Live from Player Development: From the DR to Mesa

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The next panel we’ll be covering today is expected to feature some exciting updates on the organization’s minor league and spring training facilities. Visual presentation included. Stick here for highlights as well as exciting new photos.

Wrap-up: What a great panel from everyone. Many people, including the media, where at the baseball management session with Jed Hoyer, Dale Sveum and others, but the new details on the minor league facilities were stunning. Stay tuned to Vine Line for official renderings and details.

11:30 – Last question is for Samardzija about deciding on baseball instead of football. “My answer is the facilities in the Dominican.” Huge laughter.

But the short answer is the Cubs were close to home, a great franchise and a great opportunity.

11:29 – The Cubs even bring over some Australian coaches because he feels that cultural and baseball change is big, even if the language is the same. The Cubs also send their coaches to other countries to see how different the experience is.

11:26 – Fleita talks about treating everyone equally and the importance of gaining the trust of players’ families as they sign them and leave home. The Cubs have done a lot of work hiring Korean trainers, coaches and interpreters to work at the various lower levels.

11:22 – Castillo answers a fan question about the important of baseball to Dominican teenagers. “We pour all our hearts into hoping to play.” He tells a story about being 17 and going to the cubs academy after being at the Diamondbacks’. Castillo says he liked the blue uniform, of all things. There were dozens of players, and Castillo, because of his arm, was assigned as the eighth catcher by Jose Serra despite being an infielder and never having been a catcher before. he joked he didnt catch a single ball, everyone hit his chest, his mask or went by him. He was one of two players of about 100 signed that day.

Castillo’s English is great, addressing the crowd. Better than I could do in my native language. Impressive work by him improving that on his road to the big leagues.

11:21 – One thing Fleita praised earlier is the work the team is now doing on the community side throughout the farm system, including in the Dominican. Big credit to the community affairs department.

11:18 – Fleita is asked by Kenney about Cuba, where Fleita is from. Fleita lists all the coordinators and scouts — Alex Suarez, Steve Wilson, Paul Weaver — who scour these places. “We usually don’t have a shortage of guys who want to go to Netherlands or Amsterdam.”

11:13 – A fan kicks off the questions with one about the Cubs building an Asian facility.

Kenney talks about how the Yankees are the first to have a real presence in China, though facilities aren’t quite allowed. The Cubs have been working with Mark Ganis. Fleita says that MLB International is critical to centralizing facilities over there. He also talks about how important Korea is, though players can be a bit hard to get to sign because they have domestic leagues there. Fleita sees the future of China like Australia is now.

11:12 – Fleita says that injured players have to spend pretty much all their time at Arizona, minus a couple breaks for the holidays. Helps get players back faster, and these new people and equipment will help with that.

11:10 – Jacobsen talks about the rehab facility. Not just an increase in square footage but also new equipment. Hydrotherapy where players can stand and submerge themselves in water. Also adding the right people in there, people who know how best to use the equipment to help rehab players or make them stronger. “It’s about being smarter with what we do with that space.”

MRIs will now be done in house as opposed to at a hospital.

11:08 – Fleita says this is more than bells and whistles. It’s important that the players will live with each other and with Epstein overseeing a new computer system where all of the staff can access information in one place.

11:07 – Fleita’s phone starts buzzing while he talks, and he jokes, “That must be Jose Serra that we found another player. But we’ll get to that in a minute.”

11:02 – Samardzija and Fleita are talking about the offseason strength and conditioning camp the Cubs have put in place under Tim Buss the last few years. It’s serious stuff that starts around 6 a.m., with a warmup, weights, a short break, then baseball preparation by mid-morning. There’s not a strict instruction plan, so players can adjust the routine to what they need to improve on.

And then there are team bonding and meeting sessions. Samardzija emphasizes how important it is to respect each other and see each other working hard at their craft. He feels that pays off once the season comes around.

11:00 – Samardzija emphasizes how important it is to have everything in one location. He says consistency is important to players, especially with how much they are asked to do. They want to be in one place to throw, to play, to train, to get instruction.

10:59 – Arizona State will use the facility as well, adding some action.

10:58 – It is seven full fields! See the photo. Also looks like one extra infield diamond.

10:57 – After games, fans will be able to go to a recreation area with food and entertainment. Amazing to put it all in one location.

Open for players by Fall 2013 with fans able to use it for spring training in 2014.

10:55 – Kenney: Think about it as impacting not just the on-field facilities but also all the space to help instruct players on how to conduct themselves, nutrition, training.

10:53 – Four times as much conditioning space, 37 percent more for training, 80 percent more for conference rooms, 27 percent larger major league clubhouse, 65 percent larger minor league clubhouse and 100 rooms in the housing dormitory, up from zero.

10:51 – Jacobsen, a real estate consultant with 38 years experience hired a few years ago, emphasizes the Cubs have the best location in the entire Phoenix area. The city is also building additional fields, seven in all (probably not all full fields, though we haven’t seen the photos yet).

Baseball is the top priority with these, with the fans a very important consideration as well.

10:48 – In Mesa, the Cubs are happy to be staying there and to be replacing an old facility, especially the minor league Fitch Park. The Cubs didn’t want to share a facility because of different philosophies as well as different Cubs design touches.

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10:45 – Architectural flourishes will include an entranceway with the distinctive arches from the Wrigley Field light standards. Also, a replica scoreboard and clock will be on the game field, something Fleita hopes to bring to all minor league facilities. Finally, the red brick of Wrigley will be present throughout. Pictures coming. Details coming fast!

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10:44 – The Cubs will be able to watch a live camera feed of the Dominican facility to monitor progress. Wow!

10:42 – In addition to DR and Venezuela, expanding presence to Nicaragua, Brazil, Panama. Director of international scouting Paul Weaver is behind a lot of it and has a team of assistants and scouts.

10:41 – There will be a turf field so players can practice even after heavy rains. Much larger kitchen and weight room.

10:37: Fleita talks about the Cubs’s progress in the Dominican. They started with apartments with no electricity, moved to San Pedro, now Boca Chica, and next to a large, forested parcel. Probably by March 2013 the team will move in to the new facility. Up to 90 players. Classrooms and a theater, where players will be able to watch Cubs games and English language movies. Oh and keep an eye out for fantasy camps!

10:34 – Kenney: “Over the next few years you’ll see a dramatic difference in our facilities.”

10:31 – Jeff Samardzija just arrived and was quickly mobbed by some autograph seekers. He’s joined by young Dominican catcher Welington Castillo, farm director Oneri Fleita, consultant Steven Jacobsen and President of Business Operations Crane Kenney.

1 Comment

This is NOT the Cub organization that has not won a championship in over 100 years. It IS, however the NEW CUB ORGANIZATION that will be competative NOW and a serious contender in 3 – 4 years and actually go to a World Series and won at least one in the next 5-6 years and be competative for many many year after that.

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