Thursday, March 29, 2007

Till next year Hohokam

A nice close to the Cubs home spring training season at Hohokam Stadium today, which saw the Cubs and Diamondbacks play in front of an all-time single-game Cactus League record 12,917 fans. The Cubs notched a 7-4 win, powered by a Micah Hoffpauir 3 run HR blast in the bottom of the 7th, breaking a 4-4 tie. The Diamondbacks who are also playing tonight at Chase Field, brought over pretty much a minor league squad, and the Cubs starting lineup included only 3 projected opening day starters- Jones, Murton, and DeRosa. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez saw the field briefly, each coming in to pinch hit. The Win brought the Cubs Cactus League record to 16-12-2 as they head to Las Vegas today with games scheduled against Seattle Mariners Friday and Saturday. Hard to believe another Spring Training has come and gone, at least the Arizona portion.

This is a short post tonight, but be sure to come back over the weekend for a spring recap and season preview. As well as some favorite photos I took from this spring, and my new Cubs music video. Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

10 Again

For the second day in a row the Cubs played another 10 inning game, this time against the Colorado Rockies and it offered no exciting conclusion. Today's game, played in front of a sell-out crowd of 12,712, was called after 10 innings with the teams locked at 4 runs a piece. This was a less than stellar defensive performance by both clubs who combined for an ugly 6 errors, 4 by the Cubs. Mark Prior started the game, and went 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, struck out 3, and gave up 3 runs, all unearned. Lou Piniella, who earlier in the day, had said he was happy with Alfonso Soriano's play in centerfield this spring, might be reevaluating that opinion after watching him today. Soriano misplayed Kaz Matsui's liner in the 1st inning, at first hesitating then charging only to let the ball get past him. I won't go over all the Cubs defensive lapses, other than to say Cliff Floyd committed 2 of the Cubs 4 errors, like Soriano, Floyd was brought to Chicago for his bat.

However the game was not all bad. Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez all hit homeruns, Lee and Ramirez back to back in the 6th inning. Michael Wuertz bounced back from yesterday's mulligan to record a solid inning, allowing no hits, striking out 2 with 1 walk. Angel Guzman, who has been named one of the Cubs long relievers, pitched 3 quality innings, giving up 1 run. Ryan Dempster also bounced back from yesterday's blown save to throw a shutout inning. Neal Cotts and Federico Baez (minor leaguer called up for today's game) combined for two shutout innings.

While the Cubs had 4 errors in the field today, count 1 in the pressbox for me. As the Public Address Announcer, little mistakes happen fairly often, most going unnoticed. Today's was definitely conspicuous, as I announced Alfonso Soriano coming up to the plate in the 3rd inning, only problem was, he wasn't up yet. Who was up? Well, that player was in the dugout & not on the field at the time. It turned out to be Kyle Reynolds, pinch-hitting for Mark Prior. I broke one of my cardinal rules, to always look at my scorecard, instead I was watching Soriano who wasn't in his normal on deck spot, giving the impression he was coming up to bat. It didn't seem to bother Soriano any, who after I announced him the 2nd time jacked one out of the Park.

Before the game, Lou Piniella was asked about the female umpire that will work tomorrow's game at Hohokam. Lou was very positive, and said he had no problem at all with a female umpire. Then, one of the reporters asked him if he would treat a female umpire differently in an onfield squabble, which brought a big smile and some laughter from the manager, who said he should probably avoid answering that question. A female umpire has never worked in the Major Leagues during the regular season. The last time a woman called a big league exhibition game was 1989. The only female umpire in professional baseball, Ria Cortesio, of Rock Island, Illinois, will work tomorrow's game, and is assigned to Double-A this year.

After Tony Dungy took in a Cubs game yesterday, equal time was given to the other Super Bowl participant as Bear's Head Coach Lovie Smith was a front row spectator today.

If you are coming to tomorrow's game at Hohokam get an early start because the game starts at 12:05 Arizona time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ronny Rocks Royals in 10

The Cubs are starting to make a spring habit of walk-off HR wins, this time in the bottom of the 10th inning. Today's game winner came courtesy of a Ronny Cedeno 3-run blast off the left field scoreboard, leading the Cubs to a 13-10 victory at Hohokam over the KC Royals. The announced attendance was 10,886, but because of the length of the game, (3:33) it appeared only about 2/3rds of that crowd stuck around for the extra inning excitement.

The Good. The Cubs bats continue to dominate Cactus League opponents, as today they pounded out 12 hits, 8 of those going for extra bases. Matt Murton leading the hit parade, going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles. Aramis Ramirez went 2 for 3 with a double, a homerun, and 3 RBI's. Derrek Lee also had an RBI double, going 1 for 3. The Cubs' offense continues to exercise great patience this spring, drawing 7 bases on balls today, including 2 walks in the 10th before Cedeno's winning HR.

