Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Darwin and the Evolution of 2nd Base

Darwin Barney all smiles today
Spectacular weather here today in Mesa -72 degrees and plentiful sunshine. A pretty uneventful day at Camp Bussie, the usual workout but without Manager Sveum in attendance. Darwin Barney was working with the group today, he and Zeke DeVoss were taking infield at 2nd base. While Barney is familiar to most Cubs fans after last season, DeVoss not so much having only been in the Cubs organization for less than a year after being selected in the 3d round of the 2011 June draft.

DeVoss is a kid you may want to keep an eye on, he is projected as top of the order second baseman or outfielder offering speed and good defense. DeVoss is certainly a Theo Epstein type player, in fact Epstein drafted Zeke for the Red Sox out of high school in 2009 but DeVoss chose to go to the University of Miami instead. Speed and defense are not his only attributes, he is a patient switch hitter with intelligence and discipline. DeVoss played two years at Miami, as a sophomore he led the Canes with a .340 batting average and hit a scorching .560 that year in the post season.

DeVoss makes the flip to second
Look for DeVoss to be on the Cubs organizational fast track. In his first year in the Cubs farm system he stole 16 bases in 20 attempts, had a .458 OBP, while batting .309 in 187 plate appearances between AZ Rookie ball and Boise. The 21 year old will need a couple years of seasoning in the minors but he has everything that the new Cub Theo-crats are looking for. There is also the coolness factor of having a guy named Zeke on your roster.

DeVoss unintentionally provided one of the exciting moments of the day by running hard toward right field attempting to make an over the shoulder grab when his cleat stuck in the grass. He made the catch but came down awkwardly falling to the turf. He got up smiling and began running gingerly toward the infield only to stop and take inventory of his knee. As it turned out everything was fine but it was hold your breath moment for the staff.

As many of you know we are in the process of updating the BOS website and making some technical changes that will enhance your experience here. We will also be making an announcement soon that I hope will be of interest to all Cubs fans, so stay tuned for that sometime this week!

Here's a few of my photos from today ~

Barney makes the flip
I love watching Campana, he goes after everything shagging bp
DeVoss slips making catch
And goes down hard but is ok
During bp Barney goes off the wall 
Can't make the grab, looks for a clean landing

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Scoop

I headed over to Fitch Park today to check on what's happening with the Cubs at Camp Bussie; the off-season workout program supervised by Cubs Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tim Buss. Driving up Center Street towards the park, I saw a baseball sitting in the middle of the road. Harking back to one of my part-time jobs while in college as a delivery driver (where I learned how to consume a full-course dinner on the road while driving with my knees) I drove up and scooped the ball from the blacktop without endangering anyone. (Please don't try this on your own, as I am a trained professional driver).

After snatching the wayward ball I noticed a guy on the edge of the street giving me a surprised look, he may have parked and gotten out of his vehicle to retrieve the ball. Since I hadn't seen him while working my sweet drive-scoop-and-go move, I decided to keep the ball. As I then turned onto 6th Place off Center, low and behold not more than 50 yards ahead there was another ball in the middle of the street. Another drive and scoop and I had two baseballs in my possession before even arriving at the Fitch parking lot.

Dale Sveum today
Tim Buss has been working here in Mesa with the guys (mostly Cubs minor leaguers) since November. Over the next couple weeks some of the Cubs major league players will slowly start filtering in to Fitch before pitchers and catchers must report on February 18. Upon walking to the ball fields I noticed something unusual, an unexpected early arrival - new Cubs Manager Dale Sveum. In all the years I've been around spring training I have never seen a Cubs manager here working with players a full 19 days before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report. Also at Fitch today was new Cubs first base coach Dave McKay. What I saw and heard today from the Cubs staff at Fitch was a breath of fresh air.  In addition to the physical training there was some real coaching going on, a lot of focus on base running since these were all position players.

There were about 15 guys working out today, as I mentioned mostly minor league players (Tony Campana was part of the group). Towards the end of the workout Sveum called the players together for a talk, it was likely an early version of what the whole team will hear in late February. Here is some of what Dale said to the players this afternoon:

  • There will be no excuses for not doing something the right way.

  • Theo Epstein is one of the smartest people he's ever been around, and that Theo will not accept mediocrity, not from himself, not from anyone.

  • Making excuses is caused by your own insecurities and lack of preparation.

  • So many games are won by one run and the Cubs will prepare and do all the little things the right way in order to be the team that wins those close games.

  • He also told the guys they are being given the greatest opportunity in all of sports, to be the players who win it all after 103 years.

I really liked what I heard from Sveum. I was also talking with athletic trainer Steve Melendez who has been in the Cubs organization for 27 years and he pointed out that today Dale was talking to minor league players, young guys who are impressionable. Steve said what will really be important is how well the Cubs major leaguers buy into Sveum‚Äôs program.

