A belated Happy Holidays! Hope you enjoyed, or at least survived, the holiday season.
Here at Boys of Spring we are gearing up for our big season. Yep, hard to believe that less than a month from now pitchers and catchers will report for Cubs spring training. A lot has happened since I last blogged — bye bye Bradley — Hawk to the Hall — Byrd in Center — McGwire on roids — Mad Dog back — Cubs Convention — and, of course, the always fun “It’s Mesa…no it’s Naples…no it’s Mesa…no it’s Naples” debate on the future home of Cubs spring training. I’ll touch on some of those topics in this blog, but be forewarned, 30 days from now, for better or worse, I will be back blogging daily (or close to daily) on all things Cubs. It’s Spring time — my time of year!
Someone asked me recently what makes Boys of Spring different from other Cubs websites? I said part of it is that I’m a huge Cubs fan who has been lucky enough to be the Cubs spring training Public Address Announcer for soon to be 27 spring seasons. (I started this gig when I was 7 years old) So, I’m a fan, but I also sit and work in the press box so I can give a bit of an inside view during the season before the season.
The content you see here (my photos, video, and blogs) are exclusive to BOS. We take pride in the design of our website and DO NOT have any pop ups or cluttered advertising to bother you. When the Cubs arrive on February 18, you can expect my daily multi-media reports taking you right up through opening day. At BOS we focus on Cubs spring training — that is what we do.
So, Milton Bradley has taken his game to Seattle and the spring schedule doesn’t have the Mariners coming to Hohokam this season. To bad as I’m sure Cubs fans would have showed him some real love for his dedication and amazing effort as a Cub last season. The Cubs get Carlos Silva in return; I don’t know what to say about him that his 5-18 record over the past two years doesn’t say.
The Cubs signed free agent Marlon Byrd to play center field allowing Kosuke to move back to his best defensive position in right. Byrd never batted lower than .283 for the Rangers under Cubs new batting coach Rudy Jaramillo. Byrd had career highs last season in at bats, hits, doubles, HR’s, RBI’s, and SLG, but his OBP dropped to .329 from the previous years .380. Byrd gives all he’s got on the field and his temperament should be better suited for the Cubs than Bradley.
Some great news this off season has been The Hawk getting elected to the Hall of Fame. Andre Dawson was the epitome of a hard working ball player. I remember the spring of 1987 when Cubs GM Dallas Green wasn’t too keen on Dawson and his agent being in Mesa trying to leverage a deal to put The Hawk in the Cubs outfield. The blank check contract worked for Dawson, even though Green tried to get him on the cheap but Andre earned all the incentives for his amazing year. I’ve got some old photos I took of Dawson at spring training back then…I’ll try to dig them up.
With Mark McGwire’s recent, less than contrite steroid confession, it makes us Cubs fans wonder when the Sultan of Sammy will open up about himself and those crazy days of seemingly never ending home runs. I think Sosa’s well-documented ego will eventually leave him wanting to reconcile with the team and city where he reached astronomical adoration and cult status before the melt down ending the 2004 season. It’s been 5 years since Sosa left Chicago in January 2005; with passing time and new team ownership Sosa’s exit wounds are less apparent. I think the Cubs would be inclined to ease the slugger back into some aspects of the organization if…Sosa comes clean about his knowledge and participation involving performance enhancing drugs. It would also help if he does it in a more genuine manner than McGwire. I believe Cubs fans will also be forgiving and eventually, (I said eventually) take him back as one of there own.
In the first round of the 1984 draft, the Oakland A’s selected a tall and slim former pitcher turned first baseman from USC — Mark McGwire. In the second round of that 84 draft the Cubs selected a skinny 6 foot, 150 pound high school pitcher out of Las Vegas. This kid sure didn’t look like a future Hall of Famer, but it was Greg Maddux. Coincidently, 1984 was my first spring helping to do the PA announcing at Cubs spring training.
While Maddux played in the same era as McGwire and Sosa, he was one guy who steered clear of all the PED crap and had the body to prove it. The Cubs could not have brought back a better person to help assist GM Jim Hendry than the Mad Dog. Maddux will help in developing minor league players and lend his skills in talent evaluation as well as work with the spring training staff. This should pay big dividends down the road for the Cubs whole minor league system. Check out the mustache on young Greg…chicks dig the stache.
The future of Cubs spring training hangs in the balance as the Ricketts family weigh the options of staying in Arizona or moving to Naples, Florida. I’ve written a blog about this, you can scroll down and read it. The Cubs are going to make a decision any day now on giving one of the groups (Mesa or Naples) an exclusive bargaining window (probably a minimum of 90 days). This will allow the chosen group time to put a funding strategy in place and have a concrete plan to show the Cubs they can deliver a new Cubs spring training complex by the spring of 2012 or 2013. Mesa appears to have more hurdles to clear in order to fund such a project. I won’t go into any more on this subject until the Ricketts make this first decision. Suffice it to say that if the first group selected can’t come through, they will keep the second available as a fall back option.
The Third Annual Fergie and Friends Game will be held this March 17 at Hohokam Stadium. The charity baseball game pits Cubs Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and a team of former MLB stars against a local All-Star team. Last season a who’s who of Hall of Famers attended or played including Billy Williams, Rollie Fingers, Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, and other sports Hall of Famers, including the NFL’s Bobby Bell, the NBA’s Hal Greer, and the great Meadowlark Lemon. Former Cubs stars that attended or played in last years game include Ron Santo, Keith Moreland, Randy Hundley, Jody Davis, Steve Trout, Lee Smith, Dave Kingman, Bob Dernier, Bill Buckner, Jay Johnstone and Willie Wilson. Other MLB greats who played included Bert Campaneris, Tommy John, Dave Stewart, Amos Otis, George Foster, John Mayberry, and Bernie Carbo. This game is a lot of fun and raises money for many great causes.
29 days till pitchers and catchers!