(Photo by Dave Durochik)
Want to welcome in the holiday season the Cubs way? Join board member Laura Ricketts, Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and Cubs fans to kick off the season with the annual tree-lighting ceremony under the Wrigley Field marquee Thursday night.
The 24-foot tree, which will be lit at 5:30 p.m., is decorated to incorporate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. In addition, the Cubs will be hosting a toy drive from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. today, with toys being donated to Lawrence Hall Youth Services. Fans can bring unwrapped gifts to the administrative entrance located on Clark Street next to the Ernie Banks statue.
Hot chocolate, cookies and a photo opportunity with Santa will also be available.
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service have determined that at least 16 tornados hit Illinois and Northwest Indiana last Sunday, the largest of which ravaged the town of Washington near Peoria.
On Thursday and Friday morning, the Cubs will be doing their part to help the storm’s victims. Thursday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Friday from 8-11 a.m., people can drop off donated items at Wrigley Field’s Purple Lot on Clark Street just west of the stadium. These items will be loaded onto a truck, and a small group of Cubs volunteers will personally drive them to Peoria Friday afternoon. The organization is working with Heroes Memorial Foundation to ensure the donations reach people in need.
Below is a list of items the Red Cross has specifically requested for donation.
Items Most Needed:
- Tote bags
- Plastic trash cans
- Plastic storage bins
Other Items Needed:
- Non-perishable food items (granola bars, canned food items, etc)
- Bottled water
- Large garbage bags
- Toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc)
- Baby formula
- Manual can openers
- Duct tape
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Female hygiene products
- School supplies – new or used backpacks, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks, binders, etc.
When the Cubs play their home opener on April 4, 2014, it will kick off the 100th season of baseball at Wrigley Field. Over the weekend, the team unveiled a new logo to commemorate 100 years at the venerable ballpark.
The logo was created by graphic designer Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, who’s design beat out more than 1,200 other submissions in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100″ logo contest, held earlier this year.
For his efforts, Ort was recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday afternoon’s game against the Braves. His logo will be featured as a patch on the team’s home uniform next year, as well as in a variety of promotional items, including memorabilia and commemorative baseballs.
“I am excited and completely honored to have my ‘Wrigley Field Turns 100’ logo design selected to represent this historic ballpark in its 100th year,” Ort said. “Creating the design that will be a part of Cubs and Wrigley Field history is incredibly humbling and serves as a benchmark in my career. What better way to celebrate than to watch a game at Wrigley Field today with close friends and family.”
Throughout the 2014 season, the Cubs will celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field with promotions, events and collectible memorabilia. Additional details will be revealed later this offseason, and attendees of the 2014 Cubs Convention will get a first look at many aspects of the planned celebration.
“We’re very excited to unveil our official logo celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field and to kick off what will be a season-long celebration of the past century at this beautiful ballpark,” said Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing. “Our fans will want to be here to remember and possibly re-experience many of the historic moments that occurred at Wrigley Field.”
Fans can now find official Wrigley Field 100th merchandise—such as hats, clothing, glassware, pins and pennants—at the Cubs store on Clark Street and at Wrigley Field gift shops. Chicago Cubs Charities has also introduced a limited-edition Wrigley Field 100th Anniversary ornament.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Major League Baseball and Chevrolet today announced Anthony Rizzo has been named the Chicago Cubs’ 2013 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. MLB will honor Clemente’s legacy on Tuesday, September 17, with the 12th annual Roberto Clemente Day. Rizzo is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
“In his two seasons with the team, Anthony has made a tremendous, selfless impact in the community and with his teammates,” said Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer. “We urge all baseball fans to recognize him as the 2013 national Roberto Clemente Award recipient.”
Beginning Tuesday, fans are encouraged to help select the national award recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com to vote for one of the 30 nominees. Voting ends Sunday, Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2013 World Series, where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award will be announced.
Last year, during his first season with the Cubs, Rizzo started the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and provide support to children and families battling the disease. As a cancer survivor, Rizzo understands the impact cancer has on the entire family. Through fundraising for research and providing support for pediatric cancer patients and their families, the foundation aims to give every family a fighting chance against the disease.
Since its inception, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has hosted two successful inaugural events. The Walk-Off For Cancer was held in Rizzo’s Florida hometown in December 2012, and the Cook-Off For Cancer took place in Chicago with the support of teammates and the front office in August 2013. Together, these events have raised more than $250,000 for cancer research.
