Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cubs Set Cactus League Record

The hottest team in all of baseball this spring is the LA Angels of Anaheim and they continued today, beating the Cubs 8-4 to raise their (doesn't matter) spring record to 24-6-1. Attendance at Hohokam today was 9,165, smaller than our recent crowds but enough for the Cubs to set the all-time Hohokam and Cactus League home attendance record of 195,172 with one more game to go on Thursday. The Cubs held the old mark of 193,993, set in 2005. With more games this season the per game is lower than 2005's per game average of 12,125.

As for the actual game, Sean Marshall started and did well until the 4th inning when the Angels scored 7 of the 8 runs against Marshall. The Angels had 8 hits that inning with Torii Hunter getting 2 of the 8, one a HR. The Cubs relief staff of Patton, Heilman, Vizcaino, and Chad Fox did a good job holding the Angels scoreless after the 4th with Kevin Gregg making his first appearance in a week striking out the side in the 9th.

Derrek Lee is really starting to heat up going 3 for 3 today with a couple doubles and a RBI. Kosuke Fukudome had a two hits, one of them a triple. After his first hit Dome was picked off first base when his foot slipped awkwardly across the bag while a tag was applied. Two innings later, Ryan Theriot was picked off first base, it's still spring training but we are nearing opening day and you don't like to see this stuff happening. Micah Hoffpauir hit his 6th spring home run driving in Aaron Miles who had a pinch hit double ahead of Hoff.

The Cubs finished today's game with a lineup that included Carlos Perez, Cliff Anderson, Nate Samson, Jonathan Mota, and Nelson Perez leaving some fans scratching their heads wondering 'Who?'. Yes, I'll be consulting my Cubs Media Guide to find out about these guys.

D-Lee was signing autographs down the right field line all the way up to within 2 minutes of first pitch. Lou Piniella and his coaches had to avoid a Gary Matthews Jr. flying bat in the 7th inning as it slipped out his hands during his AB. Joey Gathright as he's made a habit of doing ran down a long Robb Quinlan fly ball to the RC gap making the catch only feet before the fence. He couldn't stop himself so he ran about 3 steps straight up the side of the wall. This guy is one heck of an athlete.

I had a nice visit with Al Yellon who created the website Bleed Cubbie Blue and his friend Miriam before today's game. BCB is a Cubs fan community with great discussions and a wealth of information.

The Cubs will head to Phoenix tomorrow taking on the A's and then close the Cactus League portion of the exhibition schedule on Thursday at Hohokam against the Cleveland Indians, Thursdays game will start one hour early at 12:05 pm AZ time.

Exclusive Boys of Spring photos provided by Garrett Craig, for more info about Garrett check yesterday's blog.

Marshall ran into trouble in the 4th

It may not look pretty but Dome gets a hit here

David Patton calls out a pop-up

One of D-Lee's two doubles

Heilman working

Theriot holds ball after force on second

Luis Vizcaino

"No, we didn't ask to see Mr. Matthews bat, please return it to him"

Dome on stand-up triple

Miles heading to second on pinch hit double

Hoff shows the power, 2 run dinger

Monday, March 30, 2009

DeRo Show at Hoho - The Photos

As you probably know I take almost all of the photos you see here at Boys of Spring, however it is nearly impossible for me to take any shots during games at Hohokam since I am announcing and up in the press box. So I have enlisted the help of a fellow Cubs fan Garrett Craig for the final games at Hohokam. These were taken by Garrett yesterday except for the one I took of Dempster and Kerry Wood together. You can see more of Garrett's photos here at Flickr, and if you are looking for a freelance photographer with a good eye for sports in the Chicago area give Garrett an email at Flickr or here at info@boysofspring.com.