Pitchers and catchers are not due in for nearly three weeks but I already get the feeling from Dale Sveum and Theo Epstein that no matter who you are, if you don't buy into the program - you won't be part of the program.


Some of my photos from today ~

The Manager talks with Zeke DeVoss
Matt Cerda makes a pick at third

Jim Adduci makes a running grab
Zeke DeVoss gets low on grounder
Dave McKay throws some bp
Dustin Geiger makes pick at third, Matt Cerda looks on
Tony Campana runs down a liner
Justin Bour handles a hot one at first
Sveum with a little fungo fun

Friday, January 20, 2012

Give Me A $5 Ticket

Anyone with a computer or even a smart phone can write pretty much anything and stick it up on the internet these days, and a lot of that 'anything' seems to pass as factual or newsworthy. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for more information and analysis but just because you or I have a blog or a web venue does not a journalist make. Schlock internet reporting doesn't bother me much when it's dealing with, say, politics or religion but when it comes to the Chicago Cubs - I have to draw the line!

Hohokam Stadium outfield, crop circle year of 2011 
Which brings me to what pissed me off yesterday two articles about Hohokam Stadium and Cubs spring training on yahoo sports (I know, hardly a bastion of journalistic integrity), but these two 'articles' were riddled with misinformation. As I mentioned, error-filled, internet pseudo journalism doesn't normally bother me, in fact it occasionally amuses me. And I don't want to come down hard on the writers in this case because apparently both are Cubs fans. Really it's the Yahoo Contributor Network that is at the root of the problem. There is a bigger issue as well, these freaking big brother email reading software bots that flesh out key words in our emails. Yes, our emails, (if you use Yahoo or Google), hell I think most large free email systems have them. I'm getting off track, but it's because of these email reading big brother bots that I'm automatically fed any Cubs related 'articles' (and I use the word 'articles' loosely in this case) to the front and center of my screen when I'm using email.

These two Cubs fan contributors likely had good intentions in passing along a little Cubs spring training knowledge to fellow fans. The problem is, apparently there is no editorial oversight for the Yahoo Contributor Network, so they toss these pieces up on the web without giving them a glance. Sure, one fan passing on info to other fans is a kind gesture and all, but what if one fan doesn't know as my grandmother used to say - sh*t from Shinola. Shinola apparently was a type of shoe polish sold in the U.S. until sometime around the 1950's.

Now I am certainly not the editorial judge of things but I do know a little about Cubs spring training and I did go to the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Bear in mind I did sacrifice some class work to help ASU earn its prestigious honor as the nation's #1 party school. For me real journalism's demise began when the F.C.C. dismantled the Fairness Doctrine, by the time Hunter S. Thompson blew his brains out at the "Owl Farm" journalism had fragmented into word particles landing on a billion different IP's. But I digress. So as a service to all Cubs fans I've got to set the facts straight on these two Yahoo Contributor Network 'articles' floating around the interwebs.

Matthew Smith starts his article Spring Training 2012: Hotels in Mesa, Arizona by saying ticket prices at Cubs home games at Hohokam "range from $5 to $15". I'm not sure where Matthew has been but ticket prices haven't been that low in years. Currently the range for Cubs home games at Hohokam is $8 to $31, you can find more info on pricing, game schedule, and a great seating chart on the BOS website here. I'm sure the rest of Matthew's article gave some great hotel information but given the shaky beginning he may have you looking for the $19 dollar room at the Maricopa Inn which was demolished years ago.

Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Cubs first spring home starting in 1952
Given the title of the other article written by Luna Hanie, Fan's Guide: Cubs Spring Training at Hohokam Stadium, it's a bit more off-putting to see errors. From its first sentence "Hohokam Stadium has been the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs since 1952", we are misinformed. Rendezvous Park in Mesa was the first Cubs spring home in 1952, training there until 1965. In 1966 the Cubs trained in Long Beach, California followed by a move to Scottsdale, AZ from 1967 to 1978. In 1979 the Cubs moved into Hohokam Park (not the current Hohokam Stadium) and played there through the spring of 1996. At which point old Hohokam Park was demolished and the current stadium built on the same site in time to open for the spring of 1997. Got it? There will be a quiz!

Later in the article, under the heading Amenities it says, "In 1997, Hohokam Stadium underwent renovations that provided the stadium with modern facilities". As I already mentioned the earlier Hohokam ballpark was not "renovated" in 1997, it was completely demolished to barren dirt and a brand new Hohokam built on the same grounds. I'm not trying to get on anyone's case but I do feel Cubs fans deserve accurate information, as it seems information is the life's blood of the new Cubs management regime.

