Kane County Cougars playing waiting game
Instead of watching the Kane County Cougars play baseball, Curtis Haug is deeply immersed in a different game.
The waiting game.
"There are a lot of variables," Haug said.
In his ninth season as VP/general manager of the low Class A minor-league baseball team that plays its home games at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva, Haug is closely monitoring talks between major-league owners and the players' union.
The two sides are trying to reach an agreement and play an abbreviated regular season beginning in early July.
If major-league baseball is able to get back up and running, Haug will have a much better idea about what a shortened minor-league season might look like.
"We'd love to start our season as soon as possible," he said, "but it's all hinging on a lot of variables."
On March 12, the game shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Should major-league baseball return, games would likely be played in empty stadiums for an extended period.
While the financial losses would be significant with no fans, MLB can still fall back on incoming revenues generated from TV and radio deals.
Minor-league baseball doesn't have that luxury.
"We've got to have buns in the seats," said Haug, a Naperville native.
As the state of Illinois moves into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, public gatherings are still limited to 10 people or fewer.
Phase 4 is on target for June 26, but public gatherings would only increase to a maximum of 50 people.
Minor-league seasons typically finish at the end of August, so a quick look at the math adds up as bad news. On the other hand, games could possibly extend into September if baseball is able to resume this summer.
The Cougars have been a huge part of the local baseball scene since 1991, when they relocated from Wausau, Wis., as an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
In 2015, Kane County became the first Class A team in history to go over the 11 million mark in combined attendance.
Haug joined the Cougars in 1994 and has seen the franchise flourish. He's hoping that continues this year, even if it's a partial season.
"It's not just baseball," Haug said. "It's the fans, the fireworks, kids running the bases. It's the cold beer, Thirsty Thursdays, all the good stuff we do."