In addition to these fundraising efforts, Rizzo makes monthly visits to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he spends much of his time talking with the patients and their families, signing autographs, taking photos and handing out Cubs goodies. Rizzo will be recognized for his nomination before the team’s Sept. 23 home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his foundation will be presented a $7,500 grant.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
President Barack Obama today announced Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this great award and to be among such distinguished honorees,” Banks said. “I have spent my life trying to help others enjoy and appreciate the sport I love. I thank President Obama for all his efforts. The Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans everywhere share in this award, as their support makes me proud to continue to work on behalf of America’s greatest game.”
According to the White House, The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“This honor is well deserved for a man who has done so much for the game of baseball,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “His contributions on and off the field have made a monumental impact to society. He is a great American ambassador who continues to spend his time and effort helping others love and appreciate America’s pastime.”
Banks joins a distinguished list of baseball players to receive this prestigious award, including Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Stan Musial (2011), Buck O’Neil (2006), Frank Robinson (2005), Jackie Robinson (1984) and Ted Williams (1991).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will serve as the honorary parade marshal of the 84th Annual Bud Billiken Parade on Sunday, Aug. 10. Ricketts becomes the first honorary marshal from the Cubs organization. The parade has long served as a way to get Chicago students excited about going back to school.
“I am honored to serve as honorary parade marshal in support of our city’s youth and education,” Ricketts said. “The Bud Billiken Parade is one of Chicago’s greatest traditions, and I am happy to join the thousands of talented youth who will be providing an atmosphere of excitement and family fun.”
Both the Cubs Trolley and the Cubs RBI team will also participate in the event.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Chicago Cubs will be inducted into the inaugural class of The National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame Friday evening, joining other organizations, former pro sports officials, activists, journalists, and retired and current athletes. The National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame selected the Cubs for being the first professional male sports team in the country to place an ad in a gay newspaper in 2000; hosting Gay Games VII at Wrigley Field in 2006; being the first professional male sports team to have a float in an LGBT pride parade in 2010; and being the first team in Major League Baseball with an openly gay owner—Chicago Cubs board member and Chicago Cubs Charities chair Laura Ricketts.
“We are honored to be included in the inaugural class of the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame,” Ricketts said. “When you look at the other impressive and talented individuals who were selected for this great distinction, we feel very special to be included among these great pioneers in sports.”
Other inductees in the inaugural class are Anheuser-Busch, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Glenn Burke, Ben Cohen, Jason Collins, Orlando Cruz, Chuck Dima, Justin Fashanu, Gay Games, Andrew Goldstein, LZ Granderson, International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), Christina Kahrl, Billie Jean King, Chris Kluwe, Dave Kopay, Greg Louganis, Martina Navratilova, Outsports.com, Dave Pallone, Jerry Pritikin, Renee Richards, Patty Sheehan, Dr. Tom Waddell and Johnny Weir.
The induction of the first honorees occurs Friday night during a ceremony at the Center on Halsted in Chicago. Tickets, available as VIP or general admission, are available at http://www.gayandlesbiansports.com.
The induction ceremony will be held in conjunction with tomorrow’s annual “Out at Wrigley” game, the nation’s largest “Gay Day” at a major league sporting event. Tickets for the Aug. 3 “Out at Wrigley” event can be purchased in the Terrace Reserve or all-inclusive Budweiser Patio at http://www.outatwrigley.com. Budweiser Patio tickets include a free ticket to tonight’s HOF Induction Ceremony. Wrigley Field will also fly two rainbow flags over the stadium Saturday, while Adam LeBlanc, winner of the “Out at Wrigley” Anthem Finals, will perform the National Anthem.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs are giving fans even more reasons to visit Clark and Addison. In addition to Cubs baseball, Wrigley Field will be hosting a pair of popular musical acts this weekend in front of the bricks and ivy.
On Friday, July 19, rock band and grunge icons Pearl Jam will grace the outfield stage, and country star Jason Aldean will headline a group of country musicians the following night. The Friendly Confines has been hosting summer concerts for some of the biggest names in music—including Roger Waters, The Police and Bruce Springsteen—since 2005.
“We’ve benefited over the last several years from really great, great artists who wanted to play at Wrigley Field,” said Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications and community affairs.
The Friday night show, titled “An Evening with Pearl Jam,” made news earlier this year for selling out in roughly 45 minutes—the fastest concert sellout in Wrigley Field history. The Grammy-winning group, which has been touring lightly in 2013 and recently announced they’ll be releasing a new studio album, Lightning Bolt, on Oct. 15, has always been extremely popular in Chicago. Though Pearl Jam was a seminal part of the Seattle grunge scene, frontman Eddie Vedder hails from nearby Evanston, Ill., and is a huge Cubs fan.
