Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tim and Jim go to Chicago with the Ho's - Part 2

Murphy's from Wrigley during game

Sure, we were killing time before our evening game, but sitting outdoors on a gorgeous Chicago summer afternoon at Murphy’s watching Wrigleyville come alive was part of the game day experience. As we sat there absorbing it all, a cane propelled older woman stopped by our table and asked if we wanted our portraits sketched for $5? Curiosity got the best of me. I had to see what a $5 portrait looked like. She showed us some of her creations and mentioned that people seem to forget to take them after they’ve been drinking. Despite the dubious quality, we probably should have had one commissioned as she said it only took 10 minutes to complete. If you ask to see the portraits and then decline the offer, it takes twice as long. Don’t get me wrong, she was very nice, but...

When you mix large crowds and alcohol, you’re almost always going to find some individuals who are not pleasant and copasetic. As Murphy’s filled with people, we noticed one guy with an obnoxious attitude who was also so stewed he could barely stand, and this was hours before the first pitch. Jamie suggested it might be interesting to follow the guy at a distance, watch him stumble around and bother people until he eventually offended the wrong guy. As entertaining as that idea may have been, the probability of a disappointing one punch knockout was great. Besides we had much better things to do.
Hohokam Chicago Group, batter's eye suite to left
There was a Cubs game and we had seats in the batter’s eye suite. I was handed a box upon entering the gate, a Geovany Soto bobblehead – very cool. The atmosphere of the batter’s eye suite is different than any other seat at Wrigley. You have the comfort of a bar and grill with flat screen TV’s and private restrooms but, since there is no outside seating, you feel a bit isolated from the game. Prior to the start of the game the Hohokams had their photo taken on the field and Jamie and I went along. Being on the field at Wrigley is amazing. In high school I played center field and had dreams of some day doing it in the major leagues. Reality squashed that dream, but it didn’t diminish the powerful rush I got standing in right field with the ivy behind me, looking toward home plate and imagining what might have been. I snapped out of my daydream in time to shoot a few photos of the Ho’s (the Hohokams), and then after Jamie and I had one taken together, it was back to the suite.

As mentioned in my blog on July 12, I hoped to talk with the Ricketts while in the suite about Boys of Spring - The Movie and our Kickstarter campaign to help complete the film. Laura Ricketts stopped out to say hello to our group and I was able to talk with her about the film. She wished me luck and mentioned that she was familiar with Kickstarter. I also talked with Cubs Director of Baseball Operations Scott Nelson who said he really enjoyed the Vince Lloyd "Voice of Summer" DVD. Talk about longevity, Scott has been with the Cubs since 1983 and in his current position since 1998.

FYI, we are giving away the Vince Lloyd DVD as a gift along with the Boys of Spring – The Movie  DVD package at the $25 level of Kickstarter. That’s the full 90 minute Boys of Spring film, plus the extras disc with extended Cubs interviews and goodies, the collector’s card, and the Vince Lloyd DVD all for a $25 pledge.

Weird things seem to happen every time I’m in the batter’s eye suite. The last time I was there former Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley decided to toss a fan the ball at the end of an inning. Problem was there were only 2 outs and men on base. Thursday evening we had a great game going, very well pitched by Matt Garza with the Cubs holding a 2-0 lead into the ninth. With only 3 outs to go, Cubs closer Carlos Marmol comes in to shut the door on the Marlins. Marmol becomes the wild Marmol with 4 walks and the fish put up 6 on the Cubs in the ninth – Cubs lose 6-3. We decided the best course of action was to avoid the crowded train and commiserate with fellow Cubs fans in Wrigleyville, and commiserate we did. Jim had Old Style.

A side note, on his bobblehead night, Geo went 4-4. Perhaps the Cubs can give away the whole starting line-up of bobbleheads every night. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.
Friday – The Cubs had a 1:20PM start for Friday’s game, and the Hohokam’s were meeting at Bernie’s Tavern across from Wrigley at 10:45AM for some pre-game food and drink. After some fun at Bernie’s, we made our way across the street and entered Wrigley. The tickets we had were from the Cubs to the Hohokams as a thank you for all the great volunteer work they do at spring training. Another beautiful summer day in Chicago and our seats are between home plate and first base just under the deck to provide shade. They couldn't have been better. One of the Hohokams definitely had plenty of fun on the trip, so much so that during the game he nodded off. When this happens you can be sure of one thing, the person who nods off will soon awaken to an extremely localized hail storm of peanuts. Weekend at Bernie’s indeed.

The game was outstanding as Ryan Dempster pitched great, reeling in 9 Marlins on K’s and going 8 strong innings allowing only 4 hits. With only 3 outs to go for the win and the Cubs holding the exact 2-0 lead as the night before it was as Yogi Berra said “déjà vu, all over again”. The Marlins did plate one run but Sean Marshall closed it out with a K giving the Cubs a W. 

As the crowd sang Go Cubs Go, we noticed Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts moving through the stands shaking hands and getting his photo taken with Cubs fans. As Jamie and I enjoyed the afterglow of a Cubs victory we looked up and Tom was at the end of our row. We ended up talking to him for a bit about the Hohokams and what a great time we had on our trip. A Cubs victory followed by a chat with one of the team owners -- what a fantastic day at Wrigley!

