The Cubs have the day off today as we wind down the backstretch of spring training.
Did you catch the World Baseball Classic Semifinal game last night between Puerto Rico and the Netherlands? What an intense and exciting game it was, as Puerto Rico won it 4-3 in 11 innings. The Cubs Javier Baez is really emerging as an international phenomenon for Puerto Rico in this World Baseball Classic with his unique skill set and fiery emotional persona. Team U.S.A. plays two-time WBC Champion Japan this evening in the other Semifinal contest. The Semifinal winners will play in the championship game tomorrow.
I talked with Cubs radio color-man Ron Coomer the other day about the WBC. While Ron finds the WBC interesting, he noted that the timing of the tournament (during spring training) is less than ideal for helping MLB teams get ready for the season.
Personally, I love the global flavor that the WBC brings. As you likely know the Cubs played Team Japan in an exhibition this past Saturday at Sloan Park. These international exhibition games keep me on my toes with name pronunciations and the differing baseball customs. Saturday’s game was the third time I’ve done the public address announcing for a Cubs game against Team Japan. The 2013 Cubs/Japan WBC exhibition was very memorable, because then minor-leaguer Javier Baez hit two bombs, including a sayōnara walk-off for the win. Here’s BOS video of Javy’s walk-off from that game. By the spring of 2013 Javy’s exploits were gaining a lot of attention around the baseball world even though he’d not yet had one MLB regular season at-bat.
Before Sunday’s night game against Kansas City at Sloan Park I had the opportunity to chat with former Cubs Willie Wilson and one of my all-time favorite players, The Hawk – Andre Dawson! I mentioned to Dawson that I had announced the games and his name at Old Hohokam Park for his six spring’s with the Cubs. He was surprised to learn that I’m still doing the Cubs spring training P.A. announcing to this day. It was on March 2, 1987 when Dawson and his agent showed up unannounced at the Cubs’ Fitch Park spring training facility in search of a contract…it was the famous “blank check” incident.
Dawson who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010 is living in Miami and was only out here in AZ for a short time this spring. The Hawk has a bit of his own international baseball experience, having played 11 years in Canada with the Montreal Expos before coming to the Cubs. How Dawson was able to last 21 MLB season’s while having 12 knee surgeries is beyond me. His 1987 League MVP season with the Cubs was all the more memorable, coming as it did, while playing on a last place ball club.
When I get a chance to chat with former players like Willie Wilson and The Hawk, sometimes I still feel like a kid. In my early years announcing Cubs spring games, I jokingly called it “Sheridan’s Spring Break.” Back then, I never envisioned that my yearly spring break would still be going on over three decades later, but as Robin Williams said: Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s Party!’
In case you missed Gandpa Rossy’s first routine on Dancing With The Stars, here it is. Go Gramps Go!
The Cubs have twelve more games to play before starting the regular season, having already played twenty-six spring contests. Only four of the remaining twelve are home games at Sloan Park. All four of the Sloan Park games are sold-out, which should bring the Cubs a new MLB record-setting spring home attendance figure. This would best last year’s Cubs MLB all-time home attendance mark of 226,163 for an average of 15,078 per game.
Plain and simple, the Cubs in Mesa are the biggest draw MLB has in spring training. Not convinced? Consider…last spring the Cubs drew over 100K more fans to Sloan Park than 22 other MLB teams did to their home parks – over 100K more fans than 22 other teams! That’s Cub!