Q&A with Kane County Cougars GM Jeff Sedivy

OaklandClubhouse.com recently caught up with Kane County Cougars General Manager Jeff Sedivy. Sedivy, who was named the Midwest League Executive of the Year in 1999, talks about the Cougars relationship with the A's, the Cougar baseball experience, his impression of some of the A's prospects who played in Kane County last season and more…

In 2003, the Oakland A's signed an affiliation agreement with the Kane County Cougars, a Midwest League team located outside Chicago. Last season, the Cougars won both the first and second half Western Division titles and posted the best regular season record in the Midwest League. The Cougars advanced to the Midwest League Championship Series, falling one game short to the West Michigan Whitecaps. Kane County also had a strong season at the box office, with over 520,000 fans coming through the turnstile.

How long have you been with the Cougars?

This will be my 15th year with the club [which was the first year of the club]. I started out basically as an entry-level grunt selling groups, helping cleaning the ballpark, selling from the concession stand, that kind of stuff.

What has the relationship with the Oakland A's organization been like?

We were with Baltimore for the first two years and then with Florida for ten and now we'll be in our third season of four with Oakland.

It's been great [being with Oakland]. It is an organization that is a very good fit for us. The people are tremendous. When we were looking for a new club to be affiliated with, we were looking for a relationship first and foremost. We wanted to know that we would be able to develop a relationship similar to what we had with Florida. Our relationship with the A's is one of those relationships that you look for where hopefully when they start a sentence, we finish it.

What are your main responsibilities as the General Manager?

Basically, I look at it as a two-part job: number one, your main responsibility is the business side of the operation. From inception to completion, no matter what we do here, we run every part of our operation from our parking to our food service operation so everything is under my umbrella.

And second, from a player standpoint, even though I am not responsible for making player moves, ultimately I am responsible for making sure that the players feel comfortable here. We have to make sure they are comfortable in the setting that they are in and help them find housing. My staff has been doing this as long as I have so it is easy now for us to set the players up. We have an Adopt-A-Cougar program where if the players want to live with a host family, they can. It is a tremendous program. Early on in our first year with Oakland, the guys were a little skeptical because they were older players but I think it is one of those things where now it is a great situation for the guys.

What Oakland prospects caught your eye last season?

There is no question we saw a bunch of top-flight talent last year. Huston Street was here and unless I misread what I saw and what he did in the Fall League, he should be in the major leagues by the end of the year.

Last year, we had a kid here by the name of Vasili Spanos. He kind of reminds me of Kevin Millar, who played with us with Florida. He is a guy who just refuses to take ‘no' for an answer. He just wants to get to the next level, he wants to continue to excel, and you're going to have to pry the bat out of his hands. He's that kind of gamer.

Steve Bondurant and Jairo Garcia were also tremendous. We piped Garcia's major league debut into the clubhouse TV [so the Cougars could watch]. Garcia making the big leagues was a great teaching tool for [the rest of the Cougars]. I think if there had been a few more weeks of the season, they would have been watching Huston Street, too.

Who are some of the great players you have seen over the years at Kane County?

Miguel Cabrera was here. We had him at a really young age, I think he was 16, but you could tell that Miguel was going to be something. He is so talented and you knew as he continued to grow and mature he was only going to get better. He was on the team we had that won the only championship we've won here. It was a team that had Adrian Gonzalez on it and he and Adrian kind of set the tone for the rest of the team. Dontrelle Willis was here and you could tell that there was something goofy and special surrounding him. And AJ Burnett just dealt while he was here.

Do you think playing in a big market like Chicago is different for players used to smaller minor league markets, like Vancouver?

Quite frankly, I think that the atmosphere in this ballpark is different than most. You are playing in a major market, in front of sold out ballpark most nights, unless the weather isn't cooperating, so it's got to be a little bit different then what they are used to. I mean not that Vancouver isn't a great city, because it is a tremendous place, but it is a different demand from both the fans and the media to be playing in the Chicago-area.

How do the Cougars market themselves to compete for fans against the Cubs and White Sox?

I really think it is an easy separation. We provide a family entertainment experience that is affordable and a great baseball setting. I don't know if the other clubs can make that claim, and I'll leave that to them and to our fans to fill in the blanks.

Where else can you go in the Chicago area where you can find an affordable, family experience. There just aren't that many of them available. When you can take a family of four out to the ballpark for less than $60 and eat and buy a souvenir and see a fireworks show on 31 different nights, I don't think there are too many other experiences like that around here.

What types of promotions do you offer at Elfstrom Stadium?

We do something different every night. Our goal is to make it an event every night. Whether it is a different give away or a different entertainment option or a different theme night. We did a Jimmy Buffet night out here last year for the first time ever and we got 11,000 fans. We had a post-game concert and dress the place up and it was new and it was fresh and people really enjoyed it.

What would you want A's fans in the Chicago area to know about going to a Cougars game?

From a ballpark perspective, I always hear that we have great food. I know that a ballpark is usually not synonymous with great food, but we make it a county fair-type atmosphere where you can go right up and get your sandwich off the grill and everything is cooked to order. It is a pretty cool setting to watch a game. When you put that together with the outstanding baseball product out on the field, it is pretty tough to beat.

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