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Cougars notes: Cougars hosting Team USA games

The Cougars' Giuseppe Papaccio fields grounder for an out Fifth Third Bank BallPark Friday. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media

The Cougars' Giuseppe Papaccio fields a grounder for an out at Fifth Third Bank BallPark on Friday. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 11, 2013 6:15AM

A big part of Kane County Cougars center fielder Albert Almora’s development into a first-round draft pick and one of the hottest prospects in baseball was his time spent with Team USA.

Six different times in his youth Almora donned the red, white and blue and represented Team USA.

While Almora and his teammates are on the road next week, the next wave of Team USA players will be spending two days at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

The USA Baseball Collegiate National team will face the Crystal Lake Cardinals of the Metropolitan CBL on Monday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. and then play a team of Metropolitan CBL Illinois All-Stars on Tuesday, July 16 at 1 p.m.

“It’s the best baseball players you’re ever going to see, a group of guys that will represent the jersey like no other, that’s for sure,” Almora said. “That’s what we preached with USA, play for the country. Play like it’s the gold medal game every day. That’s something you’ll see for sure. It’s humbling for sure to be one of the guys representing your country.”

Cougars general manager Curtis Haug has worked to try to bring new events to the stadium, such as country star Sara Evans, who will be appearing in the Cougars’ new music venue on Aug. 4. Pairing up with Team USA for these events, and hopefully more in the future, fits in with Haug’s plans to diversify what the Cougars can offer.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to develop a relationship with these guys for years to come,” Haug said. “For us here at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark to host these national games, we think this is a great start. We’re going to treat it like a Cougars game. It’s going to be an interesting thing for our fans to see out here.”

Following the two tune-ups in Geneva, Team USA is prepping for a stretch of games against the Cuban National team.

“USA Baseball is extremely excited to play in Kane County for the first time,” said USA Baseball CEO/Executive Director Paul Seiler in a press release. “The opportunity to play in Fifth Third Bank Ballpark as we prepare for our friendship series with the Cuban National Team is vital to our success this summer.”

Infielder Papaccio arrives with a flourish

One can never predict when or who the first player from the 2013 draft will arrive in Kane County, but it wasn’t one of the top picks that earned that distinction.

It was 18th-round infielder Giuseppe Papaccio that got the first call. A shortstop by trade out of Seton Hall, Papaccio started at third base and second base over the weekend in his Cougars debut, driving in the tying run of Friday’s 8-7 comeback win over Quad Cities.

“It’s an honor to be asked to come up here,” Papaccio said. “It would be an honor to go anywhere, really. Being in rookie ball is a lot different, there are probably like five people out there. It’s just cool to be here. I appreciate what (the Cubs organization) did.”

Cougars manager Mark Johnson hasn’t had a chance to spend much time with his newest team member, but the reports from Bobby Mitchell at extended spring training in Mesa, Ariz., are positive.

“He’s a real quality guy, high character guy, hard worker,” Johnson said. “Just a clean player, a guy that you can throw out there that will be consistent. He seems like a really good guy. That’s perfect to have on the team.”

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