The Bad. All the 10th inning drama wouldn't have been needed had Ryne Dempster been able to hold the Royals in the 9th . Dempster, who was trying to record the save with the Cubs holding a 10-8 lead, gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, forcing the extra frame as the Cubs couldn't score in the bottom of the 9th. Starting pitcher Rich Hill wasn't necessarily bad, but not particularly good either, giving up 8 hits, 6 runs, but only 4 earned in 4 and 2/3rds innings. Hill didn't walk anyone, and struck out 4 Royals. Michael Wuertz gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk in his 1 inning pitched.

Other notes. I had a feeling it was going to be one of those long, offensive games because of the predicted wind gusts in the 20-30 mph range, and from seeing a Rich Hill warm-up pitch almost take off the head of an unsuspecting photographer as the ball flew over Michael Barrett's head and outstretched arm. The East Valley Little League Cubs did a terrific job of singing 'Take Me Out To the Ballgame' during the 7th inning stretch, especially considering they are only 5 years old. I noticed a familiar face sitting next to GM Jim Hendry, in his usual spot just off the Cubs dugout. Now I don't want this to upset any Bears fans, but that face belonged to none other than Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy. Perhaps Hendry's trying to get some of that championship mojo goin.

Tomorrow the Cubs host the Colorado Rockies at Hohokam. Mark Prior is scheduled to start the game, although Wade Miller has been officially named to the starting rotation, taking the final spot. It should be interesting to see how Prior does under the circumstances.

I spy Super Bowl guy

The Home Stretch

The Cubs have three games left to close out the Arizona portion of spring training this week, hosting Kansas City today, Colorado Tuesday, and Arizona on Thursday, all at Hohokam Stadium. Just a reminder, the game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday will start at 12:05 Arizona time, one hour earlier than the normal 1:05 start. The team will then head to Las Vegas for two final exhibition games on Friday and Saturday against the Seattle Mariners.

Spring Training seems to have once again whizzed by, at least for me. I've heard many players say they think spring training is too long, certainly it's not to "get into shape" as much as in the past, most of these guys are in great physical shape when they arrive. I think the Cubs needed all the time they could get here in Mesa this spring, mostly for new Manager Lou Piniella to instill his policies, attitude, and imprint on the club. Alfonso Soriano probably could use another couple weeks to help adjust to his new CF position and Wood and Prior never seem to have enough time in spring training. Mark Prior is expected to pitch tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if he can continue the positive progress from his last start. Five games left before it starts "for real" next Monday! I'm off to Hohokam, talk to you after today's game.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Optimism Rising in Spite of Today's Loss

A very fast(2:17) and well played game at Hohokam today, as the Cubs lost to the Angels 3-2 in front of 12,727. Cubs starter Ted Lilly had his best outing this spring, going 6 innings not giving up a run, 4 hits, 4 K's, and 1 BB. Angel's pitcher Irvin Santana retired the Cubs in order the first 4 innings. Cliff Floyd led off the 5th, hitting a monster HR to right field, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead that would stand until the Angel's half of the 7th, when Kerry Wood entered the game and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, and a homerun. Wuertz and Dempster each pitched a scoreless inning. The Cubs had some outstanding glove work today, including a great leaping grab on the warning track by Jacque Jones, and Mark DeRosa who started at 3rd Base in place of Aramis Ramirez today did his best Brooks Robinson imitation. It was a great day for a ballgame in spite of the Cubs losing, hopefully you saw it live at Hohokam, or on WGN TV.

A few stats this spring:

Cubs starting pitchers have walked 2 or fewer in 24 of the 26 games this season.

Cubs 30 homeruns entering today's game are 2nd in the NL behind San Diego's 36.

The team holds a .496 slugging % coming into today's game, leading the NL.

.378 on base %, 3rd in the NL.

Cubs hurlers lowered their team ERA today, leading all Cactus League Clubs.

Cubs hitters are averaging nearly 4 walks per game this spring, after averaging a mere 2.4 during the 2006 regular season.

Derrek Lee has reached base safely in 15 of 16 games played. His .490 batting average leads the Majors.

Cubs have stolen 25 bases this spring, and only been caught 3 times. 25 stolen bases ranks 3rd among NL Clubs. The Cub's .893 success rate in stolen bases leads the Majors.

Cubs have 12 sacrifice bunts this spring, leading the NL.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Oh Henry!

You probably know by now of the Cubs victories over the Giants in the past 2 days, yesterday at Hohokam 6-2, and today in Scottsdale 3-2 led by the solid pitching of Big Z and Wade Miller. So I won't go into the games any further and instead give you something you haven't seen-- this morning's batting practice at Hohokam before the team headed to Scottsdale for today's game. A couple themes emerged from this mornings practice, and I captured some of it on video for you.

It was give Henry Blanco a hard time at the park day, with Lou Piniella leading the way. You need to listen to the audio carefully to catch most of it, but mainly he was giving Henry a hard time about his lack of hitting this spring. The guys were loose and having a good time this morning, most of this is shot around the batting cage. Some video of Alan Trammell working with Ronny Cedeno on glove skills, and Blanco trying to redeem himself with a fielding contest at shortstop against D-Lee.

