Life Unaffiliated: The Kane County Cougars’ First Year Off the MLB Pipeline

In the summer of 2021, Casey Drottar followed the Kane County Cougars through their first season after the team lost its MLB affiliation. This is the first chapter of his four-part story on how they survived.


Curtis Haug bounds into the press box at Northwestern Medicine Field 10 minutes before first pitch, boasting a mood that hardly corresponds with the weather outside. A persistent drizzle looks to hover over Geneva, Illinois well into the night, threatening to derail the Kane County Cougars’ first game in 621 days. But the team’s general manager confirms otherwise, giddily insisting the May 18 season opener is good to go.

“We waited almost two years for this,” Haug says. “We’re not going to let a little rain stop us.”

He turns to exit. As the door closes behind him, a voice can be heard kicking off the 2021 season in defiant fashion.

“Major League Baseball can’t tell us what to do anymore.”

You’d be hard-pressed to better summarize the past 18 months for Kane County.

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Casey Drottar is a Freelance Sports Reporter for The Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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