Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fun Day at Hoho

The Cubs run their spring record to 4-0 with a good old fashioned 13-zipp butt whooping of the White Sox in front of a sun-drenched Hohokam Stadium record crowd of 13,010. With Hohokam's expanded capacity, we now cross the 13,000 mark on sell out games. The Cubs held a 4-0 lead before most of the starters left the game with Koyie Hill getting the Cubs going with 2 RBI's on a double in the 4th.

After most of the starters had left the game things went downhill quickly for the Sox as the Cubs plated 9 runs in the 7th, including a grand slam by Brad Snyder. Snyder's slam was also fortuitous for a lucky fan, as we had a giveaway going that inning...winning the fan $500 for the grand salami. Every batter in the Cubs lineup at the time scored in the 7th inning and Non-Roster Invitee Bobby Scales was 2 for 2 in the 7th inning. The Sox Adam Russell took the brunt of the Cubs 7th inning uprising and now owns a 54.00 ERA.

Aaron Heilman pitched 2 quality innings, allowing only one hit, while striking out 4. Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless 3rd inning, and a combination of other pitchers held the Sox without a run over a final 6 innings. In the field, Aramis Ramirez made a sweet diving grab of Carlos Quentin sharp grounder in the first, then got to his feet and gunned him out. A-Ram also made a nice pickup of a hot grounder ranging to his left tossing out Jermaine Dye. Lou came out of his chair next to the dugout to argue with homeplate umpire Angel Campos who called Cubs pitcher Ken Kadokura with a Balk...the fans loved seeing Uncle Lou get after it! Shortly after the Lou situation Ozzie Guillen questioned Campos on a disputed fair foul ball that went he Cubs way, good to see these guys are getting up to speed.

Bobby Scales can afford to laugh when you have a good day at the plate, because he tripped and fell flat on his face coming out of the dugout to the on deck circle in the 7th...he had a sheepish smile upon getting to his feet. These kind of games are alot of fun, especially when you get to crush your cross town rival in front of a record crowd, even though it's a spring training game.

Make sure you take a look in the large media/TV box on the home page for the CubsAZ show with part of my interview with Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes. The whole show is only about 6 minutes long, you can also access it on the multimedia page. Cubs will play the San Diego Padres in Peoria tomorrow and then will be back at Hohokam on Monday to take on the local 9 - Arizona Diamondbacks.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Another W

The Cubs do it again, with a 10-4 win over the Rangers. Micah Hoffpauir is taking advantage of some early spring playing time to shine like the AZ sun. Hoffapauir belted his second HR in 3 games and now has 7 RBI's on the spring. Mike Fontenot and Sam Fuld also homered for the Cubs. Ted Lilly got his quick and easy two innings in and will be off the play in the WBC.

Yesterday I said the blog would be short but what I meant was, it was going to be written quickly and it was...This blog is actually short because we are loading the first CubsAZ video show, you will be able to view it on the home page in the media box or on the multimedia page as well. In this show you can watch some of my interview yesterday with Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes. Look for a CubsAZ video program every week this spring.

The stands will be packed at Hohokam tomorrow for the cross-town rivalry game with the Sox and it will be warm and sunny! I'll be back here with a full report after the game.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cubs Win

The Cubs took down the Brew Crew 7-4 today at Hohokam Stadium on another glorious Arizona day. This is going to be a short blog because I am finishing our first CubsAZ video show, which you can check out right here at tomorrow. I interviewed WGN Cubs Radio Announcer Pat Hughes after the game, you'll see part of that interview as well as some other spring training related goodies. Make sure to check out the inaugural CubsAZ program, tomorrow's program also features an interesting segment: "Out of the Archives".

I won't go through the highlights of the game other than Milton Bradley made his first appearance in a game for the Cubs, an uneventful one inning with one AB, drawing a walk. Highlight was Jake Fox pounding a line drive three run shot to left in which Brewers LF Ryan Braun barely moved.

Sean Marshall and Chad Gaudin each pitched two innings, allowing one run a piece. Carlos Marmol saw his first action, one inning allowed a hit and a run. Angel Guzman got the save, throwing a scoreless ninth.

