Californian dreaming…at Wrigley Field
On Friday, I was walking down the hallway of the Cubs front office when Patti James, the Cubs manager of minor-league operations, told me that Brett Jackson, the Cubs’ first-round pick of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was in town to take his physical and cross the T’s and dot the i’s on his contract.
My managing editor, Lena McDonagh, had told me the Cal outfielder was here just moments before, so I told Patti that Vine Line would jump at the chance to take some photos. Every year, we usually try to get a photo of the player signing his contract for our records and for the player and his parents.
Jackson signed a $972,000 deal with the Cubs and will be headed to Mesa, Ariz. At some point he will then head to short-season Boise of the Northwest League.
We met Jackson in the front office conference room and got some shots of him signing his contract. We wanted to take some photos of him out in centerfield–the place we all hope he will be roaming sometime in the near future. Today, however, he just was happy to be at Wrigley Field and in Chicago.
“I love Chicago–it’s a great town,” he said. “Every time I’ve been here it’s been a lot of fun, and the people are so nice here.”
He was going to be on a flight back to California in the early afternoon, so he wasn’t going to have the chance to take in a little Cubs/Sox rivalry. Hopefully it won’t be long before he does. Scouting assistant Alex Suarez, publications intern, Kelsey Peters, and I took Jackson down to the clubhouse to get fitted for a hat and jersey.
His hat size is 7 1/4, but one would’ve thought his head was even smaller, because this kid didn’t have an arrogant bone in his body. There was no big head here.
Just then, Cubs right-hander Rich Harden walked into the clubhouse. It was cool to see this young man seem just a little taken aback at seeing a guy he no doubt grew up watching while Harden was with the Oakland A’s and Jackson was growing up in the Bay Area. I introduced them and they seemed to hit it off.
“I sort of grew up a Giants fan, though,” Jackson said to Harden smiling. But Harden shook his head, understanding the geographic loyalties of the Bay Area and Jackson’s hometown of Orinda sat squarely in Giants territory.
We headed to centerfield, and I discovered that Jackson was an art major. It was somewhat surprising; you don’t hear every day that a baseball player likes art. His preferred medium is not paint or charcoal, however. He enjoys sculpture best. Yeah, you know, vases and ash trays.
No, seriously, sculpture is his favored medium, although he did say he has dabbled in watercolors but not too much. His father, Peter, played for the Berkeley soccer team. No, he doesn’t surf–although he thinks he should, since everyone asks that question of him.
Afterwards, we started walking back to the home clubhouse. Friday was a big day for the Wrigley Field tours. A swarm of people were sitting in the bleachers looking over to catch a glimpse. Most didn’t know who Brett was but kept asking the tour guides.
The same happened in the dugout. People snapped pictures of him, then looked at each other quizzically. But they’ll know about him soon enough.
While Harden was busy answering fan mail, Jackson wasn’t too proud to take a photo of the Cubs clubhouse. He might be a No. 1 pick, but he’s still a baseball fan, as are his two younger brothers and one older sister.
“I have to take a picture of this for them. This was really cool,” he said.
Of course, he continued to think of his little brothers after the picture. “Do you think I could get a couple of hats or something for my brothers?”
Chicago’s going to like this kid.
—Mike Huang, photos by Kelsey Peters