(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.”
(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Celebrate Mother’s Day a little early this season by joining the Cubs and Advocate Health Care on Wednesday, May 8, for Chicago Cubs Charities’ first “Pink Out” in the Bleachers. Each fan attending the game in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a “Pink Out” hat, which will be handed out at the gates by Cubs players’ and coaches’ wives, to celebrate survivors and promote breast cancer awareness.
Fans throughout the ballpark are also encouraged to wear pink that day. If your wardrobe is a little light on pink, the Cubs Store, located across from Wrigley Field at the corner of Clark and Addison streets, will display a “Pink Out” section with pink merchandise. Fans will notice other pink touches throughout the ballpark as well, such as a temporary pink ribbon on the outfield wall, pink hats worn by the grounds crew and more.
All fans in attendance on May 8 are encouraged to participate in the Chicago Cubs Charities 50/50 Raffle, as proceeds will benefit mammograms for under- and uninsured women through the Advocate Charitable Foundation.
The Cubs and Advocate will also honor breast cancer survivors during game ceremonies. The ceremonial first pitches will be thrown by a breast cancer survivor, as well as Major League Baseball’s 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest winner, who was selected after submitting a story about “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer;” the National Anthem will be sung by 40 members of the Sing to Live Community Chorus, which is comprised of singers whose lives have been touched by breast cancer; and three breast cancer survivors will lead the afternoon’s seventh-inning stretch from the broadcast booth. In addition, Advocate will bring more than 50 survivors to enjoy the game in the stands.
Fans can purchase tickets and find more information at www.cubs.com/pink.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
When you saw the Cubs’ new “Committed” marketing campaign, did you think, “They should be talking about me?” Now’s your chance to tell your story.
The Chicago Cubs and Schafer Condon Carter (SCC) are inviting fans to share their personal tales of commitment in the “Everyone Has A Story” online campaign. Fans can upload their stories in video format or as a photo and essay pairing at www.cubs.com/story, and submissions will be featured in a season-long online gallery.
“Chicago Cubs fans are some of the most passionate fans in all of sports, and we hear their amazing stories every day,” said Alison Miller, senior director of marketing for the Cubs. “This campaign allows these fans to share their stories with each other and be recognized by the team for their unrivaled commitment.”
The “Committed” campaign, which launched in early March, features advertisements that tell authentic stories from true Cubs fans, including Jeff and Jessi Galbraith, a couple from Indianapolis who got engaged at Wrigley Field; Adam Weiler of Chicago, who triumphed over his wife’s efforts to raise their son as a Brewers fan; Rob Mansfield, Rick Urena and Ben Winge, three best friends who love starting chants and claim they have single-handedly helped the team win a game; and David Eagan, a South Side security guard who proudly sports a tattoo of a Cubs logo and Ron Santo’s signature on the back of his head.
Last month, the Cubs and Chicago Cubs Charities held their annual Bricks and Ivy Ball at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. Now in its third year, the event has become one of the key fundraisers for Chicago Cubs Charities. It helps support numerous organizations and programs targeting youth sports access and improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk.
More than 840 guests helped raise $1.2 million at the Ball to benefit Chicago Cubs Charities, thanks to the generosity of Cubs owners, managers, players, front office associates and fans. As the program began, Chairman Tom Ricketts addressed the Cubs’ commitment to supporting Chicago’s children through community outreach and charitable programming.
“Our goal is to make life better for the youth and families of Chicago by doing our part to improve health, fitness and educational opportunities for those at risk,” Ricketts said. “Whether it’s a hospital visit, holiday toy drive, serving lunch at a USO or Thanksgiving dinner to homeless teens, our team is there donating their time and resources.”
During the evening, Chicago Cubs Charities introduced a video featuring some All-Star youth who have benefited from grants, including Cubs Care grants, a McCormick Foundation Fund. The video also featured Cubs players Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend the Bricks and Ivy Ball, you can check out the video here. Special thanks to the charities, Cubs players and Len Kasper for helping make this possible.
With summer just around the corner, registration for Cubs Summer Camps is now open to boys and girls ages 5-13. Beginning the week of June 24, there will be six one-week sessions running through the week of August 5 in Lake Forest, Riverside, Palatine, Niles, Naperville and Evanston.
“We offer a first class instructional experience to all our campers based on leadership and character development,” said Brendan Sullivan, director of Cubs Summer Camps. “The combination of on-field skill work coupled with the exclusive access we offer to the team make this a great experience for all that attend.”
In addition to on-field skill development and professional instruction, campers also have the opportunity to take a guided tour of Wrigley Field and either meet with a member of the 2013 Chicago Cubs or take an individual photo in the team clubhouse, depending on the schedule.
For the first time ever, Cubs Summer Camps will utilize video footage and analysis with older campers to further develop the ballplayers’ fundamental skills. The camps will also feature innovative instructional curriculum and differentiated practice based on each player’s age and skill level.
For more information, including Cubs Summer Camps enrollment forms, please visit the summer camp section online at cubs.com.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts talks to the media Monday. (Photo by Vine Line)
The Cubs and the city of Chicago reached an agreement on a renovation plan for Wrigley Field Sunday night which will give the historic landmark and the surrounding area a $500 million facelift. The plan calls for all the money to come from the baseball organization, with no public dollars needed. After unveiling the Cubs’ proposed alterations early Monday, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke to the media on the concourse level of the stadium.
“This massive investment will help us generate the resources we need for our baseball operation to develop championship-caliber players,” Ricketts said. “If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city.”
Ricketts estimated that the renovation will add 1,300 permanent jobs to the area. Much of the Q&A session was spent discussing two major topics: the proposed digital scoreboard and the leniency towards more night games.
The proposal calls for 40 night games, 10 more than the current 30 games. Should MLB or its national television contracts require them to play more than five home night games, it will not count towards the total. While there will be no proposed Saturday or Sunday games (except for national TV games), they hope to get upwards to six 3:05 Friday start times. Wrigley Field will also host up to four concerts a year.
The Cubs also proposed a 6,000 square foot digital scoreboard to be placed in left field.
“We spent a lot of time talking to our fans, about how they feel about a video board at the park,” Ricketts said. “…I like Wrigley Field, I’m very traditional, but the fact is that when you look at what the fans are asking for, to improve their game day experience, and you add to that the economic value of a video board, it becomes obvious that it’s the best step for us.”
In addition, an advertisement similar to the Toyota sign will be constructed in right field. Ricketts said he is trying to be considerate of the nearby rooftop owners and will even cantilever the scoreboard over the street to minimize blocked views.
The renovations will take an estimated five offseasons to complete. The deal is still pending final community and city approval. Other highlights to the proposal include plans to add 1,000 free remote parking spots, new public safety and traffic management plans, closing of Waveland Avenue from Sheffield to Clark before, during and after games, constructing a new two-story Captain Morgan Club for an additional merchandise store and more space in the visitors’ clubhouse, more flexible space in the left and right field corners as well as a hotel next to the stadium.