Country star and Grammy Award winner Aldean, who has been touring since mid-February, headlines the 2013 Night Train Tour, featuring American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett.
“[The concerts] bring significant economic impact to both the city and the state,” Green said. “At the same time, it allows us to put more economic resources into the organization. The ability to have an additional two, three, four concerts a year works really well for us.”
(From left) Felix Velez, Golzar Shoberiri, Nikolaus Goecke, Virginia Garcia-Rico and Klaudia Dziewulski all received scholarships courtesy of the Cubs Scholars Program. (Photo by Dave Durochik)
No matter how hard a team’s front office works, it’s almost impossible to make an immediate impact on the field. But the Cubs are still managing to make a big impact off the field for students in the Chicago area.
In 2013, the organization introduced the Cubs Scholars Program, which is designed to assist Chicago high school students by offering quality scholarships and financial assistance. On July 9, an exceptional group of five incoming seniors from schools around Chicago were chosen as the inaugural class. These students will each receive a four-year college scholarship worth $5,000 per year upon their enrollment in a four-year college or university.
“A college diploma is one of the best predictors of success in our country,” said Laura Ricketts, a member of the Cubs board of directors. “Educating the next generation of achievers is essential for our nation’s growth and advancement.”
The inaugural class consists of Klaudia Dziewulski of Whitney Young, Virginia Garcia-Rico of Lake View, Nikolaus Goecke of Northside Prep, Golzar Shoberiri of CICS-Northtown and Felix Velez of Noble Street Charter-Pritzker. The students were selected based on their academic achievement, community participation, financial need, leadership potential and demonstrated ability to be a team player.
In addition to the scholarship, the students will partner with a Cubs associate, who will act as a mentor throughout their senior years and during their transitions into college. This mentoring program, called Cubs College Prep, offers an educational, motivational and social experience with events like career days, motivational seminars, and social gatherings such as Cubs games and on-field recognition ceremonies.
“Chicago Cubs Charities, through the Cubs Scholars Program, seeks to cultivate the next generation of All-Stars,” Ricketts said. “Those who will be the future business leaders, doctors, scientists, and maybe even baseball executives or owners.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Wednesday, May 8, was a beautiful afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The game time temperature was 60 degrees, the wind was blowing gently in from right field, and the sun was shining brightly as the division rival Cardinals were in town for a two-game set with the homestanding Cubs.
Though the bullpen would ultimately let a well-pitched game by Carlos Villanueva slip away in the late innings, things were looking good in the bottom of the fourth. After Luis Valbuena walked and Anthony Rizzo singled off starter Jake Westbrook to lead off the inning, Nate Schierholtz cracked a sharp line drive to right field to drive in two. Groundouts by Ryan Sweeney and Dioner Navarro would plate one more to give the Cubs momentum and a 4-2 lead.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, standing just to the fair side of the right-field pole near the entrance to the bleachers, stopped for a minute to catch his breath and cheer on his team. He appreciated the chance to see this momentary offensive outburst because, despite being the team’s owner, he often misses such things.
“Generally, if there’s any great action in a home game about the fourth or fifth inning, I probably don’t see it,” Ricketts said.
That’s because Ricketts does the same thing during the middle innings of every game—something that’s all but unprecedented in the world of fabulously rich, highly inaccessible professional sports owners—he talks to fans.
And he doesn’t summon them to the owner’s suite like a king calling his subjects. Nor is he chaperoned by a phalanx of security guards as he makes his way to the upper deck or the bleachers. He just pulls on his Cubs fleece, slings a bag full of baseballs (each inscribed with that day’s date and opponent) over his shoulder and heads out into the stands like a common fan. Even though he embarks from the owner’s suite, he actually mingles, shakes hands and poses for pictures—even with Cardinals fans. It’s downright strange behavior for a man of his stature.
“As Opening Day was coming up in 2010, my first year with the team, I was like, ‘What am I going to do, just stay up in the box behind the plexiglass?’” Ricketts said. “That just wouldn’t feel right. I decided if I do that, every time I start walking around the concourse, it will be a big deal, and I didn’t want that to be the case. I just want to be part of the scenery. So I basically just built it into the routine to be around.”
