Written by Shawn Touney
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 00:00
A.J. Burnett shown during his Kane County Cougar Days. Burnett, now playing in Pittsburgh, was part of the 1998 Cougars roster. Kane County Cougars photo.
Kane County Cougar alums dot lineups of MLB qualifiers
The road from Class A baseball in Geneva to the Big Leagues is one only a privleged few have managed to complete.
And even tougher is the quest to win a World Series title.
But several Kane County Cougar alums had that dream in sight as Major League Baseball's playoffs began last week.
Ex-Cougars are scattered through the lineups of the qualifying teams.
Here's a look at each:
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera ('01 Cougar) is considered a front-runner for the American League MVP award, which Cabrera won last year during his historic Triple Crown season. During the 2013 regular season, Cabrera batted a Major League-best .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI in 148 games. He was part of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins squad. Cabrera, who will be 30 years old on Opening Day next spring, has a lifetime batting average of .321 with 365 home runs and 1,260 RBI.
Oakland Athletics pitchers Sean Doolittle ('07) and Dan Straily ('10) were instrumental in the Athletics' second consecutive American League West division championship. Doolittle made a career-best 70 relief appearances for Oakland and posted a 3.13 ERA. Straily was a 10-game winner in the Athletics rotation, going 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA. While postseason rosters haven't been formally announced yet, both infielder Jemile Weeks ('08) and pitcher Pedro Figueroa ('09) made late-season appearances with Oakland.
While Boston pitcher Andrew Bailey ('07) won't factor into the Red Sox postseason because of season-ending shoulder surgery, the right-hander went 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 30 relief appearances. Bailey was the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year and a two-time Major League All-Star while with Oakland. Fellow pitcher and teammate Ryan Dempster ('96) was 8-9 with a 4.57 ERA in his first season with the Red Sox. Earlier this season, he recorded his 2,000th Major League strikeout.
Pittsburgh is back in the post-season for the first time since 1992 and beat Cincinnati in a wild card game to advance.
Pitcher A.J. Burnett ('98) won 10 games or more for the ninth consecutive season, and his 209 strikeouts were the most for the right-hander since 231 punchouts in 2008. Burnett was also the first pitcher in Pirates history to strike out at least 200 batters. Further, Burnett's 3.30 ERA was his lowest since 2002. Like Dempster, Burnett struck out his 2,000th career big league batter earlier this season. Burnett is a two-time World Series champion (2003 Marlins, 2009 Yankees) and will attempt to win a third crown with three different teams. Another Pittsburgh pitcher, Vin Mazzaro ('06) had his best professional season in 2013.
The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West division for the first time since 2009. Infielder Adrian Gonzalez ('01) collected 100 RBI for the 6th time in his big league career while also belting 22 home runs. Outfielder Andre Ethier ('03) is nursing an ankle injury, putting his postseason plans in jeopardy. Ethier batted .272 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI this season. Pitcher Ronald Belisario ('02) made 77 appearances out of the Dodgers bullpen, a career best.
While the Tampa Bay Rays roster doesn't field a former Cougars player, their broadcast team includes a familiar name in Dave Wills, who was the radio voice of the Cougars during the franchise's inaugural 1991 season.
Since the Cougars' inception in 1991, more than 120 former players have reached the Major Leagues, several of which have won accolades in the postseason including World Series MVP's Josh Beckett ('00) in 2003 with Florida and Edgar Renteria ('93) with San Francisco in 2010. Past league championship series MVP's include Beckett in 2007 with Boston, along with Nelson Cruz ('03) with Texas in 2011.
Kane County Cougars
Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 13:54