Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hohokam then Vegas!

Hard to believe today is our final spring game at Hohokam, today's game starts at 12:05 pm Arizona time. Not sure what time I will be reporting on today's happenings as I leave from Hohokam to the airport then fly to Vegas, so we'll have to play it by ear. The Cubs say for the first time this spring Kerry Wood is going to pitch to actual human batters on Friday in Las Vegas, not in the game of course but it's a step in the right direction. (It's not clear yet if he will be throwing a baseball or a towel)

I'm off to Hohokam,


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This and That

Yesterday the Cubs did a little house-cleaning, most of it expected; putting Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the DL, sending down pitchers David Aardsma and Jae Kuk Ryu to Triple-A Iowa, and catcher Casey Kopitzke to the Minor League camp. They also traded right-handed reliever Todd Wellemeyer to the Florida Marlins for two Minor League pitchers, right-hander Lincoln Holdzkom and lefty Zach McCormack. Holdzkom, 24, has a 2.86 ERA in 110 career games in the Marlins organization. McCormack, 24, spent was at Class A Greensboro last season, going 4-2 with two saves and a 4.61 ERA in 26 games.

Veteran outfielder Marquis Grissom announced his retirement from baseball Tuesday, ending his career after 17 seasons. He was a non-roster invitee and from what I could see his heart just wasn't into it this year, and neither were his legs. Grissom is well liked and respected in the clubhouse and is a two-time All-Star winning four Gold Gloves, he also played in three World Series. Grissom was not going to make the team, primarily because of the emergence of Angel Pagan. On Tuesday, the 24 year old switch-hitting Pagan was presented the Ron Santo/Billy Williams Rookie of the Spring Award

GM Jim Hendry is planning to talk with Derrek Lee's agent Casey Close this week about a contract extension with the expectation that it will get done before opening day. Carlos Zambrano gets the start today for the Cubs in Tempe.

More Later

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cubs Rally, Sox Run Out of Arms

Listen to Cubs Fan Fest interviews with Dusty and Jim Hendry
Listen to Cubs Fan Fest interviews with the players

Guess today's Cubs and White Sox 4 - 4 tie will have to suffice until the windy city rivalry hooks up for real on May 19th. Unfortunately, the White Sox ran out of pitchers to go beyond 9 (that's what they told me), so many in today's record breaking crowd of 12,894 at HoHoKam let their voices be heard in protest when I announced the game would finish in a tie. Having to kiss your sister after the Cubs staged a nice 2-run rally in the 9th to tie it up was very anticlimactic. There was as much energy in the ballpark during the Cubs late inning comeback, as I've witnessed in quite a while.

Cubs notable performances: Greg Maddux went 6 innings, and gave up 3 runs off of 9 hits, including a Jim Thome homerun. (Thome looks like a great pickup for the Sox, and showed it today going 4 for 5 including 2 long homeruns) Reliever Bob Howry gave up one run (the other Thome homerun), and struck out 2 in his one inning. Scott Eyre and David Aardsma both pitched scoreless innings. Derrek Lee was back from his family situation, but went 0 for 3 at the plate. Neifi Perez had a big day at the plate, going 3 for 4, with a homerun and 2 RBI's. Henry Blanco had a couple hits. Angel Pagan really has shined this spring. He pinch hit in the 9th inning, and used his speed to stretch a single into a double, igniting the Cubs late rally. Aramis Ramirez then knocked him in, with a double.

Sarge Matthews delivered the starting lineups to the umpires today. One encouraging sign is the Cubs solid defense this spring, having gone the last 9 games without an error; they have the fewest errors in all of the majors this spring. Cubs starting pitchers have allowed 3 or fewer runs in 8 of their last 9 starts.

Sorry for not blogging yesterday, as I went out to dinner after the game with Myrtle Giblin-Skaff. (Vince Lloyd's wife) She's a real Cubs and baseball fan, and just loves to be out at the ballpark. She joins the voice of many folks who believe Vince belongs in the broadcaster's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hopefully, the "Voice of Summer" DVD will remind the voters what a remarkable broadcaster Vince was.

It's hard to believe there's only one more game left at HoHoKam this spring - Thursday's matchup against the Diamondbacks. After Thursday's game I will be following the team to Las Vegas for the final spring exhibitions, to be your eyes and ears in Sin City.

Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux vs World Champs

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cubs Young Guns NO-Hit A's for 9 and 2/3 innings

View my Cubs spring training photos

If you were one of the 12, 792 crammed into HoHoKam Stadium or one of those who was able to watch today's Cubs game on WGN, you saw a rarity in spring training, a real pitcher's duel. In fact, the Cubs pitchers no hit the Athletics through 9 and 2/3rds innings, until the A's Dan Johnson broke it up with a single to centerfield, the Cubs won the game 1-0 in 10 innings. The last time the Cubs had a no hitter during spring training was 1970, according to baseball historian Ed Hartig.

Cubs starter Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman each pitched 4 hitless innings. Marshall walked four and struck out five, while Guzman walked two and struck out two. Guzman and Marshall are in the battle for the 5th spot in the rotation. It's only spring training but it's nice to see the Cubs young arms starting to perform at a high level. David Aardsma pitched a hitless 9th, while John Koronka gave up the lone hit in the 10th. The Athletics and the Cubs both had split squad games today, but the A's had a good compliment of topline players at HoHoKam. Sean Marshall struck out Eric Chavez twice. Not much hitting to talk about for the Cubs in Mesa. Ronny Cedeno had a hit, John Mabry had a double, and Brandon Sing doubled in the 10th to knock in Casey Kopitzke with the winning run. The Cubs were also able to handle Kansas City in the other game, winning 9 to 4.

75 degrees at first pitch, as it should be. I had a real treat this morning, being able to interview and talk with legendary Baseball Ambassador Buck O'Neil for our upcoming Cubs documentary. O'Neil who is 95 years young (literally ran to the mound during the pre-game ceremony today), was considered one of the best players and managers in the Negro Leagues managed the Kansas City Monarchs to 6 Negro League Championships, winning two. O'Neil also was a long-time scout for the Cubs, and became Major League Baseball's first African American coach with the Cubs in 1962. His list of accomplishments is too long to write about here, so google him if you want to find out more. One of the interesting things he said today was that when Ernie Banks was a young player he was very quiet, and he described how he helped Ernie break out of his shell, which he hasn't returned to since.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mr. Lee Returns, Aramis on Fire, and High Jinks

Three days past the official start of spring, it's finally starting to feel like it here in Arizona, 73 degrees at first pitch today. The Cubs took care of the Mariners today at HoHoKam by a score of 6 to 1 in front of 12,118 fans. To be fair, the Mariners had a split squad team also playing tonight in Peoria, so many of their top players didn't make the trip over to Mesa.

It's been a while since we saw Derrek Lee play at HoHoKam, after his WBC experience and bruised shoulder, it was good to see him back in the Cubs starting lineup. Unfortunately, in Derrek's first at bat he was hit by a pitch on his left arm. He shook it off and stayed in the game, then scored on a double by Aramis Ramirez. In Lee's next at bat he hit a double and then scored again on Aramis Ramirez' second double of the game. Ramirez has been so hot with the bat this spring, I'm afraid at any moment he may spontaneously combust. He has hits in 9 consecutive at bats, and is batting .600 this spring. John Mabry had a couple hits today, Neifi Perez had a homerun, and Felix Pie had an RBI double and scored. Glendon Rusch started the game and looked sharp, giving up 1 hit and 1 run in 5 innings, while striking out 4. He did walk 3 batters, and as I mentioned earlier, this wasn't Seattle's A squad. Scott Eyre overpowered Seattle hitters during his 1 and 2/3rds inning, allowing no hits or runs and struck out 4. Williamson, Howry, Ohman, and Dempster all pitched well in their brief stints.

I have a P.A. announcement every game telling about the Cubs' Walk of Fame (Banners of famous Cubs hanging in the Concourse) where I read all the names of the famous Cubs-all the biggies are in there from Hack Wilson to Ryne Sandberg. And it was Sandberg who wanted to have a little fun today. As a little prank, he asked me to insert Tim Buss (Cubs Strength and Conditioning Coordinator) into the Walk of Fame lineup. Some of those listening may have been wondering who the hell was that guy after Andre Dawson?

The Q&A Session with Dusty Baker, Jim Hendry, and Cubs Players at the Cubs FanFest was alot of fun. Be sure to listen to their Q&A session on my prior two posts.