Click here to watch the video.

When you go to the page, click the word "download" above the TV media player and select WMV(original)to download and view for the best video quality, or just press play(Video quality not as good). I didn't do a lot of editing so you could get the feel of being there, it runs about 11 minutes 30 seconds. It will take a little longer to download than the others because of the larger size.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

10th Annual Food Drive Tomorrow

That guy pitching for the Cubs today looked a lot like Mark Prior, you know the Mark Prior we all knew in 2003. I watched the rain shortened game on MLB-TV while trying to get a little work done, it was nice to see Prior have a solid outing like he did today. After the first inning he really seemed to find his groove, a definite step in the right direction.

The Cubs will host the SF Giants tomorrow at Hohokam with Carlos Zambrano scheduled to start. If you are headed to the game at Hohokam remember that the Cubs wives are hosting the 10th annual food drive to benefit Paz de Cristo. The food drive begins tomorrow morning at 10:30am, and will run through the top of the third inning. The first 300 fans making a donation of 10 non-perishable food items or $20, will have the opportunity to randomly select a Cubs autographed baseball in a grab bag giveaway, with a limit of 2 grabs per person while supplies last.

In addition, a silent auction will be held from 10am to 1pm outside of Gate D at the ballpark. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on various autographed memorabilia in addition to game-used items. All proceeds will benefit Paz de Cristo.

Paz de Cristo serves those in need in Mesa and the East Valley with a daily meal service, food boxes and empowerment programs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Slammin Sammy, Nasty Boy, and a Grand Salami

There was a buzz out at Hohokam Stadium today, with the Texas Rangers coming to Mesa, and the return of a former Cub, Jerry Hairston. Of course, the buzz at the stadium wasn't about him, although he is also a Texas Non-Roster invitee. It was about slammin' Sammy Sosa, and his return to Hohokam for the first time since spring of 2004. I was wondering what kind of reception he would receive when I announced his name coming to bat, from my vantage point in the press box behind home plate, it sounded about 3/4 positive. As the game progressed, by Sosa's 3rd at bat in the 5th inning, it seemed the reverse of that- my guess is the boos and heckles got louder as more beer was consumed. Sammy's day at the plate was fairly uneventful, 1 hit in 3 at bats, an infield single that Mark DeRosa playing 3rd base bare-handed, but wasn't in time to get him with the throw. His last at bat in the 5th inning was exciting however, as a routine grounder took a bad hop to SS Ronny Cedeno, who made an amazing bare-handed over-his-shoulder snag, throwing out Sosa at first.

Cliff Floyd in morning warm-ups announced "It is going to be a good day" and he was right! Sosa aside, the game was interesting, and had an exciting finish, with Daryle Ward hitting a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th, pushing the Cubs to an 11 to 7 victory. 11,674 fans showed up for this 3 hour and 29 minute hump day game. It's kind of funny, I was talking to Al Yellon from Bleed Cubbie Blue prior to the game about all things Cubs, including how well Jason Marquis had been pitching this spring- not giving up many HR's, walks, etc. Of course, that's the kiss of death when you start talking about how good a guy is doing, because Marquis started for the Cubs, and had a not so great outing. He gave up 5 runs on 9 hits, but the discouraging part was he walked 3 batters, and gave up 3 homeruns during his 5 innings. Pitcher Roberto Novoa is not long for this Cubs team- he started the 7th inning by walking 3 consecutive batters to load the bases. The Cubs and Novoa were bailed out by an outstanding effort by Scott Eyre, who struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced, and didn't allow a run to score.

The Cubs continue to hit the ball well, Derrek Lee who has been a hitting machine this spring, continuing today- going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI's. Cliff Floyd, Mark DeRosa, and Jacque Jones each had 2 hits, Jones doubled and hit a game-tying homerun in the 7th. Daryle Ward, who had been criticized earlier this spring for coming in overweight and out of shape, and was not hitting well to date, had a nice game coming off the bench, including a go-ahead RBI single in the 7th, and the game winning grand salami. The Cubs continue their base stealing ways, as Soriano and Theriot both had a stolen base, although DeRosa was thrown out in an attempted steal. The fans were on their feet when Michael Wuertz was trying to hold a 1 run lead, and end the game in the Rangers half of the 9th. The Rangers were able to plate a run, tying the game leading to the exciting bottom of the 9th heroics from the Cubs.

Other notes: Wrigley Field Public Address Voice and Frequent Anthem singer, Wayne Messmer and his wife Kathy sang God Bless America before the game, and led the 7th inning stretch in Take Me Out to the Ballgame as well. Cubs fan and Pulitzer Prize winning writer George Will attended today's game. Cubs manager Lou Piniella was interviewed for the Best Damn Sports Show by his old 'nasty boy' Rob Dibble, who played for Lou when his Reds won the World Series in 1990.