After the game it was Wrigleyville, this time to celebrate not commiserate. I won’t go into the rest of the evening as that’s a whole other story. Suffice it to say it involved a punching bag machine, a Cubs bear mascot, Rush Street, a beautiful woman in a red dress holding a bouquet of flowers and of course Old Style. An early flight the following morning back to the desert and our whirlwind Windy City adventure was over. My brother Jamie didn't really know what to expect on this trip and said it was all a bit surreal...and far exceeded his expectations. Mine too...
Jamie (aka Jim) and Tim

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tim and Jim go to Chicago with the Ho's - Part 1

This is part 1 of a two part blog on my recent Chicago Trip, part 2 tomorrow.  

I returned over the weekend from a whirlwind Windy City trip with the Mesa Hohokams that included two games at Wrigley. In case you're unfamiliar with the Hohokams, they are the civic group who help the Cubs with things like ushering, parking, and selling programs during spring training in Arizona. In our two games we saw the epic Marmol meltdown game on Thursday and a Dempster dandy on Friday. Hey, 1-1 for our two games is not bad. Now if the Cubs were actually playing .500 ball for the season, they would only be 3 --yes 3-- games out of first place in the division. The Cubs loss notwithstanding, the trip was a blast and included many memorable moments, like standing in right field at Wrigley, feeling what it would be like to patrol the outfield like Dome or The Hawk did.

On this trip I brought along my brother Jamie, or as he affectionately became known to the Hohokams – Jim. I got to play tour guide for Jim, er, Jamie, as he had only driven through Chicago a couple times and never been to Wrigley or seen the city proper. We arrived at O’Hare at about 11:30AM on Wednesday, which meant our flight left Phoenix at 6AM, which meant I got up at 3:15AM. Ouch! This early up time reminded me of the days I worked on the FOX-10 TV morning show, and I had to arrive at the station at 1:30AM. Yes, I once worked for Rupert Murdoch, but it was at a Phoenix FOX affiliate station and not FOX News. Back at that time the Internet was just getting going, so we were still tapping phone lines manually and steaming open letters by hand. I’m kidding about the espionage, and also digressing.

Wednesday - After arrival and check-in at our hotel, I met with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Elliott Harris. Elliott writes the humorous sports related column - Quick Hits. He interviewed me about Boys of Spring – The Movie and our Kickstarter efforts to help complete the film. The article appeared in Thursday’s edition, you can read it here. By the time I had finished talking with Elliott, it was going on 2PM and both Jamie and I were starving. So we made our way down to Navy Pier as I wanted to visit the new Harry Caray’s Tavern there and talk with them about the film.

It was 76 degrees and sunshine, so we pulled up to a table in the patio area with good sight lines of the promenade entrance. Jamie decided to keep with the Chicago theme and went for the Old Style. We got some eats and watched the happy tourists and locals come and go. We were happy, too. The outdoor thing really isn’t happening in Phoenix during the summer (115 degrees tends to keep people indoors with air conditioning), so this was a treat for us. I know it’s hot in Chicago now, but we had perfect weather while there, high temps between 75-83 with low humidity. After getting our pic taken with Harry Caray’s head, we met up with the Hohokams for happy hour. They gave us our tickets for the Thursday game which we would view from the Budweiser Batter’s Eye Bleacher Suite.

Later that evening Gino’s East topped off our first day of Windy City culinary delights with some Chicago deep dish pizza. Jim stuck with the Old Style. Our plan for the next day started with food in mind as well.

Thursday – The Cubs game was a night game so we had some time before heading to Wrigleyville. Our plan was to hit up Tempo Café for breakfast, I had been there before and really liked it. As we walked up Rush Street to Tempo, we looked over and saw the outdoor patio of an Original Pancake House restaurant. I’m a sucker for the flapjacks and it was still a few blocks to Tempo so we changed plans and I was soon pouring maple syrup on some buttermilk beauties!  

We then kicked it for a while downtown and decided it would be cool to take Jamie up to Wrigleyville early so he could get a feel of the area before the masses set upon it. Also, I have been caught a time or two over the years on a packed El train headed to Wrigley and can say without a doubt that the Cubs ball game experience is in no way enhanced by your own sweat or that of your fellow Cubs fan. We arrived in Wrigleyville around 3PM for the 7PM game.

Jamie immediately purchased a new Cubs cap and then we began our Wrigleyville walkabout. The journey included some brief stops in establishments here and there, a walk by the players parking lot (where we saw A-Ram pull in), the fire house, and chatted with some fans already in line for the bleachers. If you know the logistics, that put us at Murphy’s Bleachers. We scored a nice outdoor table under the shade of a tree at Murphy's and proceeded to watch humanity arrive. Jim had Old Style. 

Part 2 tomorrow.

Jamie (aka Jim) and Tim at Harry's

In Thursday's Sun-Times by Elliott Harris

Please check out our Boys of Spring film trailer here at Kickstarter and help us get this one of a kind Cubs film made.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starlin and a Pilgrimage

Here we are at the All-Star break and the Cubs lone participating player is shortstop Starlin Castro who just turned 21 years old a few months ago during spring training. So young, so talented, and hopefully, a cornerstone to brighter days in the Cubs future.