Listen to Q and A from Cubs Fan Fest (Part 2)

This is the player's portion of the Question and Answer session from last weeks Fan Fest. Not alot of hard core baseball info- that was more for Dusty and Hendry- but there are a few humorous moments, including one fan who may have had a few cool ones asking Mabry about a rumor that he choked Tony La Russa. Matt Murton describes what it feels like to play at Wrigley Field. This one runs 8 minutes, and 37 seconds.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Listen to Q and A from Cubs Fan Fest (Part 1)

Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry answer questions during last weeks Cubs Fan Fest. Some interesting stuff, what if Murton and Cedeno struggle early? The real story about how Murton became a Cub. Might Kerry Wood be on the same path as Nolan Ryan? This is part 1 of 2 and lasts 14 minutes 46 seconds.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A New Marshall in Town

View my photos from today

The funky Arizona weather continues - a beautiful sunny day turns cool as rain showers ended today's game after 6 innings with the Cubs and the Brewers tied at 4.

11,483 were on hand to witness Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall get his first starting assignment this spring, as he vies for the 5th spot in the Cubs rotation. The lanky leftie is doing his best to stay up with the big boys by turning in another solid performance today, in 3 innings he gave up 2 hits, no runs, walked 1 batter, with 2 K's. The 23 year old Marshall has looked very confident and has not allowed a run this spring in 6 and 1/3 innings pitched. Aramis Ramirez kept up his torrid spring, going 2 for 2 with a couple RBI's. Juan Pierre went 2 for 3, using his speed to score 2 runs. Ronny Cedeno hit a 2 run Jack.

Earlier in the day, when the sun was out and the Cubs were doing some infield and bp, catcher Henry Blanco was showing his fielding prowess working at 2nd base, and turning double plays. Taking Blanco's throws at first base was Cubs Hall of Fame member Ryne Sandberg. No worries about Blanco wanting to become an infielder as they were just messing around and having a good time. That's the kind of thing you see often in spring training. You also see many pitchers just standing around in the outfield during bp, but not Carlos Zambrano who was running around, fielding fly balls- he truly seems to enjoy playing the game.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Return of the Rain, Big Z, and Woo

Click Here for My Cubs Photos From Spring Trainng

Not exactly your Mesa Chamber of Commerce weather today, in fact it's been a downright cool and damp March thus far. It was touch and go before the game as to whether or not we would get the game in. It drizzled steadily for most of the hour and a half leading up to today's game, and continued during the first couple innings. The beer vendors would have been better off selling Chicken Noodle than Old Style. After last weekend's rainout, the powers-that-be were determined to get this one in. The drizzle and temperature of 44 degrees at the start of today's game was more like some of those April games at Wrigley.

The Cubs had a split squad today, and came away with losses in both outings. Notable Performances from the Cubs 2 - 0 loss to the Texas Rangers in Mesa: Not much in the way of hitting for the Cubs, although Aramis Ramirez just keeps pounding the ball, he went 2 for 2. Ronny Cedeno, who has been struggling at the plate, hit a double. Jerry Hairston also had a double. As far as pitching goes, Carlos Zambrano got his first start at HoHoKam after returning from the WBC, and looks like he's ready to get the season underway, going 5 complete innings giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, no walks, while striking out 7. Scott Williamson, who pitched the 6th inning, had another nice outing, striking out the side.

Rangers starting pitcher Adam Eaton was drilled in the forearm with a line drive off the bat of Marquis Grissom to start the 2nd inning, and left the game. As Eaton was leaving the field, the frustrated pitcher punted the baseball into the netting behind home plate.

Ron Santo and Pat Hughes called the game for WGN radio, and because of the cold and wet weather, had a very full booth with many of Santo's family joining the broadcasters.

The paid attendance was 9,148, although the actual number of those in the stadium as estimated by this P.A. Announcer was probably about 4,000. One of those 4,000 was Ronnie Woo-Woo, making his annual debut at HoHoKam, who was spotted patrolling the concourse in his Cubbie uniform armed with his traditional hula hoop party favors. Whether you love him or hate him, one thing you can say about Ronnie is he's dedicated, the rain and cold didn't seem to dampen his Cubs enthusiasm.

Matt Murton signs for fans before leaving to Phoenix for split squad game

Cubs Wives Food Drive Today

If you are going to today's game at Hohokam, remember the Cubs wives are having their annual food drive and auction today, rescheduled from the 11th rainout. So bring non-perishable food items to the game or money if you want to bid for Cub's memorabilia in the auction. Of course cash donations are gladly accepted. The food drive and auction benefits Mesa's Paz De Christo Community Center.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Strained Shoulder

Well the word is: "strain", from the exam on Mark Prior's shoulder done by Dr. Lewis Yocum. The results from the MRI won't be in until Saturday so nothing definitive yet. That's good news I guess, and the Cubs of course are optimistic but as with so many things in life only time will tell. Not to be pessimistic on the situation but the two articles I mentioned earlier are worthy of a glance.