Dempster and Woody pre-game

Wonder what Jim was thinking about the DeRo trade after the game

Theodore on the mound

One of two HR trots


Not a HR but a monster smash

DeRo's ball hits near top of batters eye

Sometimes a Managers job is a lonely one

Wood on the mound

Beardless Gaudin

After A-Ram doubles, German pinch runs

Reed Johnson followed A-Ram's double with a pinch hit HR

Gathright puts on the brakes on 8th inning double

Signing for the fans

Man of the hour talks with the press after big game

Sunday, March 29, 2009

DeRo Show at HoHo

The Indians first visit to Hohokam Park in nearly 20 years was successful as they beat the Cubs 7-5 before 13,097 fans on a gorgeous Mesa afternoon. Mark DeRosa who started at 3rd base today for the Indians got a very warm reception from the Hohokam crowd as he came to bat in the 1st inning and promptly smoked a Ted Lilly pitch for a 2 run dinger. Two innings later DeRo pounded out a solo HR. His next at bat might have been more impressive even though it only ended up as a double because he crushed a ball to dead center that nearly cleared the 35 ft. high batters eye at 410 feet. The ball bounced about 5 foot from the top of the wall back into play. DeRosa finished his big day going 3 for 4 with 4 RBI's to the chagrin of many a Cub fan.

As for the Cubs Milton Bradley continued his hot hitting with a HR and 3 RBI's and Ryan Theriot was 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored plus a couple of walks. A-Ram went 2 for 4 one of those being a double. Reed Johnson came in as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning and eventually worked his way to a 3-2 count then smashed a 2 run HR. Joey Gathright started in centerfield played the whole game went 3 for 4 including a double. One of the hits was an infield chopper that Gathright used his speed to beat out. With Reed Johnson having an outstanding spring and Gathright's solid play, it leaves me scratching my head a bit about how much playing time the Cubs will give Kosuke Fukudome.

Ted Lilly got his first Cactus League start since returning from the WBC. He allowed 4 runs on 7 hits with 2 bases on balls and 8 K's. Chad Gaudin shaved his goat beard sometime recently I hope it's not the source of his pitching abilities because he had a tough outing going 2 innings giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, 1 base on balls, 2 strikeouts. Kerry Wood got a chance to pitch today against his former teammates for an inning holding the Cubs scoreless.

Kerry Wood and DeRo arrived at Hohokam today in street clothes and gave many hugs to former teammates, Wood sat for a bit having a conversation with Ryan Dempster. Peter Gammons from ESPN was at the ballpark today. The Cubs head out to Surprise tomorrow to take on the Royals and then back at Hohokam on Tuesday to host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The photo below is Mark DeRosa circling the bases on one of his HR's and was taken by a talented young photographer named Garrett Craig. Garrett is helping out Boys of Spring this week and I will post more of his photos tomorrow, so check back then.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Last Week

With the Cubs final spring game only one week away, I'm getting very excited for the start of the regular season. As I've mentioned in the past, it's bitter sweet for me because when the Cubs leave AZ I won't be around the team on a day to day basis. So I got to thinking, what are some of the things that make spring training so much fun.

Great weather, lots of sun and less clothing required.

Relaxed fun environment, for players and fans.

Close proximity to players.

Get to see young Cubs prospects for the first time.

Hohokam pressbox offers panoramic mountain views

BP closer to game time, making it easier for fans to watch.

Opportunities for anyone to sing 7th inning stretch.

Smaller more intimate environment means you're more likely to see Hall of Famers, current players, broadcasters, coaches and staff just walking around.

Can snow ski on a mountain in the morning, go to a game later the same day.

St. Patrick's Day is during Spring Training.

March Madness is during Spring Training.

First Official Day of Spring is during Spring Training.

Two Words: Spring Break

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cubs Knock Their Sox Off

Anytime the Cubs beat the White Sox it's a cause for celebration. They did that today in fine fashion 9-4 in front of a single game Cactus League attendance record audience of 13,327. The game started off at a cool (for Mesa) 60 degrees, but the Cubs bats came out hot as they plated 7 runs in the 1st inning on Sox starter Clayton Richard who couldn't make it out of the 1st inning.

Carlos Zambrano pitched a steady if unspectacular 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with 3 K's and 2 BB's. Angel Guzman gave up a HR to Brian Anderson, and Chad Fox pitching in the 9th allowed the other run. Luis Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning.

Kosuke Fukudome made his first start in the Cactus League upon returning from Japan's successful title defense of the WBC tourney. Dome promptly got a base hit to the delight of the Hohokam crowd. Uncle Milty went 1 for 2 and also got a couple free passes, it's nice to have a guy who can hit for power, average, and a high OBP. Alfonso Soriano had a very effective 1st inning at the plate notching 2 hits in the first as the Cubs batted 11. Aaron Miles starting at 2nd base had a nice game going 3 for 4, Koyie Hill had a 2 RBI double in the Cubs big first. Derrek Lee also had a couple hits including a double.

