Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Play Ball

Tomorrow kicks off the Cubs 2007 spring season as they host the San Francisco Giants at Hohokam Stadium, game time is the usual 1:05pm Arizona time. Today's Cubs practice was held at Hohokam and I took some video for you. It gives you a feel for what today was like. Some of my video focuses on Alfonso Soriano working in center field, which was a little tricky for him today because we had wind gusts up in the 25 mph range. The video is about 6 minutes and 30 seconds long. The best viewing is to click on the the word Download above the player and select WMV (original) it takes a minute or two to download but the quality is much better than just pressing play in the media player. Enjoy!

Click here to view today's workout.

Pie and Soriano

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ron Santo

I had the opportunity to talk with Ron Santo this past weekend, he was in great spirits and looking forward to this season. Ron was cautiously optimistic on his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Here is some of our conversation, about two minutes.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pics from Today

A few shots I took at Fitch today to go along with The Wood Report post.

The Wood Report

Lots of sunshine and about 60 degrees today as the Cubs worked out at Fitch Park. I knew Kerry Wood was to face batters today so that was my focus this morning, what follows is my pitch-by-pitch account of what I saw. This might be overkill but if you're like me, seeing how the new slim trim Wood does this spring is intriguing. He could be a real X-factor for the pitching staff this season. I talked with Ron Santo today, he's in great spirits and very excited about this years ballclub. Posting some pics I took from today also, enjoy!

Woody's Pitch Stats Today

Against Casey McGehee--(4 pitches) Ball, Swinging Strike, Fouled off, and Ground out

Against Micah Hoffpauir--(6 pitches) *Ball, Ball, Ball, Ball, *Ball, *Ball

Against Brian Dopirak--(6 pitches) Foul, Ground out, Ball, Ball, Foul, Foul

Against Chris Walker--(6 pitches) Swinging Strike, Swinging Strike, *Ball, Pop Out, Ball, Ball

Against Angel Pagan--(5 pitches) Single to left center, Ball, Swinging Strike, Ball, Line-out to 2nd

27 total pitches-- To be fair, balls and strikes were not called so some of the balls not swung at could have been strikes. The balls listed above with the * could have gone either way, hard to tell from the angle I was at.

Wood on the mound today in Mesa

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pictures of Pitchers

It's overcast and cool (about 50 degrees) this morning here in Mesa. Yesterday however was a perfect day to watch the Cubs. Here are a few photos from yesterday's workout.

Prior throws to D-Lee


Lilly, Miller, and Z

Z getting ready for some bp

Angel Guzman

Sean Marshall

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A-Ram Today

The last starter to show up at Fitch Park this spring was third baseman Aramis Ramirez, he reported on time and ready to go.

Click here to see the photos I took of A-Ram today.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cubs Manager Lou Piniella

Chicago Cubs Manager Lou Piniella talks after practice 2-18-06 (4 Minutes)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Hungry Fan

My original plan was to "take one for the team" and be the guinea pig for all of you planning a trip to Hohokam Stadium this spring, with an emphasis on the word-- pig. I was invited to an open house last night at Hohokam to show off the Cubs improved spring training digs and sample some of the ballpark's new cuisine. My covert plan was to taste as many different types of food as possible and then report to you on my findings, a difficult job but someone needed to do it. However upon arrival and viewing the many food choices I was overwhelmed and quickly scratched my Kobayashi inspired plans.

Having dispensed with the binge eating scheme I needed to at least sample something, which turned out to be Pizzaiolo's pepperoni and sausage pizza. In my opinion it was pretty tasty for ballpark pizza with the sausage leaning a little to the spicy side, (which I like) plenty of cheese, flavorful sauce, with a medium size/style crust. I also received glowing reports on the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich (it looked huge and delicious) and the Big Pat Burger (named after Dwight (Pat) Patterson) was reported to be a big winner by those who tried it. Check out my blog from Dec. 22, 2006 for a stadium map with vendor names and locations. I noticed most concession food prices seemed to be in the $5 to $7.50 area. Some sample prices from the Hot Dog Nation concession: Chi-Town Dog $6, Arizona Fajitas Dog $6, Brat with Kraut $6, Cincinnati Chili Sky Dog $6, Red-Hot Chicago Dog $5 and Nachos Grande $5. Beer looks to range form $5 to $7.50 with the higher price being for imports.

I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise at Hohokam this spring as the Stadium has gone from a generic minimalist food concept to an eclectic upscale gourmet environment, courtesy of Ovations Food Service. In other words Hohokam now offers what most parks already had, and it's about time! Ovations, the new concessionaire spent $1 million to improve concession stands and added another Cubs souvenir shop as well as redesigning the old souvenir shop. Add to that the Hohokam organization spending $500,000 to install digital panels in the main scoreboard as well as two new auxiliary scoreboards, and it appears Cubbie fans now have the spring training ballpark they deserve.