In an era in which professional sports owners tend to make news for all the wrong reasons (see: Loria, Jeffrey) or are faceless corporations that acquired their team as an asset in a larger deal (see: Liberty Media), Ricketts is something of a throwback. He has always seemed more like a fan than a high-powered, cold-hearted executive. Perhaps that’s why he relates to Cubs fans so strongly.
The stories of Ricketts’ ties to the team have been repeated ad infinitum since his family acquired the Cubs in 2009 from the Tribune Company for $845 million. By now, most Cubs fans know the Omaha, Neb., native first moved to Chicago at age 18 to attend the University of Chicago—just in time for the Cubs’ 1984 playoff run; that he and his brother Pete lived above the Sports Corner bar across from Wrigley Field; and that he met his wife, Cecelia, in the bleachers.
Though the organization is owned by the Ricketts family and all four siblings sit on the board, Tom is the chairman and the public face of the franchise. Before he and his family acquired the keys to the kingdom, he attended hundreds of games at Wrigley Field, so he understands what it means to be a fan. Of course, it’s one thing to relate to the fan base and share in their collective ups and downs; it’s quite another to be responsible for the fate of the franchise and the happiness of millions of fans worldwide.
“I feel a ton of pressure,” Ricketts said. “I literally wake up at three in the morning and feel like 15 million fans are standing on my chest. I feel a lot of responsibility. But we know what we’re doing is very important to a lot of people, and we have to get it done right. Any time you’re sitting in that kind of situation, you feel the pressure.”
THE MAN IN CHARGE
When Sam Zell and the Tribune Company announced their intention to sell the Cubs in 2007, Ricketts, whose father founded the investment company TD Ameritrade and is worth upwards of $1 billion, couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
The family officially acquired the team in 2009, just one year removed from an NL-best 97-win season. but the organization’s shaky foundation was beginning to crumble. The old baseball ops department had mortgaged the future in an attempt to “win now,” and Wrigley Field was in need of structural and cosmetic repairs.
In his introductory press conference, the new chairman announced three goals for his family’s stewardship of the franchise: win a World Series, preserve and improve Wrigley Field, and be good neighbors in the Chicago community. Though they have made good progress on the latter objective—in each of the Ricketts family’s three years of ownership, the Cubs have increased charitable donations—the first two have proven complex. But Ricketts is undeterred.
“He’s a very earnest person,” said longtime Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper. “I think there’s a lot of trust in what he’s told people. Everything he’s talked about since the day he bought this team, he’s followed through on. That’s really, really important for not only the public trust but also for morale within the organization.”
Ricketts has spent much of his time in the last year locked in a very public debate with rooftop owners and city politicians over his proposed restoration of Wrigley Field, which would include improved player facilities, a 6,000-square-foot scoreboard in left field, new signage around the park and additional community development. The goal is to bring in more revenue for the team and improve player facilities that are woefully below league standards. Wrigley will turn 100 years old next year—the next-oldest stadium in the NL Central was built in 2001.
“The fact is it doesn’t matter who bought the team three years ago, someone had to solve these problems and fix them,” Ricketts said. “The can has been kicked down the road for 60 years. So it’s time to make sure we address all the structural issues and make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation of fans.”
Though the team might still be far from winning a World Series, Ricketts has accomplished a lot in his short time with the club, from hiring proven baseball men like Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to getting a new Spring Training facility built in Mesa, Ariz. And though things are just starting to develop at the major league level, the minor league system has made great strides. In 2009, ESPN’s organizational expert Keith Law ranked the Cubs farm system 27th out of 30 teams. In 2013, he had the team ranked fifth.
“In general, I think the fans really do understand that what we’re trying to do is build an organization that has a strong foundation and is going to be consistently successful at some point,” Ricketts said. “Hopefully soon, but the point is not to take shortcuts, but to do things the right way.”
When the Cubs are at home, Ricketts has a standard routine for every game. He usually spends his mornings working on the business side of things. That could mean meeting with a sponsor, checking in with the ticket office or doing work in the community. These days, his mornings are generally spent facilitating the Wrigley restoration, which has necessarily pushed him out into the spotlight. But Ricketts, who comes across as every bit the Midwesterner, would rather not be the one generating headlines.
“You want the focus to be on the players, what’s happening on the field,” he said. “I think it’s a function of our circumstances. We have to do a lot to get this organization caught up to where other organizations are, and that means being out in front. Getting a new Spring Training facility, getting down to the Dominican to build a new facility there, doing what we can to get Wrigley where it has to be, I think those things push the owner out a little bit to the forward. Hopefully, over the next couple of years, all those stories are behind us, and we can be much lower profile.”