I've been thinking, and maybe it's because of Castro's age or because I've been working long hours on Boys of Spring - The Movie, but the speed at which life blows by is sometimes startling. Not the first half of the Cubs season mind you, that seemed to go on at a painstakingly slower pace. In the spring of 2010 I was blogging about a prodigy in Cubs camp, a 19 year old named Starlin who had finished the prior season at double A ball. One of my great pleasures of being involved with spring training is getting to see stars on the rise like Castro before they ever take a first swing in the major leagues.

This brings to mind a scene in the Boys of Spring documentary which was shot in March of 1998, although it seems like yesterday to me. Sitting in the Hohokam stands was then Cubs president Andy MacPhail, relatively new to the team and still idealistic about turning around the Cubs. The BOS cameras caught the usually stoic MacPhail talking excitedly to someone about a Cubs prospect, a certain young hard throwing pitcher from Texas. Less than two months later that prospect struck out 20 Houston Astros in one game on his way to throwing one-hit shutout for the Cubs. The prodigy of course was a 20 year old Kerry Wood. And time moves on.

This Boys of Spring - The Movie project has been ongoing for so long and become such a huge part of my life that it has now become a quest, a quest to finish this film and get it out to all my fellow Cubs and baseball fans. What was it Chicagoan Clark Griswold said about a quest? Never mind, better keep this PG. Some of you will remember me blogging about our film here several years ago; then I stopped, figuring when the film was nearing completion I would let you all know. We are nearing completion but  we need help to finish it and do it right.

A little back-story, a few years ago I had someone who wanted to Executive Produce the movie and was very excited about it and loved the whole concept. They had experience in the film biz with several films to their name.We went through a long process (nearly two years) that sadly ended with us not being able to agree on contracts. This is what led me to Kickstarter to help complete the documentary. We are still looking for corporate sponsorship as well, so please contact us if you have interest and we'll send you our sponsor info.

An interesting thing happened while I have been filming the BOS documentary, many other Cubs documentaries have started, been completed, and gone on their way. Several of those films followed the team during one season and looked for the ultimate payoff with the Cubs winning a World Series. When you follow a team during a certain year and that season ends with disappointment, I believe it makes it more difficult for Cubs fans to watch. And when you're watching players talking about "that season" and they are no longer on the team it's a bit disconcerting. That is in part what makes the BOS film so different, it's not about one year, or how we are almost there but fall short, or what will happen when the Cubs win it all (I think we all pretty much know). Instead BOS spans time, covering different generations of Cubs teams - From Sandberg, to Sosa, to Soriano, to Starlin. We don't just show these players or teams in a historical "looking  back" piece, we taped and documented at the time it was happening.

One thing that isn't mentioned on the Kickstarter website (because it's for creative projects and not charitable fund raising) is that a portion of each DVD sale (once the film is complete) will go to Ron Santo's cause - The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). We will also be donating and helping to raise awareness for several other great causes, including the Alzheimer's Association, and Cubs players foundation's such as the Ryan Dempster Family Foundation.

Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Chicago with the Mesa Hohokams on their annual business trip and through their courtesy I'll be at Wrigley for games on Thursday and Friday. Because of this I may have the opportunity to talk about Boys of Spring - The Movie with some of the Cubs management and possibly the Ricketts. The past Cubs ownership knew of my documentary and helped facilitate it's progress, I don't think the new ownership knows of the film. So this is my chance to hopefully get the new Cubs owners on board with the BOS movie - Wish me luck! I'll also try and do some blogging, tweeting, and photo uploading while I'm there to give you the skinny on this Chi-Town adventure. Enjoy the All-Star game, go Castro!

Please check out our Boys of Spring film trailer here and help us get this one of a kind Cubs film made.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Let's Take a Break and Be in a Movie

We are 2 games from the All-Star break and the Cubs are 12 games out of the division lead, only lowly Houston has a worse record than the Cubs in all of MLB. Marlon Byrd had mentioned in his blog from June 12 of his hope that the Cubs could cut the division lead down to about 5 or 6 games by the All-Star break and thus in his words "still have a chance". That obviously hasn't happened and the Cubs are actually further out than when Byrd made the comments. To be fair Byrd wasn't able to contribute during that time because he was on the DL until getting back on the field July 2. Even the most optimistic of us Cubs fans have by now realized we'll be waiting at least another year.

So as a fan I take some enjoyment out of good games like the other day when the Cubs overcame an 8 run lead to beat the Nationals. I just hope those "good games" come more often in the second half of the season.  I've been working on something that has been a long time coming, and so to take your mind off the not so good games - Drum-roll please......Boys of Spring - The Movie!

This is a documentary film about the Cubs the likes of which you haven't seen before. Over 25 years in the making, it is finally time to bring this story to Cubs fans. We have partnered with Kickstarter.com to help complete the film. You can be a part of it, click the link and watch the video and find out all about Boys of Spring - The Movie.