Cougars Notes: Cougars manager Johnson voted to be on the Mark

Kane County Cougars manager Mark Johnson (8) calls a play from the dugout against The Beloit Snappers at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, IL on Friday, July 11, 2014 | Sean King / For Sun-Times Media
Kane County Cougars manager Mark Johnson (8) calls a play from the dugout against The Beloit Snappers at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, IL on Friday, July 11, 2014 | Sean King / For Sun-Times Media

In the midst of a historic season, the accolades continue to roll in for Cougars manager Mark Johnson.

He was named the Midwest League Manager of the Year earlier this week, after being named by Baseball America as the best major-league managerial prospect in low Class A earlier in the month.

The Cougars tied their franchise record for wins Tuesday with their 88th. They have reached a franchise-high 41 games over .500, won a record 53 home games with three to go, set a franchise record with a 13-game win streak, and ran away with the first-half Western Division championship.

The quest for the second league championship in team history gets underway Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the playoffs.

Johnson has guided the Cougars to those marks despite the fact that only 10 of the players on the Opening Day roster are still active. A total of 50 players have filed through the clubhouse this year.

The former big league catcher is in his fourth season as a manager in the Cubs’ chain, skippering the Cougars last year and short-season Boise in 2011 and 2012.

He is the fifth Cougars manager to win the honor, joining current Cubs manager Rick Renteria (1999), Russ Morman (2001, the lone MWL championship team in Cougars history), Webster Garrison (2003) and Dave Joppie (2004).

The Cougars return home Saturday for a three-game set against Peoria to close out the regular season.

Dempster on board

When former Cougars and Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster made an appearance at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark last Friday with his Dempster Foundation, he covered a number of subjects with the media.

One of them was the status of the Cubs’ rebuilding efforts, and he is on board.

He makes his retirement home close to Wrigley Field and said he is looking forward to being a fan as the process comes to fruition.

“The prospects they have, the job that Theo [Epstein], Jed [Hoyer] and Jason [McLeod] have done to accumulate as much talent as possible is impressive,” Dempster said. “The bottom line is not every guy is going to pan out to what you think they’re going to be. Fact. What did they do? Let’s increase our odds by getting as much talent as possible.

“Now they have all of these stud position players that they can go out there and spend money on James Shields, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, whoever that top-tier pitcher is that they want to get. It will be really special.”

Dempster advocated signing his former Red Sox teammate Lester this offseason. He also said about making a comback of his own, “I don’t think there’s much of a chance.”

It’s all in the name

Since 2007, Minor League Baseball has held the Moniker Madness Contest to vote on the player with the best name in all of MILB.

With Thursday’s announcement that 2012 Cougars player Brooks Pounders won the award, there have now been three former Cougars who have won the honor. Rock Shoulders took the prize last year and Dusty Napoleon was the 2009 recipient.

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