A Happy Sosa Today

Sosa Returns

Today finally looks to be the type of weather we normally get during spring training here in Mesa, an expected high of 78 degrees. The Texas Rangers will be the Cubs opponent today, and with the Rangers will be Sammy Sosa in his first return to Hohokam Stadium since March of 2004. (having been traded in January of 2005) Apparently the reports of Sosa's demise have been greatly exaggerated, at least judging by his numbers this spring .417 BA, 3 HR's, .778 SLG and 9 strike outs. Sosa started his career with Texas as a skinny 16 year old, and the Rangers with the American League DH appear to be the right spot for him to reach 600 HR's, he's only 12 shy of the lofty mark.

Before this spring I thought I would never announce Sosa's name again at Hohokam, if he plays today (looks like he will) it's going to be a little weird saying his name without the home team emphasis after doing it the same way for a dozen years. Similar to the first time I announced Mark Grace after he left the Cubs and became a Diamondback. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Sammy gets from the Hohokam crowd, my guess is pretty favorable in spite of the situation surrounding his departure from the Cubs.

Sosa Then

Sosa Now

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cubs Score 27

I know it's spring training but the numbers from the two Cubs split squad games today are pretty impressive nevertheless. The Cubs scored 27 runs on 35 hits, winning 11-7 against the Brewers in Maryvale, and 16-4 over the Mariners at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. The game in Mesa got off to a rockin' start as Alfonso Soriano blasted a HR to left center, Mariner's left fielder Tony Torcato took one step then turned and watched the ball sail over the fence. The excitement continued, in front of a crowd of 8,625, with a double from Ryan Theriot and RBI single from Derrek Lee followed by a monster HR from Aramis Ramirez that flew well over the top of the Hohokam scoreboard and out of the ballpark. One can only hope the fans parked in the North Parking lot have collision coverage. The Cubs went on to plate 5 runs in the first inning. The Cubs then scored 3 runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings before Lou Piniella started substituting position players. Michael Barrett had 2 HR's, I'd mention everyone who had a big day with the bat, but I don't want this to turn into a novel so just check the box score.

Wade Miller was the Cubs starting pitcher in Mesa, trying to cement his spot at the 5th starter in the Cubs pitching rotation and he didn't seem to further his chances one way or the other. He pitched 3 and a third innings, giving up 3 earned runs on 6 hits, 2 K's, and a wind-aided HR to Adrian Beltre that just barely cleared the fence in left. Neal Cotts actually looked pretty good today, pitching 2 scoreless innings, allowing 1 hit while striking out 2. Howry, Wuertz, and Walrond combined for 3 and 2/3rds scoreless innings.

Other notes from today's game- Cliff Floyd had some issues out in left field, misjudging a fly ball that should have been caught but as mentioned the wind was blowing out pretty strong today. Chris Walker who came in as a substitution in centerfield had one of the most amazing catches of the spring, taking away a homerun from Mariners Mike Morse. The ball just kept carrying deep to left center and Walker played it perfectly, timing his jump, extending every inch of his 5'8" body to snag the ball before it went over the fence. All the Cubs players came out of the dugout to greet him when he came in from the field. Perhaps because the Cubs had scored so many runs, or that today was a split squad, Carlos Zambrano ended up being used as a pinch-hitter. Unfortunately he struck out.

Illinois native, Pulitzer prize winning writer, and Cubs fan George Will was at Hohokam chatting with Lou Piniella and Cubs President John McDonough among others while watching bp. Also on hand, former Phoenix Suns star forward Tom Chambers, who I noticed before the game. (it's hard to miss a 6'10" guy walking through the concourse) Chambers ended up getting out of the sun, and watching part of the game from my P.A. booth. Didn't take me long to find out he's not a Cubs fan, when he asked who Carlos Zambrano is.

The Cubs make their final trek to Tucson tomorrow to play the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, then back to Hohokam on Wednesday to host the Texas Rangers and Sammy Sosa.

George Will, Lou Piniella, and Billy Williams

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cubs in Tempe

The Cubs lost to the Angels 4-0 in Tempe today. Click here to view my photos from today.

Green Hats Win

Hope you had a good St. Patrick's Day! It's been a couple years since we had a St. Patrick's day game at Hohokam Stadium and they always seem to be very festive. The teams wear green ballcaps, many of the fans are decked out in green, and various costumes. Mark the beer guy gets even taller with a giant green top hat. Most of you probably saw or heard the game on WGN TV or Radio, or were one of the 12,764 that jammed into the stadium on a very warm day so I'll bypass the game recap.

St. Patrick's Day seems to have morphed into a beer-soaked carnival. In addition to the scheduled pre-game ceremonial pitches, an unidentified man dressed like a leprechaun clown somehow got past the field security guard and was able to walk out onto the field, and cajole Ryan Dempster into catching a pitch he threw from the mound. All's well that ends well, but it raised a some security concerns considering the guy had no press pass, and was carrying a large black bag when he walked out onto the field. A little frightening since no one including the Cubs media relations people knew who he was or what he was doing there.

