D-backs announce affiliation with Kane County Cougars

PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) and Kane County Cougars announced a two-year player development contract effective through the 2016 season. The agreement does not affect the ownership, management or front office staff of the Cougars in any manner as the organization looks towards the first home game of the 2015 season on Thursday, April 9 against Cedar Rapids.

"Today's announcement is great news for Cougars fans, who will be very impressed by Arizona's philosophies and their commitment to the Cougars organization," said Cougars Vice President and General Manager Curtis Haug. "We'd like to thank the Cubs organization for these past two seasons which culminated in a Midwest League Championship earlier this month. As we look towards our 25th anniversary season, we are thrilled to begin this great partnership with a first-class organization in the Arizona Diamondbacks."

"We are extremely excited about our new relationship with the Arizona Diamondbacks," said Cougars Owner Dr. Bob Froehlich. "Among many positives that we took from our recent meeting with members of Arizona's front office staff were these: their player development philosophy, their commitment to be passionately involved in the community and the feeling that beginning today, both the Cougars and Diamondbacks organizations can work in harmony with each other as a true partnership."

The Arizona Diamondbacks were recognized as the top Major League Baseball franchise in 2013 by ESPN the Magazine and sixth overall among the 122 professional sports franchises in the publication's Ultimate Standings, which is based on eight categories both on and off the field. Located in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks began their existence in 1998 and won the World Series just several years later in 2001. Notable Diamondbacks alumni include Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The remainder of Arizona's farm system consists of Reno (Triple-A), Mobile (Double-A), Visalia (A-Advanced), Hillsboro (Short-A) and rookie league affiliates in Missoula, Arizona and the Dominican Republic. Hillsboro, the classification level just below the Cougars, recently won the Northwest League Championship. Including the postseason, Hillsboro was 52-28, the best record among all short-season affiliates.

"We are thrilled and honored with our new partnership in Kane County," said Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall. "It is important for us to align ourselves with affiliates who possess similar philosophies and values as us. The Kane County Cougars Baseball Club is an ideal fit, as they are committed to their fans, to winning, and most importantly, their community. This new home for us will provide our young players with a safe, welcoming, and enthusiastic setting."

"We are extremely excited to enter into a new relationship with the Kane County Cougars. It didn't take long for us to realize that our organizations share the same goals and principles. We work hard to put a winning team on the field with players of character, and we look forward to building a relationship with and earning the respect of the Kane County staff and community. We would like to thank Dr. Bob Froehlich and Curtis Haug for giving us the opportunity to show the great Kane County fan base what the Arizona Diamondbacks are about," said Arizona Diamondbacks Director of Player Development Mike Bell.

Cougars alumni who have played with Arizona this season include Cliff Pennington ('05 Cougar), Trevor Cahill ('07) and Bo Schultz ('10), with Schultz making his Major League debut with Arizona earlier this season. Other former Cougars who made their big league debuts with the Diamondbacks over the years include Vladimir Nunez, Bill Murphy and Sam Demel. This is the sixth different Major League affiliation for the Cougars franchise, which began in 1991 as a Baltimore Orioles farm team and has aligned with the Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs over the 24-year history of the organization.

In 2014, a total of 421,971 fans attended Cougars games at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. The Cougars' regular season attendance total of 415,571 fans was the 23rd highest in Minor League Baseball and placed the Cougars, a Class-A team, above nearly every other Class-A or Double-A club and among several of the top Triple-A teams. The Cougars won a franchise-best 91 games during the regular season while going a perfect 7-0 in the postseason to win the Midwest League Championship for the first time since 2001. In 2013, the Cougars became the first Class-A team in Minor League Baseball history to reach 10 million fans.

Earlier this month, the Cougars announced a series of capital improvement projects to modernize Fifth Third Bank Ballpark with new amenities to enhance the fan and player experience. Those projects include a new batting cage with two hitting tunnels, an expanded weight room and video room for the team and staff. Also for next season, a new, hi-definition videoboard will be installed along with the creation of the Cougars Cultural Park that will feature a permanent music pavilion on the ballpark grounds and an Art in the Park display. Construction has already begun on a new premium seating area on the concourse level behind home plate.