Friday, January 30, 2009

Cubs leaving Mesa...Say it ain't so

Some things are sure to change with the Cubs pending ownership change. However the team leaving their spring training home at Mesa's Hohokam Stadium wasn't on the radar...It is now, at least an "opt-out" possibility as soon as 2012 according to this article by Jim Walsh of the Arizona Republic.

I'll have more on this as I gather information but my guess, it's "not a big deal" as Cactus League and Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau President Robert Brinton says in the article.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicago and the Cardinals

It won't be long now. Cubs pitchers and catchers report in a little over two weeks! Before that, something very strange will happen -- the Arizona Cardinals will play in the Super Bowl. It still doesn't seem quite real. A franchise originally from Chicago with a long history of futility playing for the Lombardi Trophy-- What's next? The Cubs in a World Series?

Cardinals high flyer Larry Fitzgerald

Back in the early days of the then "Phoenix" Cardinals I was at a restaurant one table over from Cards owner Bill Bidwell Sr., a bespectacled round man (he has since lost some weight) with a ruddy complexion, grey beard and trademark bow-tie. I watched in amazement as Bidwell devoured his meal with the ravenous abandon of a starving grizzly bear. If only he'd had the same appetite for a winning football team. Bill B was born into the football life, eventually taking over ownership of the Cardinals after his father passed away. I got the feeling he never had a passion for football. Bidwell's reputation for being a penny pincher was overstated but still resulted in annual player hold outs and coaching staffs that usually lasted no more than 3 years.

As an Arizona resident, I never embraced the Cardinals when they moved to the desert. After all, I was a "Black and Blue" division fan before the Cards got here. Let's face it; an itinerant football team of habitual losers does not exactly make one leap on to the bandwagon. I truly felt the Cards would always struggle to win with Bill Sr. at the helm. Picking the football pools at work was kind of a part-time income for me and my steadfast philosophy was, NEVER, EVER, pick the Cardinals. It proved to be very effective.

The 1947 NFL Champion Chicago Cardinals

Bill B eventually gave more and more control of the team to his son Michael and things seemed to change. Not all at once, but the public relations and professionalism of the club improved. When the Cards hired Ken Wisenhunt from the Steelers, I felt the team had made a great choice for head coach and just maybe the team was truly making a commitment to winning. Of course, like most football fans, I never saw this Cards playoff run coming, and I'm not sure if it will last for one more game. I'm no fan of the Steelers but I do like the way they play football--hard nosed and swarming defense with a tough guy mentality.

So we have the high flying Arizona offense vs the swarming Pittsburgh defense. The odds makers have made the Steelers about a touchdown favorite. Will the Cardinals be able to break the 61 year, second longest title drought for a major American sports franchise? Well...I'm going to cheer for the Cardinals on Sunday (hey it's football, not baseball). However, if I was forced to make a wager, I might have to revisit my old football pool motto. NEVER, EVER...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Five Weeks and Counting

Hello 2009! I hope all of you had a great holiday season. It won't be long before the next season is upon us...The Spring Training season! That's right. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Fitch Park here in Mesa in just over five weeks.

A new year and, once again, we are gearing up for the Cubs arrival; the Boys of Spring website will be your Chicago Cubs information headquarters for the spring season. This year's spring training season is a full seven weeks for the Cubs, from February 14th to the final spring exhibition game against the Yankees on April 4. The reason for the extended length of spring training is due to this year's "World Baseball Classic".

2009 will mark our 5th season as your number one Cubs spring training resource and to celebrate, we have many exciting changes coming to the Boys of Spring site. The changes begin with a redesign of our website. Along with the new look, you can access many new features including a weekly CubsAZ video webcast hosted by yours truly with interviews from current and former Cubs, highlights and features from camp, as well as some surprises. Our site will be more interactive and user friendly, without losing any of the photos, video, and inside information on Cubs spring training you've grown accustomed to here at Boys of Spring. Our new look will arrive just ahead of pitchers and catchers in mid-February.

Milton Bradley brings bat and attitude to Cubs

Many personnel moves have happened with the Cubs since I wrote last, with goodbyes to Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa, and Jason Marquis, and hellos to Milton Bradley, Kevin Gregg, Joey Gathright, Aaron Miles, and Luis Vizcaino. I'll write and talk more about the changes as the roster solidifies closer to the start of camp. As a fan, I want to see improvement that helps the Cubs get better so they can win that elusive World Series title. As a fan, it's also hard to watch some of my favorite players leave the team.

I can't picture Kerry Wood in another teams uniform after being a part of the Cubs for the past decade. Wood may never have quite lived up to the hopes some of us had after that magical 20 K day in May 1998, but he showed perseverance and heart in overcoming many obstacles and injuries. Never a rah-rah guy, the soft spoken Wood grew into a leadership role over the years, leading by example. His teammates really enjoyed Woody's great sense of humor. He will be missed.

Kerry Wood Spring of 2006

This year's spring schedule has many interesting facets, including an abundance of games at Hohokam Stadium. The Cubs will open the spring schedule against...I'm having a hard time even writing it...The Dodgers at Hohokam on February 25th.'s a new season, Tim. Let it go. This will be the Dodgers first season in the Cactus League, and there's no better way to start than playing the Cubs in Mesa. The White Sox also come to Mesa on Saturday the 28th , making an interesting first weekend. And if you're really into the Cubs/Sox match-up, head to Vegas March 4th and 5th where they will play a pair of games.

On March 12th, the schedule says Exhibition vs WBC team, which could be pretty cool. What I've been told is that the Cubs will play the winner of the Asian pool play. Most likely Japan or Korea. The game will not count in the WBC standings. The Asian team will be on the way to California for the semi-finals and are looking to stay sharp playing some games in Arizona.

The expansion of the Cactus League in 2009, adding the Dodgers and Indians, brings the total number of MLB teams using AZ as spring training headquarters to 14. Next year with the addition of the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona and Florida will have an even 15-15 split. The Cactus League has come a long way from the 8 teams only 15 years ago. What this means to the Cubs is, they will play host at Hohokam to the White Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels, and the Indians, twice each, while hosting the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Athletics, Rangers, Royals, Giants, Brewers, and Padres, at Hohokam only once this spring.

The Cubs close the exhibition season against the Yankees April 3 and 4 in New York inaugurating the new Yankee Stadium. While it's an exciting match up and great to play in the new stadium, the travel and weather may be less than ideal right before the start of the Cubs regular season.

If you're in Arizona now or plan to be here during spring training you will want to visit the Mesa Historical Museum's new exhibit, ""Play Ball, the Cactus League Experience",which opens this Saturday, January 10th. The Historical Museum is just up the street from Hohokam Stadium and is an ideal stop before or after a Cubs game.

If you are a baseball fan or history buff, this exhibit is for you. The museum has many unique items including a massage table from Mesa's Buckhorn Baths used by Ty Cobb, a Prickly Pear cactus autographed by Sammy Sosa, also fun for the kids as they can play Wii Baseball. You can sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" along with Harry Caray as you watch him on video at Old Hohokam Stadium in 1994. Along with a wealth of historic photos and information this is a must see. Stop by this Saturday and meet Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry!

I will be updating this blog regularly from now through spring training, so be sure to stop by and see what's new.