Long Toss Twins

While waiting for the results of Mark Prior's MRI, here are a couple interesting articles.

You may or may not like Sun-Times Columnist Jay Mariotti, but his article today had some salient points in regards to Wood and Prior and the Cubs use of the two "Long Toss Twins" as he calls them.

Read Mariotti's article

Also some interesting observations on Wood and Prior from Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins in Fred Mitchell's article.

Read Mitchell's article

~more later~

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spring Injuries

I was going for a little humor with yesterday's blog title "Wood and Prior", of course I wasn't aware at the time that Prior had been shut-down in his bullpen session. The news on Mark Prior's shoulder issue wasn't something the team wanted to talk about until the powers-that-be reached a consensus on how to explain the situation. The news of Prior's problem never made it to the press box during yesterday's game, and Prior left without talking to reporters.

Now both D-Lee and Prior are having their shoulder's examined less than 3 weeks away from opening day. Trainer Mark O'Neal called Prior's ailment "posterior cuff irritation." Anytime I hear "cuff" as in rotator cuff used when talking about a pitcher it makes me cringe. Lee's shoulder is bruised and has "a little bit of residual soreness," he should be fine by opening day provided it is only "bruised." The Cubs are being careful with these guys and have used the word "precautionary." Only time will tell so I'll take a wait and hope attitude.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wood and Prior

Now that I have your attention, nothing new to report on the duo. Both guys are 'fine and progressing.' (The company line)

The Cubs lost to the Mariners 4 - 2, in front of a sell-out crowd 12,707. This week is spring break for many schools, which helped pack the stadium. It's still a little cool for bathing suits out on the lawn, but it was a nice sunny day.

Notable Cubs Performances: This Angel Pagan kid from the Mets farm system is really pushing for a roster spot. He had a 2 run HR, providing the only Cubs scoring of the day, a walk, and then stole second base. Juan Pierre is a tireless worker, and judging by his first inning bunt attempt, needs to keep at it. Jacque Jones was 1 for 2, lining an opposite field double. The Cubs didn't have a lot of offense in this one. Starting pitcher Jerome Williams' numbers were not great, giving up 4 hits and 3 bases on balls. He did, however, pitch 4 innings and only allowed 2 runs. Ryan Dempster had some issues, he walked Matt Lawton, then gave up a Richie Sexson HR. The other Cubs arms out of the bullpen, all looked good. Bob Howry, Jae Kuk Ryu, Will Ohman, and Scott Williamson all pitched scoreless innings, giving up a combined 2 hits, while striking out 4.

The younger demographic (i.e. spring breakers) was apparent later in the game - when for one of the very few times at HoHoKam-the fans did the wave. The wave was tight and well-executed until it got to the sections behind home plate where the seasoned season ticket holders, by and large, resisted the urge.

Still no winners in the Vince Lloyd "Voice of Summer" movie trailer quiz. Several people have come very close, but not yet nailed all the names. If we don't have a winner by tomorrow, the Ron Santo autographed unused ticket (see pic) prize will be given away with the end of spring quiz drawing April 2nd. We've given out 2 clues in the blogs so far, here's a third: This player was traded to Montreal, "Mauch thought he could make a player out of him, but he couldn't."

Cubs have their one and only day off this spring tomorrow.

~more later~

This unused ticket from the final game at old HoHoKam Park, autographed by
Ron Santo could be yours!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Snow and Rockies Chill Cubs

A little late with the blog today, as I went over to the Mesa Amphitheater after the game for the Cubs FanFest. At the Fest, they had a Question and Answer session with Dusty Baker, GM Jim Hendry, and many Cubs players. Instead of going over what was said during the session, we will put the video of the Q&A here on the website later this week.

Earlier today the pre-game started with a ceremonial pitch, where Brianne Moynahan from Amazing Jakes threw to who she thought was a Cubs catcher with full catcher's mask, etc. Turns out when she went to get the ball signed from the catcher, it was her boyfriend, who pulled out a ring, got down on one knee, and proposed! Surprise, Surprise! And, she did say Yes!