After the game I was talked into heading out to one of the so-called Irish bars to celebrate our family heritage at the behest of my recently single brother. Our first effort landed us at Fibber McGees in Chandler, where before even parking we saw hundreds of people waiting in line, so we decided not to wait. Our next destination was another "Irish" bar, RT O'Sullivans on Power Road off the US 60. This day is like a license to print money for these "Irish" bars. RTO's put up a tent outside, charged $10 to get in, $7 for a Guinness, and had a mediocre non-irish music playing band. Just after entering, we realized we wouldn't be able to get inside the actual restaurant/bar because of another huge line, we asked if we could get our cover back, and were impolitely declined. We then tried to get a hand-stamp so we could at least come back after getting food somewhere else- no go there. Not that we really wanted to come back to the over-crowded tent thrown up on hot blacktop, surrounded by smelly porta-johns, but it was the principal of the matter. So I asked the "manager" why we couldn't get our money back, since there was no place to sit in the tent area, and no way to get food, and he said that's just the way it is. I said "So you are not really interested in making the customer's happy, but only in making money". His only response was a smug grin. It appears to me these establishments are more interested in making the green than celebrating it.

Cubs are headed to Tempe Diablo Stadium today to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- I love saying that name, I only wish it could be longer. I'm going there now, so I'll talk to you later.

Green guys lead Cubs chant

D-Lee sporting the green

Mark the Jolly-Green beer giant

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The Cubs host the Padres today at Hohokam Stadium with former Cub Greg Maddux starting for San Diego and Rich Hill taking the mound for Chicago. It's going to be a very hot St. Patty's day so be prepared, 97 degrees or better! Don't forget to drink some water along with that green beer.

Click here for a little info about St. Patrick

See you at Hohokam!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Prior Commitment

I'm trying to work right now while also keeping one eye on the TV, checking the Cubs and Angel Guzman's progress vs the Sox on WGN. Having to finish a non-Cubs related project prevented me from getting down to Fitch Park this morning to see Mark Prior pitch in a minor league setting. There has been much speculation recently about Mark Prior and his future with the Cubs, including this article yesterday by Jay Mariotti in the Chicago Sun-Times.

I'm sure you will read several accounts and explanations of Prior's effort this morning. Dedicated Cubs fan/blogger Al Yellon who is editor of Bleed Cubbie Blue, was on hand this morning at Fitch and offers this account. Which reminds me of an email I sent to a Cubs fan last May when Prior was at Fitch working during an extended spring:

"Prior was throwing at 86 to 88 mph on his pitches; according to the coaches I heard talking. However, Prior appears slightly thinner and in my opinion looks to weigh 5 to 10 pounds less than in previous seasons. Maybe it's because he's still in the rehab process, but there's something, I can't quite put my finger on what, that seems different about him right now. Possibly it is that he lacks the confidence of knowing he's at full strength, which to me, he is obviously not."

Of course everyone saw Prior's less than stellar pitching after he left Mesa and joined the Cubs last season. Anyway you look at it Mr. Prior's future with the Cubs is currently as sketchy as his fastball.

Back to work for me, at least I can focus more with the TV's sound off, not hearing the WGN White Sox announcers certainly is helpful.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You say Jojeema, I say Jojama

I thought I was going to get arrested by a Mesa Police officer outside
Hohokam Park today before the game. I had decided to give someone my
two season ticket seats in the shade (and shade was at a premium- today
was HOT - yes 'dry heat' I know but so is an oven!)So I spot a guy with
his small kid standing in line for tickets, and asked if he'd like two
seats in the shade face value.(I buy my own tickets like everyone else)
He immediately jumped at the chance but we were stopped by a shouting
security officer and Mesa policewoman. "You can't scalp here!" "I'm not
scalping, I'm just trying to give them away for face value" I said.
They made us leave the premises to the sidewalk along Center Street,
apparently that is a legal place to sell tickets not around the
stadium. I'm just glad I was able to walk into Hohokam a free man.

I'm not going to say much about the game today because the Cubs were playing a Seattle split-squad team that didn't have their top players. The Cubs took
advantage by scoring 9 runs while giving up 3. Cliff Floyd's first at
bat as a Cub at Hohokam was memorable, pounding a 3 run line drive
homer to right field.Aramis Ramiriz also had a homerun. Alfonso Soriano was 3 for 3 with 2 runs scored and a stolen base, and looked comfortable in Centerfield. Ted Lilly started for the first time at Hohokam and pitched 3 and 2/3rds innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. Cubs Pitchers Eyre, Marmol, Walrond, and Ohman each pitched 1 inning of shut out ball. Bob Howry gave up the other run. It was another sellout - 12,771.

