Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grand Slam Gazette: Fan Newspaper from the Kane County Cougars

When I attend a baseball game, either major or minor leagues, I do not expect much from any free team-related magazine or newspaper that I am given at the gate. These publications are often filled with advertising and not much else. I just hope for basic information about the facility and the players. With low expectations, I was genuinely surprised by the July 2011 issue of Grand Slam Gazette that we got at a Kane County Cougar game. Bonnie said I should look it over, and she was right.

I enjoyed "Behind the Plate Then ... In the Dugout Now," an interview with Cougar manager Vance Wilson that starts on page 8. Wilson is a former major league catcher who retired in 2009, but few fans will remember him, for he spent more time in the bullpen and dugout than on the field. He did not get into a game the first time he was called up to the Mets. First time he got to bat he had been in the bullpen and had to run through the tunnel in cleats to just get to the on deck circle in time. When with the Tigers, he got to meet and listen to Al Kaline talk about baseball in the 1950s and 1960s. Wilson seems to be a man with firm opinions and the ability to tell stories. I wonder if he might be capable of writing a book.

I also liked "Affiliation 101," a primer to the relationships between major league teams and the partnerships that run minor league teams. This Q&A spells out how a minor league team comes into being and who pays for what. While the article asserts that some great players have passed through Kane County, it is honest in mentioning that some players are released after their KCC season. I was surprised to learn that Adrian Gonzalez was a former Cougar. The Marlins traded him to the Rangers before he debuted in the majors. I checked the scorecard for the game that we attended in 2002; Gonzalez was out of the lineup that day.

Looking at the roster and at the "Top 10 Prospects" page, I see for the first time players that are younger than my daughter. Boy, do I feel old. Still, I think I ran the bases well after the game.

"Big League Dreams" states that 111 former Cougars have made it to the majors in the minor league teams in KCC's first twenty years. (Bonnie and I missed seeing at least one game only one year.) The article identifies players in the Oakland As organization who are close to promotion. The Cougars are now affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, so we should see a stream of players debuting in the next several years.

I am reminded that we saw Aaron Cames pitch a no-hitter at Elfstrom Stadium in 1997 by the story "Sugar Ray and Chas Throw Some Pizzazz." There have now been seven Cougar no-hitters.

Now that I have finished reading the Grand Slam Gazette, I will put it away in my baseball card closet. It will be even more more fun to read ten years from now.

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