On to the game. The Cubs lost to the Colorado Rockies 10 - 6, in front of 11,041. Notable Cubs Performances: Pitchers who did good~Eyre and Marshall, Pitchers who didn't do so good~Wuertz and Boehringer, Pitchers who did okay~ Glendon Rusch who started and allowed 3 runs in 4 innings, and failed to cover 1st base on one play. Hot hitters: Jerry Hairston was 2 for 3, with an RBI and a stolen base. Juan Pierre hit a triple and scored. When the starters finished, the bench guys mounted a comeback, scoring 5 runs in the final 2 innings led by Felix Pie who continues to play well, hitting his 3rd triple of the spring , going 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored. Ryan Theriot went 2 for 2, 2 runs scored and a RBI.

The view from my spot in the pressbox was even more spectacular today as many of the desert mountains were covered in snow from our storm that caused Saturday's game to be rained out, which also made temperatures cooler than usual. When today's game started, it was 55 degrees.

The Cubs wives food drive that was rained out, has been rescheduled for Sunday, March 19th at HoHoKam, when the Cubs take on the Texas Rangers.

Back Field at Hohokam with snow covered 4 peaks

~more tomorrow~

Saturday, March 11, 2006

3/11/06 Game Cancelled

Today's Cubs vs. KC Royals game has been cancelled because of rain. On a few occasions rain outs have been rescheduled during spring training(with split-squad games), but the team couldn't work anything out this time.

Tickets for today's game can be exchanged or refunded in person at the HoHoKam box office or via mail (P.O. Box 261, Mesa, AZ, 85211). Tickets must be returned to the box office by June 1. For further information, call 480/964-4467.

Tickets remain for all games except March 26 and March 27.

The Cubs were last rained out at HoHoKam Park on March 16, 2003, against Colorado.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Windy Win

12,064 wind-blown fans saw the Cubs take down the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 7 - 6 . Today was cooler than average for Mesa, 61 degrees at gametime.

HoHoKam's version of the bleacher bums were out in full force today, tossing opponent's homerun balls back onto the field. After the United States Naval Academy Glee Club sang 'America, the Beautiful' during the 7th inning stretch, the game resumed without time to sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame'. Not to be denied, the Berm Bums started their own 'Take Me Out' rendition while Cubs rightfielder Felix Pie was at bat.

Today's notable Cubs performances: Jerry Hairston back in the lineup for the first time since being hit in the head with a pitch, had an RBI double and scored a run. Todd Walker had a hit with 2 RBI's and scored twice. Rich Hill was the starting pitcher went 2 innings, gave up 4 runs on 4 hits, a base on balls, and allowed 2 homeruns. He K'd 4 Angels. John Koronka and Scott Eyre both looked good, each pitching a 1-2-3 inning.

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior both are progressing well- Knock on Wood. Prior may get into a Cactus League game next week. This spring the Cubs offense has done well despite not having Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett as they sported a .321 Cactus League batting average coming into today's game- that's 2nd in the National League this spring and to go along with that, the Cubs have only struck-out 41 times, 2nd fewest in all the major leagues this spring. Love to see Juan Pierre continue to work on his bunting as he did again today. He may have bunted more in this first week and a half of spring than Corey Patterson did in his entire career.

Cubs wives are having their annual food drive and auction tomorrow, hopefully the weather will cooperate - so bring any non-perishable food items to the game or a big load of cash if you want to bid on the Cub's memorabilia. Remember it's for charity.

Yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Quick Hits Columnist Elliott Harris wrote about the Vince Lloyd, "Voice of Summer" DVD.
Read Elliott's column

Still no winners so far in the Vince Lloyd, Voice of Summer Trailer quiz. Go to the Cubs DVD page, watch the trailer, then click on the quiz@boysofspring link to send your guesses for who Vince is talking about in the trailer. Check the last post to look at the one-of-a-kind, unused, autographed Ron Santo ticket from the last game ever played at old HoHoKam Park. Here's your 2nd hint: This person once had over 500 at bats in a season, and struck out less than 10 times.

~KC Royals tomorrow~

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cool Weather, Hot Bats

Click Here for My Photos From Today at Batting Practice

A cold front has gripped Phoenix. Game time temperature was 59 degrees. Okay, not exactly a cold front but chillier than normal for this time of year. However that didn't seem to cool the bats as each team pounded out 15 hits. The Padres beat the Cubs 13 to 8 as the Cubs helped San Diego's cause, committing 3 errors, while the Padres had none.

