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Mills finds calling in minors

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By Andrew Harner

When attending a minor league baseball game, a decent amount of the entertainment value doesn’t even come from the players on the field.

At Kane County Cougars games, it’s a St. Elmo graduate who helps ensure that fans get their money’s worth when the team isn't on the field.

Heather Mills, the salutatorian of the 2005 class, is now employed in the team’s promotions department after a few years in the ticket department.

And if she comes up with other promotions like the “Night of 100 Promotions” that she helped with last season, games in Kane County are sure to entertaining.

In a tribute to Bill Veeck, who owned several different major league teams from the 1940s-1970s and was known for odd publicity stunts, the Cougars had 100 promotions during a nine-inning game on Aug. 11.

“It was great,” Mills said. “Our fans loved it, and it was something different.”

The idea had brewing since January, and it included several homages to Veeck, including a record toss (to correspond with the failed Disco Demolition Night), free ivy seeds (to correspond with the ivy at Wrigley Field) and a ballpark shower (to correspond with the one Veeck had installed in Chicago).

In addition, other moments such as a giveaway of melted ice cubes and the grounds crew dragging the infield dressed in drag also made the evening a success.

The evening ended with a flash mob on the field, with  employees dancing to “Party Rock Anthem.”

“Once the crowd saw what we were doing, they went nuts,” Mills said.

Mills said there is a lot in the works for the 2012 season, including about 20 theme nights, which take place on Thursday and Friday night home games.

“Anything that can be themed around the ball park, we are trying to do it,” she said.

The daughter of Mark and Nancy Mills of St. Elmo, she knew that she wanted to be involved with minor league baseball once she enrolled at Southeast Missouri State, but she was unaware of the numerous opportunities available until later in her college career.

She took an internship with the Memphis Redbirds for the 2009 season, and she won a Pacific Coast League championship ring that year.

Following graduation, the summa cum laude graduate applied to teams all across the country, with Kane County contacting her for a job the next March.

For the next two years, Mills worked in the team’s ticket office, primarily taking orders over the phone and processing group orders, but this season will provide new challenges.

“I’m excited, but it’s going to be a learning process,” Mills said. “It might take a few games, but throughout my life, if I have put my mind to something, I’ve been able to do it.”