Attendance looks down to start off the spring season, due to both the economy and the early start of the schedule. However, the Cubs 7,916 yesterday and 6,711 today at Hohokam squashed the crap out of every other team's venue. Some other games in Arizona and Florida drew just around the 2,000 mark or less.

It was Rick Sutcliffe's last day helping out the squad for spring training and keeping Lou and the Boys in good humor. Sutcliffe gave Brewers Mike Cameron a big hug before the game, as did Lou Piniella. Piniella gave Cameron some flack about the large diamond in his ear, even giving him a friendly flick of the lobe. Lou's old school, and ain't down with the Bling.

Here are some shots of Milton in his first Cubs game AB- a walk, which he's good at enticing, helping his OBP. Of course Milton's been brought in to hit the ball and not 'clog up the bases' as Dusty Baker might say.

I'll be on the WGEM Radio Sports Center tomorrow morning at 8:35am CST, 7:35 AZ. You can listen on the internet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cubs Give Ron a BDay Win

Game 1 of 39 before the regular season starts ended with a 5-3 Cubs victory over the L.A. Dodgers in front of 7,916 sun-drenched spectators. Before the game got going, Robert Brinton Cactus League President and Big Ho of the Hohokam surprised Ron Santo by leading all the fans in singing 'Happy Birthday'. With the schedule starting earlier than normal, for the first time there was a Spring game on Ron's Birthday. Looking over from my booth, I could see that it really touched Ron to hear all the fans singing collectively. I had gone over to say hello to Ron and Pat Hughes before the game started, and Ron mentioned how happy and excited he was for the games to start. He really lives for baseball and the Cubs.

Onto the game. In the 1st inning, Reed Johnson made a sensational diving catch on a Brad Ausmus liner to right-center. Alfonso Soriano was 1 for 1, and scored the Cubs first run. The Cubs could have had more, with bags loaded and no outs Micah Hoffpauir who was DH'ing today (National League teams can choose to do this in Spring Training now) grounded into a double play. Hoffpauir, who is trying to make the squad as a power left-handed bat, ended up in the same situation in the 5th, bags loaded no outs, and would redeem himself by hitting a hard line-drive Grand Slam to right-center, putting the Cubs ahead 5-3, which would be the final tally.

This game was surprisingly well played for the first outing, especially for a game that featured 13 pitchers throwing at least one inning. Samardzija started for the Cubs, got his 2 innings in, gave up 2 earned runs on 3 hits, 1K and 2 walks. He was in a bases loaded, no out situation in the 2nd and was able to entice Dodgers Blake DeWitt into a double play without a run scoring, however Samardzija would then walk Delwyn Young before Tony Abreu singled in Casey Blake and Matt Kemp, giving the Dodgers a 2 to 1 lead. Cubs minor league pitching phenom Mitch Atkins (Last year's Cubs minor league Pitcher of the Year) had a decent performance, throwing 2 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, no walks and a strikeout. The combination of Cubs pitchers Ken Kadokura, David Patton, Esmailin Caridad, Jason Waddell, and Jeff Stevens held the Dodgers without a run the rest of the game, with each pitching one inning.

I recognized a familiar face as the Dodgers walked onto the Hohokam field, and then remembered Don Mattingly is now a coach for the Dodgers. Ivan DeJesus Jr. got into today's game for the Dodgers; he's the son of Ivan DeJesus, the Cubs Special Assistant to Manager Lou Piniella. Dodgers' Xavier Paul could have really messed somebody up during his at bat in the 8th innng as the bat flew out of his hands, completely over the box seats section, over the concourse, hitting the railing on the next tier of seats. Luckily, it didn't hit anyone; I've never seen a bat travel that far out of a hitter's hands.

Mark the Beer Guy and Bob the Music Teacher led the fans in a rousing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th Inning stretch, which you can watch on the attached video.

Tomorrow the Cubs will take on the Beer Boys from Milwaukee, talk to you after the game.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let the Games Begin

Cubs had a short practice today at Hohokam, just a mini tune-up before tomorrow's Cactus League Opener against the Dodgers. Jeff Samardzija will be tomorrow's starting pitcher, beginning his quest for the fifth starters spot. With the extended spring training, many of the non-roster invitees should get more playing time. As we start the first of 39 Cubs spring games, Bruce Miles article "What to watch for as Cubs spring games begin" is good preparatory reading.