Notable Cubs Performances: Juan Pierre had 2 hits in 3 at bats, with an RBI. Matt Murton had a HR. Neifi Perez replaced Ronny Cedeno midway through the game, and promptly had 2 hits, including a double and scored 2 runs. Jake Fox replaced Jacque Jones during the game as DH, belted 2 doubles, and RBI and a run scored. Glendon Rusch started the game and was less than spectacular in his 3 innings, giving up 5 hits and 5 runs, 3 of them earned, walked a batter and gave up a HR. But that wasn't even close to how poorly Michael Wuertz pitched. Wuertzy only made it through 2/3rds of an inning, giving up 4 earned runs, allowing 3 hits, and walking 3 batters. Sean Marshall came in and stopped the bleeding, striking out Eric Valent to end the Padre's 9th.

One time Cubs second-base prodigy Bobby Hill made it into the game for San Diego in the late innings. Padres first baseman Walter Young looks like he should be playing tackle in the NFL, instead of baseball. He is one massive guy at 6'5", and tipping the scales at 320 lbs.

Ryne Sandberg came out and delivered starting lineups to the umpires today. Another small week day crowd by HoHoKam standards: 7,402.

So far no one has answered the Vince Lloyd Movie Trailer Quiz correctly. Just to let you know the first drawing of people who correctly answered the quiz will be on March 15th. The Prize for that winner will be: An Unused Ticket from the FINAL GAME at OLD HoHoKam Park, which was torn down in 1996, Autographed by Ron Santo, who broadcast that game on WGN Radio. AND a copy of Vince Lloyd "The Voice of Summer" DVD. Get your guesses in by March 15th to win! Since no one has gotten them 100% right, here is a hint: Not all of the people he talks about in the trailer are baseball people.

This Ron Santo autographed ticket will be given away 3-15-06

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Centenarian, a Pagan, and Mad Dog

On another fantastic sunny Arizona day, the Cubs' effort fell short, losing to the Texas Rangers 6 - 5. Being a weekday game, and with the World Baseball Classic going on, only 7,313 fans made it out to HoHoKam. I say 'only' because that's small by Cub's standards (for the Brewers in Maryvale that'd be a helluva crowd).

Notable Cubs Performances: Greg Maddux got the start, had some control issues the first inning- walking 3 and loading the bases- but was able to get out of it without giving up a run. In the second inning he settled down and put 'em down (Rangers) 1-2-3, and was done for the day. Ryan Dempster and Scott Eyre each pitched scoreless innings, although Dempster gave up a hit, and walked a batter. Juan Pierre has tried to bunt for a base hit numerous times this spring, including today's unsuccessful effort - but that's what spring training is all about. Hopefully when the regular season arrives, the bunts on the plush infield at Wrigley will be base hits. John Mabry hit a two-run double. Michael Restovich and Angel Pagan are showing that the Cubs may have some good depth in the outfield with Pagan's speed and Restovich's power. Restovich hit a HR today while Pagan was 2 for 2 with a double and a run scored. Corey Patterson's brother Eric, who played mostly for single-A Peoria last season, got a chance to play at 2nd base today, and hit a double in the 8th inning.

I announced one of our ceremonial first pitches, a spry young fella of 103 years. That's right, 103 years young - still drives his own car, walked out onto the field, and chucked the baseball. It felt strange to follow that by announcing a moment of silence in honor of Kirby Puckett, who passed away just short of his 46th birthday. I guess it just kind of makes you wonder about things. Like how much of a role lifestyle and genetics play in one's longevity. One thing I know, I don't recall seeing too many overweight centenarians.

Two things coming up for Cubs Fans in Arizona: The Cubs wives are holding their annual food drive and memorabilia auction at HoHoKam Stadium on Saturday, March 11th when the Cubs play the KC Royals. The food drive and auction will benefit Mesa's Paz De Christo Community Center.

The Chicago Cubs FanFest is Monday, March 13th from 4-7 pm at the Mesa Amphitheater, located on the SE Corner of Center and University. (Just a mile south of HoHokam) There will be plenty of Chicago style food, games, and music. There will also be a free raffle to win autographed Cubs memorabilia. In addition, this is your chance to ask that question that's been on your mind during the popular Q&A session with Cubs manager Dusty Baker, GM Jim Hendry, and about a half dozen Cubs players. Best of all, admission is FREE.

