“All right, guys, here we come!”
It was none other than Carlos Zambrano who led the players’ charge out of the clubhouse Sunday afternoon.
For many of the players, it was their first time seeing Wrigley Field’s redone playing surface. Aramis Ramírez and Ronny Cedeño took notice of the yellow-painted CBOE on the brick facing the leftfield bullpen box. It will be one of the handful of changes fans will notice on their first trip to the ballpark this season.
Soon, Aramis’ attention turned to testing the new dirt. He had a few nervous chuckles when the baseball he was bouncing … didn’t bounce. The players were told that the infield will be soft while it hasn’t completely thawed. Bench coach Alan Trammell told his infielders that he wanted to discover all the new quirks. Until then, they’ll be wise to stay low on groundballs.
The other thing the players noticed from the outset was how short the infield grass is compared to Wrigley Field’s historically thick diamond. The hitters seemed fond of the faster surface–but the pitchers were goading the grounds crew to grow it out anew.
And, yes, the flattened field does finally allow the manager to see the rightfielder’s shoes from the dugout.
One more tune-up
As over 100 members of the media milled about on a day resembling winter more than spring, the question arose as to why the Cubs schedule a team workout. Surely seven weeks of spring training will matter more than this one day, right?
Assistant general manager Randy Bush explained that the team uses this day to adjust to the cold weather. Swinging a bat and throwing a ball feels different in frigid Chicago than it did a couple days ago in 80-degree Arizona.
When asked whether opening in a dome or warm climate should be MLB policy, Derrek Lee said that they would appreciate the nice weather but opening at home is about as exciting as it gets. I’m sure the fans are ready to go, too.
Ready to go
The media took notice when Kosuke Fukudome went yard in his first round of BP … Zambrano, also batting left-handed, followed him with three home runs of his own.
After running in from shagging flyballs, Alfonso Soriano stayed at shortstop to take a couple groundballs. He dropped the first, but immediately yelled, “Same guy! Same guy!” He started the double play on the second ball hit to him.
— Sean Ahmed