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Druley: Cougars first season as Cubs affiliate quickly approaching

Furnaces supplanted hot stoves as primary warming sources long ago.

Still, stoves burn with the energy of offseason baseball chatter, of which there was plenty during a brief Cubs Caravan visit to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark last week.

The Cougars are set to open their first season as a Low-A Cubs affiliate on April 4, with a “Meet the Cubs” fan event scheduled Feb. 1.

Here’s some kindling as those dates approach. Who knows, it might also help with this weather:

• The Cougars added a pair of 5 p.m. Sunday starts as an attendance variable last season. When the twilight crowds – 5,159 on July 15 and 5,285 on July 29 – didn’t discern themselves, the club decided its usual Sunday starts were still the one in 2013. As in 1 p.m.

“No real big reason, we just thought that a day game with the Sunday Funday [promotion] might make more sense getting the families out here,” Cougars general manager Curtis Haug said. “Plus, it probably makes more sense for the Cubs. It’s a day game as opposed to a night game.”

The Cougars have 11 Sunday home games scheduled, playing two each in April, May, June, July and August before former Cubs farmhand Peoria visits on the Sunday before Labor Day.

• Cubs outfielder Tony Campana played only briefly in the Midwest League for then-Cubs affiliate Peoria in 2009. While his 18-game stint did not include a trip to Geneva, it also didn’t keep Campana from learning about the Cougars’ organization.

“I heard It’s a nice field and they get people to come out,” Campana said. “That always makes it good when you’re a guy in A-ball.”

At the point in Campana’s career, Kane County was about to conclude a long player development contract with the Oakland A’s. The Cougars traditionally have been a top MWL draw even when they were aligned with Baltimore, Florida, Oakland and Kansas City before the Cubs’ partnership took root in September, inspiring fans and brass in both Geneva and Chicago.

“When you have a place that’s close, I think you’ll get some more people coming out and get to see the future of what we’ve got in the organization,” Campana said.

Even on the same day as a Cubs game. Apart from Sundays and occasional Ozzie’s Reading Club matinees in April and May, the Cougars begin most of their weekday games at 6:30 p.m.

Kaneland’s Drendel says it loud: New Kaneland boys basketball announcer Andy Drendel once inspired the Knights’ student section as a player. As of Nov. 30, the 2005 Kaneland alumnus has helped ignite it with a microphone in his hand.

That morning, Kaneland athletic secretary Linda Kelley emailed Drendel, a physical education teacher at McDole Elementary in Montgomery, about filling in for Ryan Malo, who had a conflict with night courses he was taking.

Drendel spent much of his commute to Maple Park, as well as the sophomore game, mumbling to himself and fretting. He didn’t yet realize his father – longtime Kaneland teacher and coach Ralph Drendel – had been a former announcer, and was racking his brain for nuggets from the high school speech course he took from English faculty member and football announcer Kurt Green.

Close friend Ryan Gierke, a former teammate and Knights assistant, razzed his buddy and told him he’d be fine. Turns out Drendel did well enough to not only earn comparisons to his father, but receive the permanent announcing nod for the rest of the season.

“I know I don’t have that Kurt Green voice, you know, but I just try to make sure I say everything correctly,” Drendel said. “I don’t want to sound like I don’t know what I’m doing, basically.”

Drendel sometimes consults YouTube for ideas for standout “And-1” or 3-point calls.

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for Shaw Media. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or

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