Cubs vs. Padres Tomorrow at HoHoKam

Monday, March 06, 2006

So Long Kirby

This blog isn't about today's Cubs spring training game, because of the passing of Kirby Puckett. The Chicago native helped the Minnesota Twins win two World Series Championships, was one of the best right-handed hitters of his era, and was a first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His irrepressible personality drew teammates and fans to him throughout his career, which was cut short due to damage to his right retina caused by Glaucoma. Having many family members and friends who live in the state of Minnesota, I can attest that Kirby was indeed legend up in those parts.

Kirby had gained alot of weight, and had been having some tough times in recent years. That's not the way I will remember him.

I was lucky enough to meet Kirby when he was the National Spokesperson for the "Don't be Blindsided" by Glaucoma campaign that came to HoHoKam Stadium in spring of 1998. We talked one-on-one about many things including his career and his strong belief in helping people get screened, and learn about the dangers of Glaucoma. Later I interviewed him on camera, and he said the highlights of his baseball career were the World Series Championships. I remembered something he had said years earlier about how he wanted to open up a car wash when he retired and yes, that he was going to help wash the cars himself. At the end of the interview I asked him about how the car wash business was going, and he laughed- I guess because I remembered. He said no, he hadn't gotten around to doing that, but someday he still might. He added "right now, I'm just enjoying life, and am grateful for all the good things that have come my way."

We will miss you Kirby!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Undefeated at HoHoKam

If you weren't one of the 12, 672 fans who enjoyed the fun atmosphere of the Cubs game at HoHoKam today, hopefully you at least were able to catch some of the game on WGN TV. Another perfect Arizona day, 74 degrees at first pitch, which saw the Cubs win their 3rd game in 4 attempts this spring, beating the San Francisco Giants 5 - 1.

Notable performances for the Cubs: Starting Pitcher Rich Hill threw a couple scoreless innings, giving up one hit. Scott Eyre had a very successful first outing, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced. Angel Pagan, who was in the Mets organization, helped his cause to make the ballclub in a crowded outfield, with a couple hits and two stolen bases today. The 24 year old Pagan has 163 minor league stolen bases. It was a very frightening moment when Giant's starter Kevin Correia nailed Jerry Hairston in the head with a pitch that sent him straight to the ground. Hairston ended up being helped off the field, and was taken to Mesa Lutheran Hospital for observation. Felix Pie, Marquis Grissom, and Michael Restovich each hit a two-bagger. Mark Prior didn't play in the game, but had another successful pitching session today.

The Giants played a split-squad with the other half of the team in Scottsdale playing the World Baseball Classic USA team. Team USA beat the Giants 11 - 7. In that game, the Cub's Derrek Lee was 1 for 1 with a run scored, while Michael Barrett went 0 for 2.

Shawon Dunston (see pic), who has been helping out for about a week each of the past few springs, ended his Mesa stint by coaching part of the game at first base. In talking to Shawon today about his early spring training experiences, he mentioned that during his first spring training he was never subjected to any rookie pranks, he said "no, they never did that to me, I had a veteran team- they didn't have time for that" When he became an established player, he did however enjoy being the one to dish it out. Dunston has over the years at spring training been a favorite of mine to videotape because of his fun, outgoing personality. At Fitch Park, in their playing days Dunston, Grace, and Sandberg seemed to have as much fun with their competitive contests as anyone I've seen. And during the years that Dwight Smith was with the team, sometimes the group became downright comical. Ah, memory lane.

Tomorrow the Cubs head to Phoenix to take on the Oakland Athletics.

~more later~

Shawon Dunston watches bp today.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cubs Streak Comes to an End

Click Here for My Photos From Today at Scottsdale

Headed up to Scottsdale this morning to see the Cubs take on the Giants. It was an absolutely magnifico day weather wise here in the valley of the sun. Mostly sunny by gametime, about 75 degrees and a light breeze. The Giants were Bonds-less, of course the Cubs are down a few players also because of the World Baseball Classic. It was only a matter of time before the Cub's unbeaten streak came to an end , as they lost today to the Giants 7 - 2 in front of a record crowd at Scottsdale Stadium.

Not many highlights for the Cubs, Brian Dopirak filling in for the WBC bound Lee, hit his first HR of the spring. Felix Pie hit his second Triple of the spring, and made a nice grab in foul territory, then showed a major league gun on the throw to hold the base runner. Ryan Dempster threw a ton of pitches in his one inning, allowing a run then loading the bases before getting the final out. When the inning ended, the guy next to me said "well, at least Dempster is in mid-season form."