Sometimes Ricketts will get to the game early to meet special groups—on May 8, it was breast cancer survivors on hand for the Cubs’ “Pink Out” in the bleachers—but he’ll always try to be up in his suite for the first pitch. Once there, he grabs a bite to eat, makes a phone call or two, and watches the beginning of the game.
By about the second inning, he grabs his bag of baseballs and maybe a few extra front-row tickets, and heads out for his daily constitutional.
During the Cardinals game, things started out slowly. As he moved down from the suite level, a few people recognized him and asked to shake his hand. Others, seeing the commotion, tried to figure out who he was. Absent a security detail or any other telltale status giveaways, Ricketts truly could be just another fan.
As he worked his way down through Section 208, heading toward the bleachers, he spotted kids in the stands and handed out baseballs. The kids, just happy to have a ball to play with, had no idea they had just interacted with the Cubs’ owner. The parents invariably whispered conspiratorially and pulled out their cell phones to take a quick photograph.
Eventually, Ricketts got waylaid talking with a young mother of two, Jessica McCall, who was sitting under the grandstand with her two sons, Dylan, 6, and Sawyer, 3. May 8 was one of those chameleonic spring days at Wrigley Field where it feels like it’s 80 degrees in the bleacher sunshine but is relatively chilly high up in the shade. The family, thinking their seats were going to be in the sun, was underdressed in shorts and T-shirts.
“Hold on,” Ricketts said, as he moved quickly away to talk to a Wrigley Ambassador down in the outfield club boxes. “I need to move these kids into the sun. They’re freezing up there.”
Soon, he made his way back up to McCall and asked the family if they wanted to move down, which, of course, they did. The joke was, McCall’s husband, Rick, had gone into the concourse to get food for the family, so Ricketts and the group moved down by the tunnel to intercept him when he came back up.
“My 6-year-old asked if we could go move in the sun, so we were standing in the sun for a while,” McCall said. “[What Ricketts did] was really awesome. I was so shocked. It’s funny because I’m so clueless, and Rick is a huge Cubs fan. I called him and said, ‘Some guy named Tom is trying to move our seats.’”
As Ricketts patiently waited with McCall in plain view of the Wrigley faithful, he began to get swarmed—individual fans, families, even a high school group on a senior trip all stopped by to take pictures, shake his hand and ask him to sign something. Finally Rick arrived, said a sheepish hello, and the whole group moved en masse down to their new (infinitely better) seats.
What’s surprising, especially given the recent media scrutiny of the Wrigley restoration, is how overwhelmingly positive the reactions to the owner are. Of course, there’s a snide remark here and there (“Down in front, Ricketts, I paid good money for these seats”), but those are drowned out by a sea of “God bless you’s” and “I really appreciate what you’re doing around here’s.”
“I think we’re getting stuff done,” Ricketts said. “I feel really good about the direction of the team. We’ve accomplished a lot in a few years, and we’re really kind of taking all the issues head-on. I’m looking forward to getting through this part of our discussions on what happens at the park, but I think we’re really building the foundation for a great future here.”
Ricketts, for his part, is patient, talkative and genuinely seems to enjoy interacting with fans. He often remembers the names of regulars and can tell you where specific die-hards sit. He’s game to sign autographs (no body parts, please), pose with large groups or simply talk Cubs baseball.
“Getting out and talking to people just reminds me what it means to be a Cubs fan,” Ricketts said. “Honestly, in three years of walking around almost every single home game, I’ve only met great people. There have been only a couple of instances where I think anyone has said anything inappropriate. Everyone generally is supportive and engaged as a fan.
“There are days where it’s cold and wet and I’m sitting up there in the box, and I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be a great day to just turn on the space heaters and watch the game.’ But I don’t do it because once you get out and start talking to people, that’s the good part of the day for me. It’s fun.”
But what Ricketts and his family are trying to do is about more than fun. He’s trying to revitalize a franchise and do something no Cubs owner has done in more than a century. When asked what he wants his legacy with the team to be, he doesn’t miss a beat.
“First and foremost, it comes down to winning,” Ricketts said. “I think that’s what this organization needs more than anything else. There are a lot of great things you can do, like the Wrigleys—P.K. and William—they made this park beautiful with a lot of the changes they put in in the ’20s and ’30s. That’s a nice legacy, and that’s something I think is great. But, in the end, it will come down to were we able to do it on the field. And that’s still No. 1.”