Reports from camp
There’s no controversy, no strife, nothing but healthy competition. Most positions are settled on this team, and it is clear what spots — like closer, fifth starter, backup infielder and backup catcher — are up for grabs. There’s a lot of focus and clarity. And our newcomers are fitting in well.
Playing a part right away
It was great to hear in particular about the new players’ enthusiasm for the team’s charitable efforts. Spring training is a time when our community relations department gets a lot of work done. The staff takes over a room at the Cubs training complex for a few days and fills it with all sorts of items to be signed. Many of these will be donated to organizations; others might be auctioned off to benefit Cubs Care, a fund of the McCormick Foundation. There are a lot of good causes that benefit from our staff and players taking the time to get exclusive items signed and then finding worthy efforts for them. You can find one example at the Cubs’ official charity auction site, where a Ryan Dempster autographed pitching rubber is currently posted.
And the new guys couldn’t have been more helpful. Milton Bradley was especially willing and said that “For the right cause, I’m always happy to sign.”
As the Cubs’ premier off-season signing, there’s a lot of focus on Bradley. Today I wrote a small article for the souvenir program about his growth as a person and a player, something he talked at length about when he first signed with the team back in January. I came away with a great impression of his personality after meeting him face to face, that he knows he can’t change any past incidents but that he also won’t let them hamper his competitiveness as a teammate.
“I’m going to go out there, play hard, give it everything I’ve got to try to win every day,” Bradley said. “I’m going to feed off [the fans'] energy, and hopefully, for the years to come, there’s going to be a lot of positives, a lot of highs, and a lot of wins.”
He also stressed that he learned from previous years where he tried to be a home run hitter. Now, he is always focused on getting on base, not whether to hit the ball in the gap or over the fence. “I’ll hit home runs, but they’re going to come naturally,” he said.
New Cubs infielder Aaron Miles has been seeking legend and minor-league manager Ryne Sandberg out as a mentor to improve his infield defense.
“Ryno was talking about how he pivots, how you make the turn at second base,” Cubs photographer Steve Green told me. “Really cool stuff like that. [Miles has] been seeking out a lot of people.”
At the Cubs Convention, I saw Miles talking at length with Ernie Banks, joking around and asking about Wrigley Field. You can tell that Miles really appreciates what the Cubs stand for — the history, the fans, the drive to win now. For a guy like that, imagine having these resources on call anytime you needed them!
– Sean Ahmed