Bradley made a sweet running grab and then fired a very strong throw, nearly doubling up the White Sox runner at first. Soriano made a nice running catch in the 4th although it probably shouldn't have been as difficult; Soriano at first moved slowly and then as if he thought 'hey, I could catch this' turned up the speed to make the grab. White Sox centerfielder Jerry Owens robbed A-Ram of an extra base hit with a beautiful diving grab in right center.

We're getting towards the end of spring training but it's still a pretty relaxed time for players who know they're going to be on a MLB roster. I'm guessing in a regular season game you won't see White Sox pitcher Octavio Dotel jumping on the back of Bobby Jenks for a piggy back ride between innings walking across the infield to the bullpen as he did today. Today's attendance record is probably going to stand until we break it again this season or most likely until next spring because the Cubs won't play again at Camelback Ranch this spring. The only way that either the Dodgers or the White Sox can break the record at the Ranch is if they play the Cubs, so the record stays at Hohokam for at least another year.

Cubs travelling to Tucson tomorrow to take on the Rockies and back to Hohokam on Sunday where we'll play the Cleveland Indians for the first time in Mesa. It'll be good to see Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood even if it is in a different uniform.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Field of Dreams

Every once in a while you get an opportunity to live out a dream and last night's Fergie and Friends Game was one of those times for me. Getting to play baseball and hang out with Cubs Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams, and other MLB Hall of Fame players like Rollie Fingers, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Feller, as well as former Cubs stars Ron Santo, Randy Hundley, Keith Moreland, Jody Davis, Lee Smith, Bill Buckner, Steve Trout, Dave Kingman, Jay Johnstone, and Bob Dernier was an incredible experience.

The 7 innning game was all to raise money for charity, while seeing these MLB greats of years past and having some laughs along the way. The master of ceremonies was former Detroit Tiger Jon Warden who did his part to keep the fans laughing and engaged...he's quite the cut-up. Jon was very funny however next year he can probably cut down on the number of flatulence related jokes and not miss a beat. 90 year-old "Bullet" Bob Feller jogged to the field during the player introductions and tossed a ceremonial pitch to kick things off for the memorable evening. I was lucky enough to play in the game while my usual Public Address duties were handled by AZ Diamondbacks PA man Chuck Drago, who did a great job.

For me playing in the game was very surreal, being in the same dugout as these great players and hearing all their chatter and stories was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I played only 2 innings because we had many players on the Arizona All-Stars including Olympic gold medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken, former NHL goaltender Sean Burke and many local radio and TV personalities, so all of us saw limited game action.

My one time at bat came against former Cub Steve "Rainbow" Trout who went 13-7 in 1984, the same year I started at Hohokam. I fouled off the first two pitches and was quickly in an 0-2 hole, the last thing I wanted to do was get a called third strike, so on Trout's third pitch which was a bit high and outside I drove the ball to right field. Playing rightfield at the time was Peoria Illinois native and former Toronto Blue Jay Pitcher Tom Gilles the youngest member of the Fergie and Friends team at age 46. As I ran to first base I could see Gilles was on his horse and might have trouble getting to the ball, he made one of the better fielding plays of the game leaping and catching it over the shoulder.

My two innings in the outfield were pretty uneventful other than a hit down the line which I made a solid throw to the cutoff man who relayed to third where a very slow moving Bernie Carbo was tagged out.

Some other highlights for me were talking to Billy Williams about how special being a Chicago Cub was to him and chatting with Keith Moreland about the 1984 Cubs division winning team. Another thrill was talking to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller about the 104 mph fastball he threw in Chicago at an exhibition in Lincoln Park. We also talked about his 1940 opening day no-hitter against the White Sox and other highlights of his career.

By the way, Fergie and his Friends beat our AZ All-Stars 7-2. However, the only numbers from this game that really matter are the amounts donated to worthy causes and the number of great memories everyone will have from last night's game.

The Cubs have a rare night game in Scottsdale against the Giants tonight after yesterday's day off, and then they're back to Hohokam tomorrow against White Sox.