Ron Santo was at Hohokam today, it's great to see him laughing with Lou and Billy Williams.

Today I had to take care of some technical preparation and go over all of our oh-so-exciting in-game advertising. I was able to latch onto a copy of this year's 2009 Cubs Spring Training Program, you can see the cover below.

Spring is certainly underway here, as evidenced by tomorrow's expected high of 83 degrees. Seats in the shade may be at a premium already.

We have opened the comments section of this blog, so please feel free to...ya know...comment. We are very excited here at Boys of Spring to begin our fifth season on-line as your Cubs spring training resource.

Tomorrow I'll bring you the regular full report after the game.

Go Cubs!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Workin' the D

Been working on a PSA for the Fergie and Friends charity game today.

When I first walked into the Fitch Park complex this morning, Cubs Hall of Fame member Billy Williams was having a conversation with a longtime Cubs fan. She wanted a picture with him, but didn't have a camera. Billy asked another unrelated fan to take the photo and then asked that she give her contact info to him so he could please send her the photo.

The day was starting to warm up towards a nice 80 degrees as I sat and watched all the top position players practice cutoff drills. This is where the ball is hit all the way to the fence, with the outfielder playing it off the wall, throwing to the cutoff man, who relays to the base that is called. So even if the ball is hit right at you, as an outfielder you let it go to the wall, which happened to Milton Bradley today, he had to make an acrobatic jumping maneuver to get out of the way of the ball and keep from getting hit by the line drive.

I forget until I watch alot of infield practice just how outstanding Derrek Lee is with his glove. He's silky smooth and makes difficult plays effortlessly. Speaking of Lee, Lou is looking to see more power production out of the first baseman, and mentioned about getting some "elevation" on Lee's stroke. In batting practice, Lee had the serious elevation going for a while, dropping a number of bombs out onto South 6th.

Since they were on the South West field, Soriano was right in front of those of us standing there watching. The players were showing strong arms and accurate relay throws, and seeing it five feet from the field, you get a real sense of how great these throws are... major league. No doubt the Cubs are going to score serious runs this year, but I love to see the focus Lou has on the defense, even without Fukudome in camp, these guys look solid in the field.

As I mentioned yesterday, open practice at Hohokam tomorrow, 9:30 to 12:00. And, I'll be there.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Soup

The Cubs plan to hold an open practice at Hohokam this Tuesday the 24th from 9:30am to noon the day before their opening Cactus League game vs the Dodgers on Wednesday. In the past under Dusty Baker the Cubs had played an intrasquad game prior to the spring opener but according to someone in the Cubs organization Lou Piniella would rather have a regular practice similar to those being held at Fitch. The Cubs will have no shortage of games this spring with 19 home contests at Hohokam and 20 road games prior to the April 6 opener in Houston.

What do players talk about during warm-ups and long toss, the same things most of us talk about around the water cooler, today it was movies...I didn't hear too much, but mostly the discussion centered around what movie was going to win the Oscar tonight for best costume design, The Duchess or Revolutionary Road. Kidding on that one, really they were just discussing movie character inspired names.

Hall of Fame member Ryne Sandberg warmed up his arm today by tossing some BP at Fitch.
After a pop-up drill where the balls are shot out of a machine to give some nice spin, Soriano was next in line when the horn sounded to switch fields...He animatedly flung his arms into the air pointing to the sky calling for another one, to no avail...It's clear Soriano really loves being out on the field playing baseball. Milton Bradley seems to be fitting in nicely with the Cubs and was seen having a good laugh with Fontenot and Theriot today during BP. Someone asked Aaron Miles if he had shown his new teammates his ring? Of course they were speaking of his World Series ring he won with that other team, he said "No, I put that away, I'm a Cub now".

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yes, That's Him

Today someone asked me if that was Rick Sutcliffe out there shagging baseball's, he then asked, I wonder why he's doing that? I said, because he can.