To that end, the Boys of Spring website is undergoing some changes and updating some out of date info. This would have been done sooner but we had to change our website design team unexpectedly. As usual if you can't make it to AZ, Boys of Spring will be the place to go for Cubs news, photos, and videos during spring training. Heck, even if you do make it here for Cubs spring training you will still get tons of exclusive Cubs stuff you won't find anywhere else on the net. "Tons of exclusive Cubs stuff", that's my kind of journalism. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cubs Con

Thursday, I was in Mesa wearing a tee shirt and shorts, enjoying 70 degree weather and getting ready for my first trip to Cubs Convention in Chicago. Allegiant Air flies direct from the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport which is close to my house to Rockford, IL which is somewhat close to Chicago. At the late date I purchased tickets Allegiant was substantially cheaper than flying into Chicago. I figured, it was no big deal driving the roughly 90 miles to the Windy City - besides, I know O'Hare can often be a pain. Friends in Chicago had been telling me how mild the winter was this year. "Was", being the key word.

What ensued after my flight arrived an hour late to Rockford at 8:30pm was a white knuckle drive on slick snow and ice covered roads that took nearly 3 hours. The journey included two cars spinning out completely (both on my side of the I-90), one ended up going sideways in front of me and the other ended facing me and the rest of oncoming traffic. Let's just say I was extremely happy to make it to Chicago unscathed at 11:30pm. When I became a Cubs fan I didn't know that meant occasionally putting your life on the line for the team!

Dave Eagan, real tat, signed with sharpie
Upon entering the Hilton for Cubs Convention I found out first-time attendees must get in the Cubs Ink line, to be tattooed in Cubs blue. So glad body autographs were optional.

Tim O'Riley of Wrigleyville Magazine invited me to come and hang out at their booth, which was fantastic as I was able to meet many die-hard Cubs fans! At the Cubs Convention it was amazing to me how many things are going on at any given time. There were seminars/talks, autographs, exhibits, ceremonies, current and former Cubs players teaching kids baseball techniques, a kids Lego area and video gaming station, all spread out everywhere in the Hilton. Combine that with a roving band and Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy playing in his inimitable style and you truly have a Cubs spectacle.  

By spending a lot of time at the Wrigleyville Magazine booth I didn't get to as many of the events/seminars as I would have liked. I did catch the opening ceremonies, and parts of "From the Field to the Booth", "The Scouting Formula", and "The Father-Son Connection". For some great run-downs and details of what was said in these and many other Cubs Convention seminars stop by Chicago Cubs Online and Bleed Cubbie Blue. I enjoy reading these two outstanding websites and I have gotten to know the owners/creators of each, Neil Finnell of CCO and Al Yellon of BCB. Both Neil and Al stopped by the booth during the weekend to chat some Cubs and say hello. I also want to give a shout to the guys in the Quad Cities at IvyEnvy who were giving Boys of Spring some retweets during the weekend over on Twitter.

There was a ton of great information in these seminars including how the new management is going to proceed in running the Cubs organization, so check out CCO and BCB for the scoop. It's need to know info for Cubs fans. With that said, since this was my first Cubs Con I wanted to get a feel for everything that was going on. What follows is a kind of photo essay of some of the weekend's festivities and what I saw and did at Cubs Con and my time in the Windy City.    

Gary Pressy and me
At Cubs Con I had the chance to talk with many Cubs friends and acquaintances I've met over the years, including former long time public address voice at Wrigley Field, Wayne Messmer. Wayne who often sings the National Anthem at Wrigley opened the ceremonies on Friday with his usual dynamic style and voice. For much of the weekend I could hear the music of Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy who was across the room from our booth. I asked Gary what his favorite songs to play at Wrigley were, he mentioned Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Hey Hey Holy Mackerel (the 1969 Cubs fight song). His favorite non-baseball song to play at Wrigley is Sweet Home Chicago.

Talked with Cubs photographer Stephen Green. Stephen said he may be spending more time in AZ during spring training this year with so many new players. This coming 2012 season will be his 30th year as the Cubs photographer.

Ran into my old pal and former Sun-Times Quick Hits sports columnist Elliott Harris. He says there is something appropriate about having Cubs Convention in the cold of Chicago winter. Since leaving the Sun Times Elliott has continued to write his own column on his website - ElliottHarris.com.  Elliott also hosts the Sports & Torts show and really is living every guy's dream as he meets beautiful ladies and talks sports.  He did mention it's still an adjustment not having the weekly newspaper paycheck, life does have it's trade-offs.