AZ resident Harmon Killebrew during introductions

Fergie with his friends

Bob Feller ready for a ceremonial pitch

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hollywood Comes to Mesa

A Chamber of Commerce day here in Arizona with plenty of sun and a high that reached mid 70's saw the Cubs take down the Rockies 9-8 in front of a Hohokam Stadium single game record crowd of 13,289.

After belting out 24 hits yesterday, the Cubs continued their hot hitting as the first 4 Cubs up to bat all got hits but on Alfonso Soriano's he was thrown out trying to stretch a single to a double. Milton Bradley has certainly heated up...now that he's playing. He was 3 for 4 with a single, double, and a line shot HR to left. Soriano was 2 for 2 with a double and 2 RBI's, he also is showing good patience, walking twice today. One unfortunate recent trend is Alfonso being thrown out trying to steal 2nd. I believe this has happened the last 3 times he's attempted to steal second, of course, spring is when you work these things out so hopefully he's just getting his timing down.

Chad Gaudin started today's game went two innings with mixed results. He walked a couple batters, struck out a couple, and would have given up only one run if not for an Aaron Miles error on pitcher Greg Smith's grounder. Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg came in and combined for a 1-2-3 third inning. Jeff Samardzija trying to win a spot on the roster was not too effective allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 1 walked batter in his lone inning pitched. Mike Stanton attempting an improbable comeback was even less effective and allowed 3 runs in an inning and won't be around much longer.

Paul Bako got a hit while pinch hitting today giving him 6 consecutive hits going back to Sunday's game. Derrek Lee showed his stellar glovemanship a couple times today, one snaring a wicked hop that was headed over his right shoulder. Reed Johnson who was playing rightfield in the final innings made a great running grab in the corner to help preserve the Cubs one run win. Ex-Cub Matt Murton started for the Rockies and went hit-less, another former Cub Mark Bellhorn struck out pinch hitting in the 9th with a tying run on 2nd to end the game.

If you noticed silence leading up to the starting lineups, it was because of the TBS TV show My Boys were filming and needed "quiet on the set", so we did not play our regular pre-game music, or announce some of the advertising. Mike Fontenot and Micah Hoffpauir are involved in the storyline of the My Boys episode, it was kind of fun to watch the crew do their work. My Boys deals with a female sports columnist in Chicago and the men in her life, and a sportswriter for a rival publication...I must confess I have never seen an episode. I did noticed a familiar face in the suite where the shows crew and actors watched today's game, the janitor from the TV show Scrubs. Our Hohokam organist George Kiefer may be shown in the episode filmed at Hohokam.

Tomorrow night is our Fergie and Friends Celebrity Baseball Game. I'm getting a bit apprehensive, as you know if you've been reading I'm playing in the game against Fergie and his talented former MLB stars. Of course our team the "Arizona All-Stars" will be managed by Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and have a few talented athletes, former Phoenix Coyotes goalie Sean Burke and Olympian Amy Van Dyken, but the fact is we are woefully over-matched. As I was leaving the ballpark today, one of the Hohokam members said "I have you going 0 for 3 in tomorrow's game in the pool." The fact that they would even have a pool and that he has me going 0 for 3 does not bother me because it's all to raise money for charity.

My Boys star Jordana Spiro and the back of Paul Sullivan's head

Getting ready to shoot a scene

Chicago native Neil Flynn best known as the Janitor on Scrubs

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cubs bring the whooping sticks

Talk about fun, it was a great day to just be a fan watching the Cubs smack around the A's at Phoenix Muni. The A's stadium was packed to near capacity (7,994) with a very large portion of those being Cubs fans who enjoyed a 24 hit attack that produced a 20 to 5 Cubs victory on a sunny and slightly cool AZ day(64 degrees at game time). Somewhat lost in the hitting barrage was a solid performance by Ryan Dempster who went 4.1 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits while whiffing 6 Athletics.

I'll let some of the photos I took today take over from here...enjoy.

