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Sports

Cougars: Vince Harrison comes full circle, returns to Kane County as manager

Cougars' 2015 hitting coach is older brother of Detroit Tigers player Josh Harrison

GENEVA – Vince Harrison was getting ready to put his son to bed on a typical Friday night.

He picked him up when a notification sprang across his smart watch. It was an incoming phone call from Mike Bell, the Arizona Diamondbacks Vice President of Player Development.

"[My wife] goes 'Answer that!" Harrison, the newest manager of the Kane County Cougars, recollected at the organization's Media Day on April 2.

Harrison got the news. The family was Kane County-bound.

"It was one of the cooler reactions because she didn't hug me; she didn't kiss me. She gave me a high five like I just got a big hit," Harrison said. "It was a pretty cool deal."

The Cougars open their season April 4 with a 6:30 p.m. home game against Clinton.

Harrison, who is succeeding Blake Lalli, spent the 2018 season with Double-A Jackson, where he served as hitting coach for the Southern League champions. Lalli this season has moved on to manage in Jackson.

This will be a reunion of sorts for Harrison.

In 2015, Harrison served as the Cougars hitting coach under then-manager Mark Grudzielanek.

"I take so much from the guys I worked for," Harrison said. "With Grud, he had a calm presence and I learned a lot from him on just trying to stay even-keeled. For me, it was my biggest asset as a player."

Harrison's journey has come a bit full circle. When one chapter was soon coming to a close, another was soon beginning. In that 2015 season, the team was in the middle of a playoff series against Peoria.

In the fourth game of the series, the team lost on a walk-off walk 2-1. After driving back and arriving at his apartment at 1:30 a.m., Harrison got the call his wife was on the cusp of giving birth to twin girls.

"She's in labor, and doesn't have the kids right up until game time of the [fifth game]," Harrison said. "I'm literally in the waiting room getting text updates and I'm following gamecast."

The Cougars lost 3-2. Season over.

"I went from worried, to overjoyed, to [receiving[ text messages from the players 'Sorry we couldn't do it; wish we could've said bye [and] hope to see you in spring," Harrison said.

It was a bittersweet day.

"Kane County is special," Harrison said, later acknowledging his daughter's coloring books on the bench steps from his office desk.

Harrison's full staff was announced in January, and includes former major league pitcher Mike Parrot as pitching coach, Micah Franklin as hitting coach and coach Carlos Mesa.

Harrison, 39, was initially drafted in 1998 by the Florida Marlins in the 30th round of the Amateur Draft, and then again by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays three years later out of the University of Kentucky in the 13th round.

Harrison, the older brother of current Detroit Tigers utility man Josh Harrison, is now tasked with helping mold some of the Diamondbacks' most prized prospects. The list includes Chicago native and former Mount Carmel star Alek Thomas, a 2018 second-round pick, as well as South Elgin native and pitcher Ryan Weiss and more.

Weiss is slated to start the Cougars' second game of the season April 5. Jackson Goddard has been tabbed to throw the opener.

"[Thomas] is mature," Harrison said. "The thing I was most impressed with him this spring was his ability to stay pretty even-keeled...it didn't seem like any situation got too big for him."

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