It was just about this time last year when Rick Sutcliffe was diagnosed with colon cancer, so it was truly amazing to see Sutcliffe chasing baseballs today on one of the Fitch Park diamonds. His rapid rebound from colon cancer is inspiring; Carrie Muskat wrote a nice article about Rick yesterday. A poignant quote from Sutcliffe in Muskat's article puts baseball and life in perspective - "Putting on this uniform today meant more than it did before Game 1 in '84," Sutcliffe said Friday. "It meant more than it did before Game 3 of '89. It meant more than it did on Aug. 8, '88, when I threw the first pitch of the first night game. As I came walking out here, it was like I was floating on this grass."

Sutcliffe hasn't kept the lowest of profiles over the past few years having been buzzed while giving an interview during a Brewers-Padre telecast in 2006, and voicing concern for reporter Erin Andrews skirt on a telecast last season. However, his public battle with cancer and subsequent survivor status has led him to speak out for people to get tested as he credits early detection with saving his life.

The spring of 1984 was my first season as part-time Public Address Announcer at old Hohokam Park, I was one of those fans who climbed aboard the Cubs train that magical season. Like many of you I have incredible memories of Rick "The Red Baron" going 16-1 down the stretch and leading the Cubs to their first post-season appearance in 39 years. That year cemented it for me as a Cubs fan for life and I've been lucky enough to be around the Cubs every spring since then...And I feel lucky to be able to share these photos of Rick enjoying the Fitch grass under his feet.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sun and Fun

Just a typical AZ spring day, plentiful sunshine and a high of of 75 degrees. Here are some of my photos from Fitch Park today.

It appears some browsers aren't getting the drop-down menu on the new BOS site. If you hover over the Spring Training menu tab in the header it should have a drop-down with pages to FAQ's, Tickets & Schedule, Hohokam Stadium, Tips for Fans, and Things to do in AZ. We hope to have this worked out by tomorrow as well as adding the blog RSS feed.

Dempster & Harden

One of the diamonds looking toward Center Street

Former Twin and Pirate Luis Rivas trying to catch on with the Cubs

Mine sounds a little off

I've tuned these things before...It takes a trained ear


Richie Robnett looks much better than last week, without the A's gear

Bobby D tossing BP

Mr. Johnson


Hey you...catch this

You should like the sound of this one

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Change Up

The new look Boys of Spring - is up and running, we will be working out any bugs in the next week. My goal is to give you the best of what the Cubs spring training experience is all about...At least in an online version. The real Cubs spring training experience must be done in person at least once in your life; be warned if you come once, you may become addicted.

I had my first spring training Cubs chat this morning with Josh Houchins host of WGEM radio's SportsCenter Show out of Quincy, Illinois aided by his super producer Broc Hampsmire. A big hello to anyone in the Quincy area who might be checking in after hearing this morning's show...I'll be on the WGEM SportsCenter show talking Cubs this spring every Thursday at 8:30am Central time.

After the show I was on to working out some of the bugs for the redesigned Boys of Spring (BOS) website with my design guru Don Myers of Woolf Studio out of Colorado Springs, Co. The age of the internet is pretty amazing when you can work across 800 miles to accomplish this type of thing.

The bottom line is I was late getting over to Fitch Park today. When I parked on E. 6th Place south of Fitch I noticed the wind had picked up and was blowing to the SW towards 6th...So, since I was only going to see the end of practice I grabbed the leather and decided to see if I could shag a ball or two hit over the fence. Sometimes the kid in me takes over, what I can say. Well, what I can say is, I now have my first spring training Cubs souvie of 2009.

Cubs Spring Training is here!

