With the start of official full-team workouts today, another Chicago Cubs spring training is upon us. Having been lucky enough to witness many a Cubs spring up close and personal, I can say this isn’t a typical start to spring training. This year, Sloan Park, Wrigleyville West and the entire Cubs Universe, for that matter, are pouring forth optimism and expectations large enough to overflow the Grand Canyon. Optimism earned with last season’s 97 wins, and playoff beat downs of the Pirates and Cardinals. That optimism quickly roared into white water rapids of expectations with big name off-season acquisitions of Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, and Jason Heyward.
Of course, being Cubs fans we know about optimism, dreams, and eventual harsh realities. BUT… Hold on…this is different. Las Vegas Sports Books and MLB Oddsshark are touting the Cubs as favorites to win the 2016 World Series. WHAT? YEAH, IT’S TRUE. Still, we know in our gut this season will end in one of two ways; either with incredible heartbreak, which we can handle due to years of built up Cubs scar tissue–or the other prospect, which honestly seems even harder to fathom. You know…that other outcome we’ve dreamed about, but won’t believe possible until we see those pigs fly…or a moon that is fully Cubs blue. I suppose with both outcomes, there will be a lot of tears and beer.
Sure WE’VE SEEN Cubs optimism before in recent times. Remember Dallas Green in the 1980’s, Dusty Baker in 2003-06, or Lou Piniella in 2007-10, but nothing like this 2016 team. This year it’s different, the Cubs organization has never looked like this from top to bottom, at least not since I’ve been around the team each spring since 1984.
Think about it–strong-willed owners with a vision, driven baseball executives, a sage manager, and a roster mix of big talent that includes veteran savvy and brash youth. All that coming together with a shared vision and dedication. Wow, writing those words it sounds like a to-good-be-true scenario. Or, just maybe, it’s the right confluence of talent and timing to make something special happen for Chicago, and Cubs fans everywhere. See there, I’m getting way ahead of things again. Perhaps we need to do like Dorothy did in Oz to get home, and repeat a mantra, a mantra and a plan often stated by the Ricketts family, as well as Theo & company – making the Cubs playoff competitive year-in-year-out…playoff competitive year-in-year-out…playoff competitive year-in-year-out.
This 2016 World Series dream isn’t an easy thing to get out of the brain when you’ve been starving for so long, and you look around the Sloan campus and see the likes of Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, and…and, I could list the whole damn roster. I need to slow this roll. After all, we are only beginning spring training. There is much work to do, and chemistry to build. Which is part of what spring camp is all about. YEAH, I know some people feel spring training is but a mere nuisance that stands in the way of starting the regular season. However, I can assure you it is indeed needed, although the proper length of time is debatable. Beyond that, for me, spring training has become a yearly ritual…a way of life, and a time of year that I savor. Sure, I’m happy and ready when the regular season starts, but that also means my seasonal sojourn with the Cubs has ended.
It’s hard to grasp that in just over a week from now, I will be public address announcing Cubs spring training games for the 33rd year. Putting that in perspective, I was announcing my 10th year of Cubs spring training games when Kyle Schwarber was born in March of 1993. Or that newly anointed @gramparossy_3 aka, Cubs catcher David Ross, was only 7 years old when I began announcing Ryne Sandberg’s name, and passing my PA mic to Harry Caray to sing the 7th inning stretch. Man, I guess I’m getting old. I suppose this is a good time for one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes. Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Sooooo, for the 33rd year, I’m going on spring break with the Chicago Cubs, a yearly party that has been more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined. I hope you will join me here over the next 40 days or so as we get to experience Cubs spring training, one of the great spectacles Arizona has to offer. Warm weather, Cubs baseball, beer, and even bikini’s. What more could a kid like me want!
I’ll get in to more baseball specific stuff in this blog along the way…Cubs thoughts and evaluations…but today is for dreaming. Dreaming of the day mentioned in the lyrics of the Celtic Cubs rock song Clear the Way, “the flag keeps raising higher and higher, standing together proud and tall, this year, we are going to win it all.”
This is the year! Go Cubs!