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There is so much going on in Cubs world these days: The passing of former Cubs manager and coach Don Zimmer, the MLB Draft (Cubs hold the 4th pick), a new radio deal, Wrigley renovations now on hold, prospect Kris Bryant destroying the Southern League, the Cubs no longer owning the MLB’s worst record (at least until tonight), and of all things, new AAA Iowa Cubs player-coach Manny Ramirez hitting a 450 foot HR in Arizona at an extended spring training game yesterday. Click a link above and read about any of those subjects.
Boys of Spring’s John Antonoff took some great shots of Manny’s bomb yesterday, so I put one of the photos on Twitter, figuring it may have some interest. Man, did that thing blow up! In less than 24 hours since I posted, nearly 300 Favorites and over 700 retweets; because of that original Tweet, it was also picked up by Sporting News, Yahoo, Fox Sports, and Sun-Times for articles. I also saw new hashtags pop up #callupManny, and #MannybeingManny, social media is an interesting animal indeed. One correction on my tweet, Manny hit the HR at Papago Park in Phoenix, not Tempe.
I figured Manny might play in one final extended spring game in Mesa this morning at Riverview, before heading off to Iowa and his new gig. So I headed down to the Cubs complex hoping to see Manny hit. This morning was great timing, as my nephew Connor was playing in a baseball tourney for Gilbert High at Riverview as well…so I was hoping for a two-for-one baseball daily double.
Connor’s game started at 8am, and if Manny was playing, his game would start at 9am.
Some of you long time readers may remember me writing about my nephew throwing a no-hitter five years ago at age 11. Fast forward to today, Connor just finished his sophomore year at Gilbert High and has grown to 6’1 and 160 lbs., he still pitches (probably tonight at Talking Stick), but also plays other positions. He was shut-down last year as a pitcher due to injury, so he’s just starting to get back in the pitching groove. This morning he was playing left field at Riverview, as I arrived Connor made a nice running catch in foul territory. In his first at bat, he walked and scored, in his second at bat he reached on an error. At that point I got a call on my cell, Manny was going to DH. Connor’s team was ahead 5-3, in the 3d, when I moved over to the field closest to the Cubs Park stadium to watch Manny Ramirez.
I probably wouldn’t have left Connor’s game to see Ramirez, but Connor is playing again tonight at Talking Stick, and again on Saturday at Riverview. This however, was the only chance for me to get some video of Manny playing in his Cubs uniform. It felt kinda cool to have my nephew and Manny Ramirez playing at the same complex, at the same time…although, I was one of the few who likely knew this fact.
Well, Manny didn’t hit any monster shots today, but he did pound one off the wall in LC, just missing another HR. His deep hit ended up being a wall-ball single. Hey, the Cubs didn’t hire him as a base-running instructor. At 42, Manny can still hit though. For the day he was 1-5 in the Cubs 10-1 pounding of the Angels in this Cactus League extended spring training game. Ryan Sweeney and Kyuji Fujikawa also played in today’s game. As always you can read a great write up on the game by AZ Phil at the Cub Reporter.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness a lot of baseball in Mesa over the years, including today, watching a high school hopeful, and an ex-MLB star who still wants to play the game. Then there was Popeye – Don Zimmer, who passed away yesterday. What an amazing life in baseball, 66 years. We should all be so lucky, to do something we enjoy for so long! My first year as Cubs spring PA Announcer was 1984, the same year Don Zimmer came on board as the Cubs third base coach. Things were a lot more intimate in spring training back then, so I actually had an opportunity to interact with him on a several occasions. I will say, he was always nice to me. All of us long time Cubs fans will never forget The Boys of Zimmer, and his managing the 1989 Cubs to the division title. Here’s a photo I took of Zimmer and Roger Craig in spring of either 1989 or 1990.
So I’m raising a toast to Don Zimmer, an incredible man, and an incredible life in baseball.