It came with a free autograph from the $18 million dollar man - Allan Huber Selig Jr.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Day at Fitch Park

Here are some photos I took at Fitch Park today...Enjoy. T

Watching drills is oh, so fun

Dempster showing his snake-eyed concentration

Another fan enjoying great weather and the Cubs

Bob Dernier and Mike Quade

Levitate my little friend

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney and VP/GM Jim Hendry

Brad Snyder

Ryno looks on

Reed Johnson and D-Lee

Hall of Famer Billy Williams and Jim Hendry

Aaron Miles

Rich Harden


Do not take your eyes off that ball

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents Day Pics

Happy Presidents' Day! Surely a holiday that gets the ho-hum if their ever was one. But having just celebrated the 200 year anniversary of Lincoln's B-Day last Thursday, I started thinking about how our country, as it is today, might be totally different if it weren't for the two icons we honor this day. Maybe we tend to feel a bit of disconnect because of the length of time since these two presidents have been gone, especially Washington. It's ancient history as some say. Well, it's history, but hardly ancient, especially in Lincoln's case. Case in point, I recently talked with someone who had talked to someone who had talked with Lincoln. Did you get that?

No, I'm not talking about Lincoln Holdzkom, the hard-throwing ex-Cubs farm hand who went to high school in Yuma, AZ. I'm talking about our 16th president Abraham Lincoln, the rail splitter, the self taught scholar, the emancipator.

Some back story first--my grandmother, Millie, had a passion for researching family history. In those pre-internet days, she was limited in the tools with which to conduct that research. However she traced her father's line back to Illinois, and I remember her showing us an old yellowed newspaper clipping about a Judge Finley from Stark County, Illinois. Grandma Millie eventually got Alzheimer's, which is part of the reason "Boys of Spring" supports and donates to the Alzheimer's Association, but she got me interested, and a few years back, I decided to take up the search for my family's Illinois roots. That search led me to the town of Toulon where the county courthouse where Judge Finley presided still stands and with his photo as the 2nd Judge of Stark County. The significance of this is that my ancestor Judge Finley presided from 1857-1861, during the time of the famous Lincoln -Douglas debates. While the two candidates didn't debate in Toulon, both Lincoln and Douglas spoke in front of Toulon's Stark County courthouse on separate days in October of 1858.

With the helpful aid of Toulon's genealogical society, I found and met a distant cousin who lives in the area. After some fun family history conversations, I learned his mother was in good health at 91 years old at the time. Interestingly, her grandfather Andrew Jackson Finley (Judge Finley's son) was at the Lincoln speech in Toulon in 1858 where AF met and spoke to Lincoln. AJ Finley lived to the age of 100 and, when he was around 94, he told his then 10-year-old granddaughter about the day he talked to Lincoln. Of course, the granddaughter grew up to be the 91 year old cousin I was able to talk with about Lincoln. So it was that I talked with someone who had talked to someone (her granddad) who had talked to (the not yet President) Lincoln. Hearing her speak about conversations with her grandfather who met and spoke with Lincoln makes history seem so much closer to home--and so much shorter.

That means Lincoln the legend, the hero, the preserver of the nation is just a few degrees of separation from any of us. So while Presidents' Day is typically lost under the commercial avalanche and media barrage of Valentine's Day, it is a day to take a moment and appreciate the things we have and those great leaders who helped preserve and grow our nation.

OK, on to the Cubs, as usual I've posted photos below from today's practice at Fitch Park. Good to see more of the position players showing up early including Milton Bradley..."The Game"...I didn't coin that name but I like it. I noticed at one point Lou subtly strolled over from the pitchers fields and was watching the position players take BP from a spot where he wouldn't be noticed. Lou doesn't miss much. The usual drills today, one that I like is with this spongy type baseball that is very fast when hit. Great for hitting hard grounders to sharpen the pitchers reflexes without the worry of injury...In fact I saw big Z field a screamer with his bare hand; he actually wasn't wearing a glove on the play so he didn't have a choice.

Tomorrow we are changing over to the new redesigned Boys of Spring website...Same address, different look. Let us know how you like it. We'll be working out some of the bugs for a few days I'm sure, but the Boys of Spring are ready to rock-n-roll for Cubs spring training! They say a strong possibility of rain here in Mesa tomorrow so we may not have any practice at Fitch...I guess it's better to get the rain out of the way now then later when the games start at Hohokam. T

It was a cool 49 degrees when practice started today

Work it

Mike Fontenot meets Milton Bradley

What's on tap today?

Reed Johnson in the house

"Oh, yeah"

Mikey and The Game

The Game

Aaron Miles


It's all about the fun in spring