What it looked like last spring

What it looks like now

Another view

Patterson's Cactus Grill

Videos on new scoreboard look great

Souvenir shop re-designed and new door added

Pizza anyone?

Salt River Cantina

Can I take your order?

Right around the corner, 1st base box seat area


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pitchers and Catchers and...

Chicago Cubs pitchers and catchers took to the fields at Fitch Park in Mesa today under a sunny sky. As is often the case a few position players showed up early to get a jump on the spring season, I was a little surprised and very encouraged to see #12 out there. That's right, Cubs free agent prize Alfonso Soriano (pic below) was among the early arrivals working on fielding and taking batting practice. For a player who signed a $136 million dollar contract Soriano's under the radar early appearance is a big departure from the days of King Sosa. Sammy's arrival to camp often a few days after the position players report date was treated as a royal event unto itself. Of course Soriano's low profile today perhaps had more to do with the arrival of Carlos Zambano.

The "Big Z" spoke after practice today and the Fitch Press room was jammed, most likely you will hear and read all about it in many places, so I will just give you my condensed take on what he said. Zambrano feels he has already made big money, $6.5 million last year, but with the Barry Zito contract the door has been opened (and the market set). The Cubs have started negotiations and outlined some parameters, Z says he would be happy with a 5 year deal and would like to get it worked out before the season starts. If not he will worry about it after the season with the Cubs having first "priority". He's excited with all the changes to the ballclub, feels great physically, and thinks he could win 20 to 22 games this year. Zambrano called new teammates Lilly and Marquis "inning eaters" and believes the Cubs will be a contender this season, citing how the Detroit Tigers weren't predicted to be as good last year and they went to the World Series.

Other impressions from today, Michael Barrett was hitting the cover off the ball in bp, I know it's only bp but for the first day he was scorching one laser shot after another. Felix Pie was also in early, he and Soriano seemed to be getting along well, perhaps two thirds of a future outfield? The good news: Mark Prior and Wade Miller both throwing off the mound and feeling good. The bad news: A slimmer Kerry Wood (pic below) falling out of his hot tub hurting his ribs and will not throw for 4-5 days. (Insert your own joke here) Wood did participate in today's entire workout except the throwing. Cubs pitching prospect and former golden dome multi-sport star Jeff Samardzija (pic below) already leads the team in one area--largest hair.

Soriano runs

A slim Kerry Wood on mound

Samardzija's mane

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Three Words

Three words-- pitchers and catchers! Yes ladies and gentleman, boys and girls it's only one more day until the boys of spring show up at Fitch Park here in Mesa. The Cubs pitchers and catchers will then take to the fields on Thursday for their first workout under new Manager Lou Piniella. Of course I will be at Fitch Park monitoring the situation for all of you Cubs fans who can't be there in person. Looks like it will be around 70 degrees and sunny for the first workout, I almost feel guilty saying that as I know the weather has been rough lately in much of the country.

When he arrives tomorrow the spotlight will be shining on star Pitcher Carlos Zambrano after an interview with WGN-Ch. 9 in which he said: "I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go." Zambrano is asking $15.5 million in arbitration, while the Cubs offered $11.025 million, quite a difference in numbers that might lead to an arbitration hearing Feb. 20. The Cubs have spent like never before this off-season, so we'll see how deep Jim Hendry and the Cubs pockets go. One thing is sure; Big Z is throwing some serious heat even before stepping on the field.

Apparently former Cubs make good broadcast analysts as FOX has hired Mark Grace, Joe Girardi, and Eric Karros, the three will rotate between working pre-game shows and doing games each week. Former No. 2 analyst Steve Lyons was let go after making what were deemed ethnically insensitive on-air comments last season. Grace calls Arizona Diamondbacks' TV games; Girardi was fired by the Florida Marlins after being named last season's National League manager of the year, and Karros moves to FOX after doing games for ESPN last season. How good the former Cubs are, or will be as analysts of course depends largely upon the viewer's personal taste. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will remain FOX's No. 1 broadcast team.

We are at the very beginning of baseball's long journey, I'm hoping the Cubs will wipe away the bad taste of last season and do what the club hasn't been done in nearly a century. Many of you know I'm an optimist by nature but the realist in me will be happy if the Cubs are at least a true contender this season. It's now time for me to be your eyes and ears for the next month and a half while the Cubs are here, check back often as I will be blogging regularly and offering some new surprises. If you have questions about spring training or the Cubs progress drop me an email at

This year is here!