I pride myself on being as accurate as possible when it comes to
pronouncing players names, etc. That's why I always go before the game
to the visiting team's media relations person and ask for
pronunciations I am unsure of, and for any minor-leaguers that may see playing time so I am not surprised during the game. Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima was one of the players I asked about today. The Mariners media guy told me "JOE-JAH-MA" and after I announced it this way a few times, a Cubs Media relations person came in, handing me a note that said "JOE-JEE-MA"

The Mariner's half of the 3rd ended with Bryan LaHair being thrown out trying to steal at 2nd base. However, over the inside of the press box speaker, it was said
that Adam Jones ended the inning striking out, and not a throw out at 2nd
base. So, I announced the end of the side that way. I rely on them
because they are the last word on scoring. Well the last word changed
their mind at the beginning of the 4th inning saying that yes, indeed it was a caught stealing at 2nd base. This had already become obvious to me when Adam Jones came up to the plate again to lead off the 4th.

the way things go sometimes, I just feel lucky as hell to be doing the
P.A. for the Cubs at Hohokam. And speaking of Luck, the Irish kind, I
hope to see you at Hohokam on Saturday! I am going to bring in a
vintage Irish ditty or two and maybe some U2 to play at the stadium to
celebrate the Irish heritage. I kid you not, if you look up in a name
origin book, Sheridan is an Irish nickname for wild man. Knowing my dad
and Uncles, this was also obvious to me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cubs Have the Day Off

Today is the lone day off for the team in March. Unfortunately I was unable to make it down to Tucson yesterday for the game because of other work commitments. Tomorrow the Cubs will host the Seattle Mariners at Hohokam Stadium, Lefty Ted Lilly is scheduled to make his second spring start and third overall appearance. Here are a few photos from this spring, click above photos on right to view as slideshow.
See you at Hohokam

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cubs Win, Cubs Win

The Cubs beat the Brewers 6-3 today, in front of a capacity crowd (12,726) at Hohokam Stadium. Cubs pitchers did a nice job overall against a Milwaukee Brewer team that came into today's game with a National League best .333 batting average. Jason Marquis started today's game and went 4 innings, allowing one run on 6 hits, one walk, and 2 K's. Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless inning giving up a hit and a walk. Ryan Dempster looked sharp in a one, two, three inning, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced. Les Walrond and Rocky Cherry each pitched a scoreless inning with Cherry striking out the side in the 9th for the save. Cubs Sean Gallagher gave up 2 runs on 3 hits in his one inning pitched.

Jake Fox belted a pinch-hit 3 run homer in the 6th inning for the Cubs, giving the team a HR in 11 straight games this spring. Aramis Ramirez and Tyler Colvin chipped in with 2 hits apiece. Cubs hitters entered the game with a .320 team batting average, good for 2nd amongst N.L. teams and a sizzling .361 average over the last 7 games. Defensively, Alfonso Soriano made a nice running catch in left center, while Michael Barrett made a strong throw, gunning down Cory Hart's attempted steal in the second inning.

Hohokam beer dispensing giant "Mark the Beer Guy" led the crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch. The Cubs will be in Scottsdale tomorrow to play the San Francisco Giants.

Brew Crew in Mesa Today

Cubs and Brewers square off at Hohokam Stadium here in Mesa with Jason Marquis getting the start for the Cubs, look for Kerry Wood to pitch in today's game. Expecting a high temperature of 87 today with lots of sunshine, so don't forget that sun screen.

Some people have asked why the outfield lawn/berm area at Hohokam is closed until the Cubs finish batting practice, which has been done since 1999. The reason being, too many people were getting injured (broken arms, legs, separated shoulders, etc.) going after batting practice home runs. Adults were knocking over children trying to get to the baseballs, with many resulting injuries. So that decision was made with your and your children's safety in mind.

If you're in central Illinois you can hear me talk Cubs baseball every Monday morning during spring training with Larry Duling at 7:50 am central time, on WHOW news radio 1520. WHOW is located in Clinton, strategically located between Champaign, Springfield, and Bloomington.

See you at Hohokam,

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cubs Win at Hohokam

Things are heating up here in the desert with a high temperature of 87 degrees recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport today and possibly 94 by Monday, that's 10 to 15 degrees above the average high. The Cubs bats have heated up right along with the weather, as the club pounded out 49 hits in the last 3 games, 17 today in a 10-6 win over the San Diego Padres at Hohokam Stadium. Today the Cubs played split-squad games with the other group traveling to Surprise Arizona, losing to Texas Rangers 11-9. Having a split-squad kept attendance in Mesa 8,513, lower than a normal Friday home game.

Aramis Ramirez hit his first HR of the spring going 2 for 3 with 4 RBI's. The Cubs have now hit home runs in 8 straight games and won 5 of the last 6 contests (Split-squad loss included). Buck Coats and Tomas Perez each went 3 for 4 at the plate, while Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, and Eric Patterson each had 2 hits. On the mound Rich Hill was the starter and went 3 innings allowing one run on 4 hits. Hill looked sharp at times with his big hook working, striking out 3 Padres. Bob Howry had a nice one, two, three inning. Seven Cubs pitchers got into the game and only allowed the Padres one free pass. Cubs non-roster invitee John Webb gave up 3 runs.