Scottsdale Stadium had a face-lift this off season. (A town specialty) New this year: A giant-baseball flanked entrance behind Centerfield, new practice facilities, and a large right field pavilion. It is a great place to watch a game, my only gripe, and maybe I would notice more than others, was that you could not hear the PA announcer from nearly anywhere in the place. Perhaps it's early and they just need to tweek their system. Even if the result wasn't as good as hoped, it was a great day to enjoy a spring training ball game.

Barry Bonds sat this one out, said he wasn't up to playing today. Some say it was because he had cramps. (see pic)

AP Photo/Ben Margot

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

View my photos from this spring

The Cubs started off the 2006 Cactus League Season in dramatic style with an 8 to 7 come-from-behind victory in front of 7,717 fans at HoHoKam Stadium. With 2 outs, Down 7 to 5 in the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs tied it up on Felix Pie's 2 run Triple. Pie was moving so fast between second and third he nearly face-planted before recovering and sliding safely into third. The Cubs went on to win it with a run in the bottom of the ninth, helped out with two errors by the Athletic's. Of course, wins and losses don't count for much in spring training, in division winning playoff seasons of 1984 and 89, the Cubs had pathetic spring training records.

Notable performances included: Carlos Zambrano's 3 scoreless innings pitched, giving up 1 hit, striking out 2, walking 1. Aramis Ramirez 2 for 3, 2 RBI's. Ryan Dempster a 3up 3down inning.
One guy who didn't fair so well for the Cubs was Bryan Corey who allowed 7 runs in less than an inning, giving up 3 home runs including a Grand Salami to the A's Mark Ellis.

It's great to see Ron Santo back at it announcing today's game for WGN Radio along with his broadcast partner Pat Hughes. Cubs WGN TV Announcer Len Kasper was at the ballpark today, keeping a close eye on the team. The first spring game is also a time to catch up with many friends I don't see throughout the rest of the year.

Look for our first installment of our Podcasts and Video Blog this coming week, and throughout the spring season. A note to all the Cubs Trivia Buffs, watch "The Voice of Summer" film trailer on the Cubs DVD page, then click the Quiz email and tell us who you think the people are that Vince Lloyd is talking about. The correct answers will be entered to win an autographed Cubs Collectible. It's not an easy quiz, and to help you out, we'll be giving you clues on this blog as we go through spring training.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Intrasquad Game at Hohokam

View my photos from today

The Cubs held an intrasquad game today at HoHoKam. No scoreboard, announcements, or music other than the unplugged organist George Kiefer. Today was just about the baseball!

Cubs A vs. Cubs B. Some highlights: Derrek Lee picked up where he left off last year, belting a double in his first at-bat, driving in two runs. Jacque Jones hit a line drive HR and a single in his two at-bats. Ronny Cedeno drilled a double to the gap. Angel Guzman set down the Cubs "B" in order, including striking out Nefie Perez and Marquis Grissom in his scoreless inning. Big Michael Restovich crushed a ball that hit about 5 to 10 feet from the top of the 40 foot high batter's eye in centerfield, and the ball wasn't coming down when it hit, it was still on a line, and probably would have landed somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 feet.

Dusty has some ex-Cubs players helping out this spring, those in attendance today, Shawon Dunston, Bob Dernier(see pic), and Ryne Sandberg who is a Spring Training Instructor.

Just an estimate, I'm guessing about 700 to a thousand Cubs fans turned out for this free scrimmage game. I stopped keeping score because of the informal nature of the game, at least one inning ended with less than 3 outs, Todd Walker playing for both squads, so who won or lost was irrelevant.

I didn't sit in the press box because it was my chance to watch a game from a nice front row seat and put my feet up on top of the Cub's dugout just like the other fans. Of course one of these springs I could try the old Harry Caray stunt and get a wireless microphone and do my PA from different parts of the stadium, not sure the Cubs would go for that. Sitting in the stands is an enjoyable change of pace for me as today I got to talk with a great group of Cub fans. One of those fans was Herman who actually attended a 1945 Cubs World Series Game with his father. Now that's good stuff!

Tomorrow is the Cactus League opener for the Cubs at Hohokam Park as they take on the Oakland Athletics. Carlos Zambrano will start for the Cubs against the A's before leaving on Friday to join the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic.

Talk to you tomorrow after the game!

Bob Dernier helped coach at 1st base today.
(Click link at top for more pics from game)