Dempster focused

Dempster and Bobby Scales with Papago Mountains behind

Cubs fans a plenty

Demp dealing

The Riot hitting a triple down the right field line

Quade: "Nice triple Riot, now if we talk real quiet Nomar won't hear us"

Giambi holds Fontenot on first after he singled, driving in Theriot

Good to see D-Lee playing, here he smacks his first spring HR

A's Rajai Davis can only watch as D-Lee's bomb disappears beyond 410

Lee HR trot

Hoff and Lee 5's up top

Everyone's happy to see Lee hitting

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Night baseball blog

Random thoughts while watching the WBC Japan vs USA game:

On his most recent at bat in the game it showed Kosuke Fukudome was batting .211 for the WBC and then he K'd ugly. I'm sure Lou can't be that happy that Dome has missed all this time in camp. One guy that probably is happy is Reed Johnson. Reed has given me confidence that even if Dome can't get his bat going the Cubs have a reliable Centerfielder.

Wow, this game has gotten interesting as Mark DeRosa just hit a triple to bring the US within two. It's going to be difficult seeing DeRosa in a Cleveland uniform when the Indians come to Hohokam twice in the last week of spring training...as well as Kerry Wood.

Seeing how far the Asian teams have come in the sport of baseball, it was interesting to note that the Cubs today played a team led by the first Asian-American Manager in the history of Major League Baseball, Don Wakamatsu. That's according to Wikipedia. I remember seeing Wakamatsu playing for Arizona State with Barry Bonds. Wakamatsu's father was born in a US internment camp during World War II and his grandparents were Japanese. Considering March is Irish-American Heritage Month it should be noted Wakamatsu's mother is Irish-American.

Fukudome just walked, we know he's good at drawing those.

I'm feeling a bit sore from going to the batting cage yesterday but I think it's only a bit of muscle fatigue and I'll be ready to step to the plate at Hohokam for the Fergie and Friends game. I heard today that Bob Feller might actually take the mound and pitch during the game, I hope I don't go up against him because that might be a no-win situation. If you get a hit off him it's because he's 90 years old. Now if you can't get a hit off him then you'll really be embarrassed because you can't hit a guy who's only a decade shy of being a centenarian.

Oh, Japan just scored another run...I guess it would be more interesting if the US had more of their best pitchers on the squad.

I'm doing so-so on my two NCAA brackets and have Connecticut and Oklahoma as eventual winners.

Why is Adam Dunn playing in the outfield for team USA? Is he the worst defensive outfielder in the Majors? OK, it appears Japan is headed to the Championship unless the U.S. pulls off something very improbable. Talk with you tomorrow. T

Z Cubs Win

Big Z was the big story today as the Cubs beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 on a sunny but gusty day in Mesa.

Z cruised through his longest outing of the spring going 6 innings, allowing 4 hits and 1 run on a Chris Woodward solo HR and 6 K's. He also helped himself at the plate, with a double to the rightfield corner and later scored. With the score tied at 1, the Cubs broke things open in the 6th plating 3 runs as Alfonso Soriano hit a bases loaded single to drive in two of the 3, which was all the scoring the Cubs needed for the win.

Milton Bradley was 2 for 3 at the plate, Derrek Lee doubled in the 1st but ended up stranded. Alfonso Soriano also drew a walk and was seen celebrating at 1st with base coach Matt Sinatro- Sinatro because it was his birthday today and Soriano because he actually drew a base on balls.

Ronny Cedeno was the leadoff hitter for the Mariners and reminded us why he's not a Cub, 0 for 4 with two K's. Big Z showed his defensive skills and agility on a swinging bunt by Mariners Franklin Gutierrez as Z bounded off the mound, bare handed the ball and tossed him out at first.

Even though it's only spring training it's still good to hear the song "Go Cubs Go!" after a Cubs victory. Cubs will travel to Phoenix tomorrow playing the A's, I hope to get out there and bring you back photos. Talk with you then.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nice Evening Here

One of the things I love about Arizona are the sunsets, here's a photo I shot half an hour ago. Being in the wide open spaces of the desert southwest has a magical feel on perfect evenings like tonight - However, these days you need to travel a bit further to get to the open spaces on the outskirts of the sprawling urbanity that is Phoenix. There's no better way to put it, the Cubs kicked ass over the White Sox today, got to love it! I wasn't at the game or I would have passed along a report or photos.

