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Game 1 of 39 before the regular season starts ended with a 5-3 Cubs victory over the L.A. Dodgers in front of 7,916 sun-drenched spectators. Before the game got going, Robert Brinton Cactus League President and Big Ho of the Hohokam surprised Ron Santo by leading all the fans in singing ‘Happy Birthday’. With the schedule starting earlier than normal, for the first time there was a Spring game on Ron’s Birthday. Looking over from my booth, I could see that it really touched Ron to hear all the fans singing collectively. I had gone over to say hello to Ron and Pat Hughes before the game started, and Ron mentioned how happy and excited he was for the games to start. He really lives for baseball and the Cubs.
Onto the game. In the 1st inning, Reed Johnson made a sensational diving catch on a Brad Ausmus liner to right-center. Alfonso Soriano was 1 for 1, and scored the Cubs first run. The Cubs could have had more, with bags loaded and no outs Micah Hoffpauir who was DH’ing today (National League teams can choose to do this in Spring Training now) grounded into a double play. Hoffpauir, who is trying to make the squad as a power left-handed bat, ended up in the same situation in the 5th, bags loaded no outs, and would redeem himself by hitting a hard line-drive Grand Slam to right-center, putting the Cubs ahead 5-3, which would be the final tally.
This game was surprisingly well played for the first outing, especially for a game that featured 13 pitchers throwing at least one inning. Samardzija started for the Cubs, got his 2 innings in, gave up 2 earned runs on 3 hits, 1K and 2 walks. He was in a bases loaded, no out situation in the 2nd and was able to entice Dodgers Blake DeWitt into a double play without a run scoring, however Samardzija would then walk Delwyn Young before Tony Abreu singled in Casey Blake and Matt Kemp, giving the Dodgers a 2 to 1 lead. Cubs minor league pitching phenom Mitch Atkins (Last year’s Cubs minor league Pitcher of the Year) had a decent performance, throwing 2 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, no walks and a strikeout. The combination of Cubs pitchers Ken Kadokura, David Patton, Esmailin Caridad, Jason Waddell, and Jeff Stevens held the Dodgers without a run the rest of the game, with each pitching one inning.
I recognized a familiar face as the Dodgers walked onto the Hohokam field, and then remembered Don Mattingly is now a coach for the Dodgers. Ivan DeJesus Jr. got into today’s game for the Dodgers; he’s the son of Ivan DeJesus, the Cubs Special Assistant to Manager Lou Piniella. Dodgers’ Xavier Paul could have really messed somebody up during his at bat in the 8th innng as the bat flew out of his hands, completely over the box seats section, over the concourse, hitting the railing on the next tier of seats. Luckily, it didn’t hit anyone; I’ve never seen a bat travel that far out of a hitter’s hands.
Mark the Beer Guy and Bob the Music Teacher led the fans in a rousing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th Inning stretch, which you can watch on the attached video.
Tomorrow the Cubs will take on the Beer Boys from Milwaukee, talk to you after the game.