Cubs going with youth movement, Bussie works the new players 
Was able to chat with Cubs Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tim Buss who was excited about the new direction the organization is headed. Tim has been working with many players down in Mesa since November getting ready for the upcoming season. In a Chicago Tribune article Paul Sullivan called the off-season work-outs in Mesa 'Camp Bussie' and 'Camp Campana', now that Tyler 'Camp' Colvin is gone. Campana has gained about 10 pounds of muscle over the off-season. Having watched Tony and the guys run last week in AZ, I'm estimating the speedy Campana at about 173 lbs.

My friends the Mesa Hohokams and Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau had a booth promoting spring training and the new Cubs complex which will be ready for spring training in 2014. The Hohokams have been helping and promoting spring training in Arizona since 1952.

Pat Hughes
I had a chance to chat with Cubs radio man extraordinaire Pat Hughes who was a big part of the convention handling many duties, including the opening ceremonies. Pat and his two daughters had a booth selling his book Ron Santo A Perfect 10 and Pat's Baseball Voices CD's. Like Bussie, Pat is very positive about what is going on with the direction of the organization.      

Someone I had known about but never met until this weekend was Cubs unofficial historian and Vine Line writer Ed Hartig. I have read his name many times in articles and publications for his research; so it was nice to finally put a face to the name.

Kerry Wood signed autographs for an hour and 15 minutes after his time was up, until all those in line got one. I happened to be walking by as he finished. Wood walked to the exit door then stopped and again signed more autographs to the delight of fans. Kerry is a classy guy, a quality pitcher, and great clubhouse leader. The young players can learn much from this veteran.

All in all my first Cubs Convention was an incredible experience; I look forward to going back again. However soon it's time for the Cubs to come here. Only 33 days until pitchers and catchers report.

New Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad (the tall one).  
No truth to the rumor these guy's played at the 1945 Cubs World Series
Wrigleyville Magazine booth
Former Cubs outfielder Dwight Smith 
Dave Rossi, sports the latest in the Cubs comfy
Ron HOF banner
Mike Bielecki Cubs Pitcher 1988-1991
Hanging around the free Pepsi Max shot table was not the best idea (they say double the caffeine)   
Keith Macht, Cubs Fan tat man
Keith, a work in progress
More Keith
The Cubs last 20 game winner Jon Lieber
Castro greets fans in lobby 
More of the Cubs youth movement
Miss Teen Illinois Valerie L. Stokes and me
Mesa Hohokams Booth
After Cubs Con on Sunday I stopped up to Wrigley, Ron's Statue

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cubs Convention it is NOW!

I was going to write up a recap from each day here at Cubs Convention but limited internet access and having to actually be busy at the convention has kept me from that. I will write up my full recap of this Cubs mania weekend and post it Monday with photos. Today I plan to post some photos and tidbits on our BOS - Wrigleyville West facebook page as well as on BOS Twitter, (if technology will agree) apparently cell service with some carriers is very limited in the exhibition halls at the Hilton.

The overflow crowd watching on TV monitors, the Grand Ballroom was packed to see opening ceremonies.

Monday, January 09, 2012

BOS Goes to Cubs Con

If you have followed this blog over the years you know that come January things start to come back to life on the Boys of Spring website and this blog. And that is true this year more than ever, as this coming weekend I will be attending my very first Cubs Convention in Chicago. That will put me in good company as the Cubs new management core of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Dale Sveum will be attending their first Cubs Convention also. As will some of the Cubs new players like the recently acquired 22 year old slugging first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. This coming weekend you can expect the same great photos, video, and inside info that you get here at BOS during Cubs spring training, as I immerse myself in all things Cubs at the 2012 convention!

Boys of Spring and I will be spending time at the convention with Tim O'Riley at the Wrigleyville Magazine/Between the Vines booth, so if you're there stop by and say hello. We will have some giveaways and fun stuff, you could even win an autographed baseball card of the newest Cub Hall of Fame member Ron Santo. 

My friends in Chicago tell me it's been a mild winter so far. As I look at the temps for the windy city, I see it will be near 50 degrees tomorrow and Wednesday. Of course more winter like temps show up on Thursday with a high of 28 and a low of 12 degrees - wonderful, just in time for my arrival. I'm not complaining mind you because a dedicated Cubs fan will brave a little cold weather for the team. However since it will be around 70 degrees and sunny here in Mesa on Thursday when I fly out, it will be an adjustment.

The Cubs have been so busy this off-season the hot stove has been replaced by a microwave. So many new faces, it will be interesting to see what the roster actually looks like when spring training rolls around. And it's rolling around soon, we are only 40 days from the arrival of Cubs pitchers and catchers here in AZ! If you're a facebook type, don't forget to check out our Boys of Spring - Wrigleyville West page, give us a 'like'. And if you're up on Twitter, follow us, we are going to be very active during Cubs Convention and over the next several months as we bring you Cubs info and stuff you won't find anywhere else.

Ready for Cubs Con! I hope this new outfit gets me an exclusive interview with Theo.