Boys of Spring is actively involved and helping to sponsor the Fergie and Friends Celebrity game at Hohokam this coming Wednesday night the 25th at 7pm. What this means is that along with helping the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation raise funds for Juvenile Diabetes and Cancer Lymphoma I will be one of the Arizona All-Stars playing against Fergie and his Friends. Yes, joining a team something like the reconstituted Washington Generals taking on the Harlem Globetrotters in baseball form. Fergie's Friends happen to be a number of Hall of Famers and former MLB stars, so I have no business playing against them. I'm going to try and not embarrass myself, and have fun. Maybe I can get a few tips from Milton Bradley on how to snap a bat or smash a helmet after I strike out. Milton, if you're reading, I'll take your ideas in comment form.

But seriously, I am extremely delighted and excited about playing in the game. I don't want to make a fool of myself, and it may be my one chance to play against guys at this level, albeit former level, so I am practicing everyday down at the batting cage and nearby diamond. You may ask, who's going to do the Public Address if I'm playing? Any takers? No, just kidding we have a local radio personality to donate his time for the evening.

The whole event is about having fun and getting to meet the guys. You can have your photo taken with, shake hands, $25 gets you on the field before the game to say hello to Ron Santo who is now confirmed to be there, along with Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, of course Fergie, and possibly Ernie Banks. All these greats on the same field at the same time with you! General Admission tickets are only $10, don't miss it! Check out http://www.fergieandfriends.com/ for more info.

Seattle Mariners are headed to Hohokam tomorrow. Big Z starts against Erik Bedard, I'll talk with you after the game.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Play One and Win"

Many of you probably saw the Cubs 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on WGN or at Hohokam as we had more fans in attendance than any Cactus League game in history- 13,162. The previous single game attendance record 13,046 was set only last week on St.Patricks Day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale when the Cubs played the Dodgers. They made quite a big deal over the public address system at the Ranch about breaking Hohokam's record. Of course, they couldn't do it without the Cubs half of the equation...for us it's kind of like, oh yeah another sell-out record crowd, we're used to it, not that big of a deal because we expect it.

As for the game, Rich Harden didn't start because of the flu so youngster Mitch Atkins got the nod, allowing two runs in the first both unearned. Atkins would have been out of the inning unscathed if not for an error. Alfonso Soriano's bat is coming around, he went 2 for 4. Milton "The Game" Bradley had a couple hits in 3 at bats. I don't know if WGN picked this up, but after Milton struck out in the 3rd inning, he threw his batting helmet hard against the dugout wall in frustration...this guy really hates to strike out. A-Ram went 2 for 3. Reed Johnson had a pinch hit 2 run homer to left center that put the Cubs ahead to stay.

Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, and Angel Guzman all pitched well, giving up no runs to the Padres with Gregg and Guzie striking out 3 each. Kevin Hart looking to pitch himself to Iowa, almost blew it in the 9th as he hit the first two batters he faced and allowed a triple and a run before getting Brett Dowdy pop out to end the game.

With Sean Marshall winning the 5th starter spot, one of the few competitions left is for the closer spot, which should be interesting over the next week as both Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg battle it out. Angel Guzman helped his cause to join the pen today and it's really time for him to step up if he's ever going to. Micah Hoffpauir made a nice leaping snag of a liner in the 6th then doubled up Kyle Blanks off of 1st. Hoffpauir's glove work at 1st base has been surprisingly effective this spring. Funny but almost not funny, Paul Bako throwing to 1st base after a strikeout only to have Hoffpauir looking the other way and nearly get his head taken off. Luckily it didn't hit him, the very next batter Chase Headley struck out and Bako made sure Hoffpauir was looking before he threw to first.

Good to see Geovany Soto back with the Cubs even though he went o for 2, striking out both times. The guys from Cubscast.com interviewed me before the game today we touched on alot of different subjects, you can hear it soon on their website. Today I heard a fan say to Billy Williams "let's play two", to which Billy replied "Let's play one and win!" The Cubs will play the White Sox tomorrow at Camelback Ranch and then we'll host the Mariners on Sunday at Hohokam.

Soto during infield this morning

Food Drive Today

The Cubs wives are having their annual food drive at Hohokam today, so please bring nonperishable food items to the Park or make a donation. The drive benefits Mesa's Paz De Cristo Shelter.

