On the Road: Tent Pitchers and Catchers in Kane County
To see all of my posts from this May 23, 2015 visit to the Kane County Cougars (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my May 2015 trip through the Midwest, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
Long-time readers of this long-time blogging concern might remember that, yes, I have visited the Kane County Cougars before. It was on Labor Day, 2010, a speedily played afternoon game on the last day of the season. There was a melancholy vibe at the ballpark that day; summer was giving way to autumn and thus it was time to say goodbye to Minor League Baseball.
My most recent visit, which kicked off my May 2015 Midwest-based road trip, was the yin to that yang. It was May 23, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and the ballpark vibe was lighthearted and celebratory. Spring was giving way to summer and thus it was time to welcome Minor League Baseball with open arms.
Hello, Kane County! Time to take a crooked photo.
The Cougars have played in the same ballpark since their 1991 inception. The last time I visited it was known as “Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium,” but these days it carries the moniker of “Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.” (There are a lot of Fifth Third Bank ballparks around the Minors these days. It’s getting kind of annoying.)
The ballpark is located on the grounds of the Kane County Forest Preserve, in the town of Geneva, Illinois. The parking lot is spacious.
“Camp Local,” says one of the brochures on this Forest Preserve bulletin board.
How’s this for camping local? The Cougars were hosting a scout camp out that evening, with the scouts pitching their tents in a field located, literally, across the pond. (This field, accessible via bridge, was located just beyond the right field berm seating area.)
Shawn Touney, the Cougars director of public relations and a very helpful and proactive guy, met me here and began showing me around. This is the new Strike Zone seating area: $69 for a four-top ($89 on fireworks nights).
Brand, in his second year in Kane County, is seeking to become the latest Cougars broadcaster to make it to the Major Leagues. If he accomplishes this goal, he’d join the meritorious likes of Scott Franzke (Phillies), Wayne Randazzo (Mets) and Dave Wills (Rays).
Fifth Third Bank Ballpark (which, henceforth, I will refer to as “FTTB”) covers a lot of acreage. This is the view beyond right field.
Geyer warned me that balls bouncing in the dirt were an occupational hazard, but both of the pitches that I caught came in high and true. (Even better, no one complained that some weirdo writer was catching the balls instead of a Cougars player.)
— Jason Bohn (@jasonbohn9) May 23, 2015
I quickly swapped out one pair of balls for another.
“Look for energetic kids, and get some height on the throws because it’s fun to watch [the fans] jump for it,” said Logan, a member of the promo team.
I did my best. And, as usual, my best ends up looking weird and awkward.
The National Anthem featured “bombs bursting in air” fireworks courtesy of Cougars pyrotechnic expert Jack “Mr. Kaboom” Phelan, who I’ve written about before and will write about again. Certainly, this was not an atmosphere lacking in patriotic flourish.
With the game underway, my promo team cohorts and I retreated to a tunnel alongside the visitor’s dugout.
Battle Balls, to be specific.