Aramis Ramirez had a couple of base-running issues. I'm not sure if he ran through the sign or what but he was only about two-thirds of the way home from third when the ball arrived to catcher Pete LaForest. LaForest couldn't handle the throw allowing Ramirez to score. Another time A-Ram probably should have been picked of third, but again was bailed out by poor Padre defense. I don't know if you saw this on the Comcast broadcast back in Chicago but Lou Piniella was having a hard time communicating with Alfonso Soriano in the 2nd inning, trying to get the Center Fielder to reposition himself from left-center to right-center.

Other notes from today-Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was to throw a ceremonial "first pass" to Cubs pitcher and former Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija as part of a Super Bowl 42 in Arizona promotion. The only problem was McNabb was a no-show; word was he was stuck in traffic. Maybe they should have had Jeff Garcia on standby to complete the pass. Since McNabb spends a great deal of time here in the valley, one would think he would be all too familiar with Phoenix traffic issues. Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper came over to my booth before the game to say hello and inform me of the proper pronunciation of Cubs 3d base coach Mike Quade's last name. (KWOD-AY) Which was greatly appreciated as I like to be as accurate with name pronunciations as possible. Tomorrow the Cubs will take on the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.

Rich Hill today at Hohokam

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Three Straight Wins

If you were out at Hohokam Stadium today and saw Buck Coats throw out Charles Thomas at the plate to preserve a Cubs 9 to 8 victory over the Oakland Athletics, congratulations, because you, my friends, are dedicated! This was a long game even by spring training standards, nearly 3 and a half hours, that saw Cubs pitchers handing out 10 free passes to A's batters including 2 walks with bases loaded. Carlos Zambrano started the game and pitched 3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, walked 3 batters, along with 3 K's. The Cubs impending Cy Young winner was visibly frustrated in the 2nd inning after hitting a batter and giving up 2 runs. When Z left the game the Cubs held a 5 to 2 lead. Scott Eyre and Roberto Novoa both had short rough outings, each pitching less than one inning. Jeff Samardzija played in his first game at Hohokam today and pitched decently in his two innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits, while striking out a batter.

The Cubs did bring some lumber so this game wasn't a complete slumber, pounding out 18 hits including a lead off homerun in the 1st by Alfonso Soriano. Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Jacque Jones each had 3 hits, with Jones driving in 3 runs. Felix Pie drove in the eventual winning run in the bottom of the 7th . Winless in the first 4 games, 3 losses and a tie, the Cubs have now won 3 straight. Tomorrow the Cubs head back out to Peoria, Arizona this time to take on the San Diego Padres. Wade Miller to face former Cub, Greg Maddux.

Soriano goes yard in 1st inning

Jeff Samardzija's first pitch at Hohokam

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Walk-Off Win

Hey a win is a win, even if it's not pretty. The Cubs beat the Brewers 3-2 with a walk-off HR by Micah Hoffpauir in front of 8,140 fans out at Hohokam Stadium today.

While the walk-off HR was nice to see, the 4 errors committed by the Cubs were quite unsightly. This is exactly the kind of sloppy play Manager Lou Piniella has been harping about recently, albeit 2 of the errors came by way of minor league prospect Eric Patterson. It wasn't all bad as Jason Marquis turned in a nice performance going 3 innings, allowing one hit, a walk, no runs, while striking out 2. Jacque Jones had a nice 2-out hit to drive in the Cubs first two runs. D-Lee had 2 hits, while Ryan Dempster pitched a shutout inning, allowing a hit while striking out 2. Eric Patterson who started at second base today showed signs he may be close to ready at the plate going 2 for 4 with a run scored and a stolen base but also had the 2 fielding errors.

Speaking of fielding errors Alfonso Soriano dropped what I would describe as a routine pop-up, I don't know if he had an issue with the sun or not but it should have been caught. Right now Soriano just doesn't seem comfortable out in center field, this has been evident in practice as well. From the way Piniella was talking earlier in camp, Soriano better get comfortable in the next week and a half or we may see Jacque Jones moving over from right field. We shall see soon enough, but my guess is that unless we see major improvement out of Soriano, Jones will be the Cubs opening day center fielder. Piniella has said he feels left and right field are pretty much interchangeable positions, so Soriano who played left field last year could be in right at Wrigley.

Some familiar faces at today's game, Rick Sutcliffe who is a guest coach this week and Lee Smith who was here helping to raise money for the Fergie Jenkins foundation. The infamous Ronnie Woo-Woo was also out in full lungs today. Tomorrow the Cubs will host the Oakland A's at Hohokam.

