start their (major-league) season. There is a lot on major-league baseball's plate right now."

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Most minor-league reductions are going to be short-season affiliates in Advanced Rookie Leagues.

Kane County is one of 16 teams in the low Class A Midwest League.

The Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees and Clinton LumberKings are all contraction candidates, but the Cougars are not going anywhere.

"In no way, shape or form has there been any discussions or thought that Kane County would be contracted, no way," Haug said. "There have been a lot of lists out there and not one of them has included Kane County. We're in a great market with a great ballpark and a lot of great history. Location is huge and we're so centrally located.

"(Major-league) teams love the fact we have two major airports right here. It's a great spot for a minor-league ballclub. No worries at all."

The Cougars play at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva, their home since 1991.

A current farm team of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kane County has also been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles (1991-92), Florida Marlins (1993-2002), Oakland A's (2003-10), Kansas City Royals (2011-12) and Cubs (2013-14).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While winning Midwest League championships and setting Class A attendance records, Kane County has also helped develop over 170 players that made it to the major leagues.

Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera and current Cubs Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora all played for the Cougars, as did Josh Beckett and Nelson Cruz.

Current White Sox manager Rick Renteria was in Kane County's dugout in 1999.

"It looks like a lot of change is probably coming, and hopefully it works out for the best," Haug said. "I'm sure it will. No matter what happens, no matter what affiliate we have, we're still the Cougars. We've had a lot of great players come through here.

"We have our niche here in the western suburbs and people come here because it's fun, it's family G-rated entertainment and it's a clean, safe environment. That's what people come here for, no matter who we're affiliated with."

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