Spotlight on reading

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Some of the best big-league moments are the ones that involve the littlest people. Big Z, meet the third grade.

Or more precisely: Carlos, te presento el tercer grado.

A group of about 20 bilingual students from Chicago’s Inter-American Elementary Magnet School took a field trip to Wrigley Field last week to attend a book reading by Carlos Zambrano himself. Produced by the Cubs’ Community Affairs department and Comcast Spotlight, these readings are taped and available on-demand for Comcast cable subscribers to play for their children before bedtime. You currently can check out English-language readings by Ryan Theriot, Lou Piniella and Ted Lilly, recorded during the off-season Cubs Caravan.

This reading was ground-breaking, however, for being in Spanish. It’s part of a larger Spanish-language initiative by the Cubs, which includes the two-year-old Web site loscubs.com.

When Z entered the Wrigley Field family room, the kids erupted into a big cheer. One student soon after shouted, “¡Hola!” followed by the rest of the group breaking into a chorus of hellos. Carlos, smiling, asked how everyone was — ¿Cómo estamos hoy? — and soon started reading the book, El Festival de Cometas (The Kite Festival) by Leila Torres. It’s a story of a family that stumbles upon the kite festival of San Vicente and uses their creativity to participate.

A little over four hours from game time, Carlos was in a playful mood but also acted like the parent of three daughters that he is, quizzing the kids on the protagonist’s name after the first page. They got it, to Z’s delight.

After listening to the book, the well-behaved kids eagerly raised their hands to ask him questions about how many kids he had (three), if he played baseball as a kid (yes, along with soccer), and when he came to Chicago (as a 20-year-old). He connected with them on a personal level, unsurprising for the fun-loving Zambrano, and they were thrilled to be within a couple feet of him.

And on the field …

Already 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA, Carlos has gotten off to a much better start this season. There are a lot of things to point to, but one really sticks out: his control.

2007: 4.2 BB/9 IP
2008: 2.1 BB/9 IP

And there are a number of other things that fall into place with improved control. Zambrano’s home runs allowed is at a rate about 40 percent lower than last year.

Sean Ahmed

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