Rick Sutcliffe at Hohokam today

Monday, March 05, 2007

Pictures of Pitchers, Today in Peoria, AZ








Prior, Lilly, and Wood

What a crowd yesterday, 12,903 jammed into Hohokam Stadium helping to set a new single game attendance record. One of those in attendance was my brother who was enjoying the day at the ballpark. After the game we went out for some food and drinks, so I'll do what many brothers do and blame him for hijacking me, keeping me from my usual post game blog. I figured most of you had a chance to at least watch some of the game on WGN-TV, so I won't go into any game review. Although I will say it was nice to see Soriano get his first spring hits going 3 for 3.

Today should be interesting with Prior slated to start against the Mariners and pitch 2 innings, followed by Ted Lilly and Kerry Wood. Of course that's provided Wood successfully negotiates his way in and out of the shower this morning. The Cubs are looking to get off the spring schneid with a win today, I will be out in Peoria monitoring the situation and will report back here after the game. (Brother not attending) Of course wins and losses don't really matter in March, if I remember right the Cubs had lousy win-loss records in the springs of 1984 and 1989 only to go on and win their division.

I ran into Matt Liston at Hohokam over the weekend, he has a new Cubs movie out called Chasing October which will have an Arizona Premiere sometime later this month. I'm really looking forward to seeing it, you can find out more about it on his website here. Speaking of movies if you haven't read it on the Boys of Spring page on our website I want to let everyone know that the "Boys of Spring" movie will be premiered during Cubs Convention next January 2008. The production has taken longer than originally planned but I think you will enjoy the end result. I wish the the film had been ready sooner, but I did not want to sacrifice quality on this project as it has been a part of my life for so long and means so much to me.

Talk to you after the game. (really)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sox vs Cubs, Round One

I'm really looking forward to the ballgame today, yes I know it's only a spring training game but it's still the Sox! Looks like great weather today here in Mesa with an expected high of about 76 degrees and plenty of sunshine.

Rich Hill will start for the Cubs today, in his last outing against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, Michael Barrett introduced his fist to A.J. Pierzynski's jaw. If you don't have tickets for today's game (it's sold-out) you can find scalper's on the corner of Brown Rd and Center St. Hey, I'm just trying to give you some helpful info, I don't get any commission. If you can't be here, the game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and WGN TV.

Talk to you after the game.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Angels and Dreams

The Cubs lost to the Angels today 9-6 in front of 9171 fans at Hohokam Stadium. The good--Carlos Zambrano's 2 innings pitched allowing only a single while striking out 4 of the 7 batters he faced. Matt Murton going 3 for 3 with a HR and 4 RBI's, Derrek Lee going 2 for 3, Cesar Isturis going 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored, Eric Patterson's 2 run HR, and Bob Howry, Will Ohman and Sean Gallagher combining for 4 shutout innings. The bad--Neal Cotts giving up 4 hits and 3 earned runs in one inning of work, and Cubs pitching prospect Clay Rapada getting spanked for 5 runs and 3 HR's in two thirds of an inning. Mr. Zambrano was busy making some noise off the mound as well.

Big Z says "I believe this year, I can win the Cy Young,"..."and besides that, we will win the World Series. I guarantee that. I have faith in that." Although he backed off the comments slightly saying, "I'm almost sure about that".

What's wrong with this guy doesn't he know of the Cubs nearly century long World Championship drought, doesn't he know of curses and black cats? In Zambrano's press conference on the first day of camp he said he should win 20 to 22 games this season. Big Z is anything but low key and says what he feels, he was fired up today in game two of spring training, that's just the way he is. For better or worse, Z's comments are now on the table, I believe he will do his best to help make Cubs fan's lofty dreams come true. However he is only one pitcher in the rotation and it takes a talented team to win it all. We have one month before opening day, it's going to be fun watching what kind of "team" develops, after all that's a big part of what spring training is about.

Matt Murton belts one out in the 2nd

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fergie Tosses, Cubs Lose

Today's Cactus League opener for the Cubs was less than thrilling, as the Giants handed the Cubs a 9-2 loss on a sunny but cool day here in Mesa (57 degrees at game time). Jason Marquis started for the Cubs in front of 8079 fans at Hohokam Stadium and pitched decent giving up 1 run and 3 hits in his 2 innings. Barry Zito starting for the Giants and was better in his 2 innings allowing only a two-out single to Derrek Lee, Zito faced only 7 batters. The game was zipping right along until the 6th inning with the Giants holding a 1-0 lead, until a group of Cubs non-roster pitchers gave up 8 runs in the final 4 frames. Cubs pitcher Jason Anderson allowed 4 runs in the 9th, only 2 earned, as Scott Moore and Ronny Cedeno each committed an error.

Probably the most exciting part of the day was seeing Cubs Hall of Famer, Ferguson Jenkins throw the ceremonial first pitch. This made for a nice day for Cubs non-roster invitee catcher Jake Fox, who caught Fergie's pitch, and had a pinch hit single, then scored 1 of the 2 Cubs runs on Geovany Soto's ensuing triple.

Jake Fox and Fergie