Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Perfect 10

Hohokam Stadium

Mayor Smith gives Santo proclamation
Mesa, AZ 10-10-10
It is proclaimed by the city of Mesa Arizona and Honorable Mayor Scott Smith that the tenth day of the tenth month of the year two thousand ten is Ron Santo Day in Mesa. Today is "officially" Ron Santo Day but it was yesterday he was honored at Hohokam Stadium. About 300 fans and well wishers showed up on a gorgeous Saturday morning to honor old number 10. The festivities were held appropriately on the stadiums third base patio while potential future Chicago Cubs stars practiced for the Arizona Fall League on the field below and a brass band played among other things a jazzy version of Take Me Out To The Ball Game.
It was impossible to hold the actual event today on the 10th as Ron is a little busy being the best man at his son Jeff's wedding. The gathering was also a rally for a Mesa contingent and the Cubs to let locals know why voting "YES" on Proposition 420 is good for the city. The funniest and most poignant line of the day was delivered by Ronnie himself when he said, "If the Cubs go to Florida (to spring train), I won't go". One might think that's a bit of hyperbole but considering Ron started coming to Mesa for Cubs spring training as a teen aged ball player back in the late 1950's and has made his home in the valley of the sun for the past decade, I'm guessing he's serious.

Ron was in his element talking about the team he loves so much and hanging with Cubs fans. Santo said the much uttered Cubs line, "wait till next year" while praising the Cubs talented young players. Ron turned 70 last February and has had more than his share of diabetes related health issues. So it's very uplifting to hear him excited and looking forward to next spring training and the start of a new Cubs season. Mayor Smith praised Santo for all his on the field accomplishments as well as working tirelessly for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, having helped raise over $40 million dollars for the cause.
Ron isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame...yet, but in my book he's a Hall of Fame human being.
Since most of you couldn't be there, enjoy some of my photos from yesterday. For more on yesterday's events read this article .from the East Valley Tribune.

Renderings of proposed new Cubs spring site

Ron talks
Solar Sox practice down below

Ron signs for everyone
Robert Brinton cracks-em up 
Ron Santo Day and best man for son Jeff's wedding, that's a good weekend!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Wrigleyville West

Yesterday the Cubs released artist renderings of the proposed new stadium and complex they wish to build at the Riverview site in Mesa (all 5 renderings shown here are of that site). I would be lying if I tried to give an unbiased even handed review of what the City of Mesa and Cubs hope to build and why Mesa voters should vote "YES" on the upcoming Proposition 420...I'm much to close to the whole situation to do that. Here is an article that explains.the project in much greater detail than I could.

When the three sites were originally proposed (1.Riverview Park, 2. Downtown Mesa, and 3. East Mesa - 202 & Recker Rd.) I was in favor of the East Mesa site, mainly because it is much closer to where I live. It also would have arguably the most impressive backdrop of any spring stadium with Mesa's Red Mountain perched majestically beyond the fences. This site probably would be the easiest to develop in terms of the most vacant build-able land. It is furthest away from the valley population centers but has good freeway access off the 202 freeway. Of course with the Cubs I think it's really true- "If you build it they will come".

The downtown site was favored by some of the Mesa political establishment with hopes of reviving the dormant downtown area but the site had many issues that the Cubs didn't want to deal with including poor access and lower income demographics. You can see the pros and cons on the original three sites outlined in a study available here.

The Riverview site is the one that the Cubs have zeroed in on and for good reason, it would be by far the most viable and accessible location. This site isn't without issues however, including the fact it would be situated right next to the Mesa Northwest Water Reclamation Plant (not seen in the artist renderings). . The air here can be less than sweet smelling at times, I guess the aroma from the concession stands would ease this pungent problem.

The renderings look fantastic, like all renderings do but there is much to be done to make this happen including an important Mesa vote on Prop 420 in November. Section 613 of the Mesa city charter requires a public vote for any spending on entertainment, sports or convention facilities over $1.5 million.

Some people ask, why build a multi-million dollar facility for a handful of games in March?  I'm not trying to sway people to vote "YES" on Prop 420 but this question is one of the misconceptions that I hear. The proposed new facility would be a year around Western headquarters for the Cubs, including minor league operations, player development and rehab center. My understanding is that the multiple practice fields would be available for public use as well. The Cubs will lead the way in developing the Wrigleyville retail areas with restaurants, bars, shopping, and hotel around the stadium. Another potential part of the complex could be a museum on Cactus League history that would house the outstanding exhibit, Play Ball - The Cactus League Experience. which is currently located at the Arizona Museum for Youth.

From a fan standpoint the new complex would help keep the team competitive in player development and attracting free agent talent, as well as give fans a better spring training experience and in the end help the Cubs chances for long term success.  Of course if Prop 420 doesn't pass this could happen in Florida and not Arizona. The Cubs and Arizona have had a nearly 60 year mutually benefitial relationship, I hope Mesa voters understand the significance of the Cubs in terms of benefits for our city and state. OK, maybe I am trying to sway voters to vote "YES" on Prop 420 but as I said right off the top, I'm a bit biased.