The first 500 fans to donate 10 non-perishable food items or $20 will have a chance to randomly select a grab bag featuring used baseballs from each of the 55 home wins of the 2008 season. Limit two per person. So, come on out to the Hohokam Park any time after 9am (game begins at 1:05pm)

Rich Harden will start on the mound for the Cubs, with Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto all expected back in today's line-up.

I'll talk to you after the game. T

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dempster strong but Cubs lose in 9th

Cubs lost 8-6 to the Giants today in front of a Hohokam single game record crowd of 13,024. Despite the outcome, this was a pretty well-played game for the Cubs until Jose Ascanio gave up 5 runs in the 9th.

Alfonso Soriano got things started quickly on the first pitch as he launched a Tim Lincecum offering into the left field berm. The Cubs would score two more in the first as Micah Hoffpauir legged out a triple off the centerfield wall. The Cubs would score another run in both the 4th and 5th inning, holding a 5-0 lead by the time most of the starters left. The Cubs staged a rally of their own in the bottom of the 9th, but left bags loaded as minor league call-up Dylan Johnston struck out to end the game. The Cubs left 13 runners on base today.

As Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum labored, Cubs Ryan Dempster pitched as if he was on cruise control, going 5 innings allowing 4 hits, no runs while striking out 4 Giants. The only nitpick with Dempster today was the fact that he came up to bat two times with Joey Gathright on first base and failed to get the sacrifice bunt down each time. This is the type of thing that will hopefully be worked on enough and corrected by the end of spring. The Cubs relievers didn't fair nearly as well as Dempster except for Kevin Hart who pitched a scoreless 8th, striking out 2 of the 3 he faced. Chad Gaudin gave up 2 runs in the 6th, and Luis Vizcaino struck out three of the four batters he faced in the 7th but unfortunately the 4th batter, Jesus Guzman, hit a home run.

The real pitching debacle came as Jose Ascanio gave up 5 runs on 4 hits, including a grand slam by Giants minor league call-up Nick Noonan. Not good when a #82 without a name on his jersey pounds a game winning grand salami off you.

Defensively, Joey Gathright as we've been getting accustomed to seeing this spring made a sensational running somersaulting catch in the 5th inning. Micah Hoffpauir made a good pick up at 1st base on a hot grounder in the 9th. Giants 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval got a nasty bad hop taking a hard grounder somewhere around his mouth and was down for quite a while before leaving the game. Mike Fontenot nearly took off Lincecum's head with a rocket comebacker to the mound, Lincecum had to snap his head away quickly, or it would have been very ugly.

I saw ESPN's Peter Gammon, Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney, writer George Will, and Lou Piniella kibitzing around the batting cage during BP. The Cubs are going to retire #31 for Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux and Fergie was on hand to mark the news with a ceremonial first pitch today. We had a moment of silence before the start of the game as longtime Arizona resident, and former Cubs manager Whitey Lockman passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Lockman played 16 years in the Majors, 14 of them with the NY and SF Giants.

The Cubs will travel to Peoria tomorrow to take on the Mariners, and then back to Hohokam on Friday to play San Diego Padres. The game on Friday is also our annual food drive, so if you're headed to the game bring non perishable food items to donate. Another note on Friday's game, it starts at 1:05, apparently a published schedule had erroneously listed it as being a night game.

Fergie Jenkins being interviewed at Hohokam today

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day Indeed!

The Cubs and Big Z wearing the green and pounding the Dodgers 12-3, talk about fun at the ballpark! Instead of writing about what happened, I'll just let the photos I took tell a bit of the story.

I'll be back with a write-up of the goings on tomorrow as the SF Giants make their first and only appearance at Hohokam this spring. Enjoy the photos.

Soriano warms up before game

New Cub Corey Koskie during National Anthem

Bases painted like the flag of Ireland

Lou chats with the umps

Z dealing

Koskie's first Cubs at bat

Koskie promptly bangs it off the outfield wall for a double

Z coming to the dish

A very nice stadium but the traffic and parking at the Ranch suck

Z goes yard

Z's power swing


Kids battle for a ball tossed by a Cub at innings end

Dodgers outfielders were going to the wall all day

Reed Johnson and So Taguchi

Sean Marshall came in for an inning

Reed Johnson comes out of game after a double, going 3 for 4 at the plate