Our second live blog of the day covers the long road to the big leagues with several of the club’s top prospects. Dalles Beeler, Rob Whitenack, Matt Szczur and Tony Zych are on stage and taking questions now! Refresh for updates.
11:28 Szczur is asked about the choice to play baseball instead of football. He says a big part was being able to play the game without a lot of the wear and tear, and injuries, that come with football. In terms of how football helped his game, he says that it’s how he brings an aggressive mentality to the field, while acknowledging that it has had its drawbacks in that area as well.
11:30 Asked about game preparation and advanced information available in the minors, Szczur says he likes to peak at the pitchers’ spreadsheets to understand how pitchers are attacking hitters like him. He says they also have a lot of video available to them, even in the minors.
Whitenack likes to look at opponents’ stats and pitching charts that track each pitch thrown. He also consults video to see what may have gotten a hitter out in a previous confrontation. “You try to expose that until they prove they can hit it.”
Beeler says the pitchers get a packet for each series, with spray charts, tendencies and other information. He says that it’s not really about pitching to hitters’ weaknesses but instead to play your strengths against their weaknesses. It’s a subtle difference that shows how much the player-development staff teaches to these young players.
11:33 Player role models:
Beeler: Roy Halladay, saying that he models his mechanics and style after the veteran righty.
Whitenack: Derek Jeter for always coming to play.
Szczur: Shane Victorino, clarifying that he WAS a Phillies fan.
Zych: Also Derek Jeter, as well as Mariano Rivera for how he pitches and works hard.
We’re ready for our first live blog of the day, with the Cubs’ baseball decision-makers: Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Shiraz Rehman and Randy Bush will be taking questions for the next hour. Great panel and great way to start your morning with us. Keep refreshing for updates!
10:00 We’ve kicked off, and the panel is talking about what they’ve learned after a year with the Cubs. Jed says that he understood from last Convention that this is a “public trust.” Referring to the reaction to 1960s players from last night’s opening video: “We want to build that core and that kind of group. When people show these players 25 years from now, we want them to be able to cheer.”
10:05 Dale is asked about next year’s starting center fielder, and he replies that right now it looks like David DeJesus will be out there. The crowd gives its approval.
10:08 Shiraz says that there are still details to work out on pitcher Carlos Villanueva, but they’re excited to add him to the club.
Randy says to watch out for Nick Struck, in response to the fan’s other question about pitching prospects ready to help. You can read about him in the February issue of Vine Line!
The 28th annual Cubs Convention kicked off tonight in the Grand ballroom of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.
A per tradition, the Convention kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts began by talking about his family’s commitment to achieving three goals: winning a world championship, preserving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor in Chicago. He also spoke about Chicago Cubs Charities work with the RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and introduced a group of kids and coaches from the program.
The Chicago Cubs RBI program is run through the Union League Boys and Girls Clubs in Chicago and supported through a grant from Cubs Care, which provides $100,000 to fund the entire effort. RBI offers nearly 300 inner city youth the opportunity to play ball and participate in weekend tournaments. Ricketts announced that 11 high school seniors of the Chicago Cubs RBI program have been offered college scholarships to play baseball next year.
After a video about the team, the players entered the hall down a red carpet that ran through the middle of the crowd. This allowed fans an opportunity to interact with the 2013 team. The Cubs introduced veteran players, including new veteran Kerry Wood, and some of the top prospects, who have been in town all week as part of the Rookie Development Program. Fans also got a chance to see many of the newest Cubs, including free agent signee Edwin Jackson, up close.
The evening ended with an autograph hunt game that saw players, prospects and alumni scattered all over the Convention hall. Top prospects Matt Szczur and Javier Baez joined us at the Vine Line booth.
The Convention starts back up tomorrow morning with the Ricketts Family Forum at 9 a.m.
Vine Line has arrived at the 28th annual Cubs Convention! We’ll be blogging live from about a half dozen panels, starting with Meet Cubs Baseball Management at 10 a.m. Central tomorrow morning. From there, we’ll be bringing you details on the present and future Cubs, along with updates on the Wrigley Field renovation from the team’s business executives.
If you want a reminder tomorrow morning, you can sign up for email alerts in the box on the right or follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. Happy Cubs Convention!
Infielder Logan Watkins participated in this week’s Cubs Rookie Development Program.
(Photo by Rodger Wood)
Since Theo Epstein was named Cubs President of Baseball Operations in November 2011, the organization has been stressing the Cubs Way. After getting a full season to view their minor league talent, upper management decided to give a select group of prospects a small crash course on what Cubs baseball is all about.
Starting last Friday, 12 prospects the organization feels are knocking on the major league door have been in Chicago for the club’s first annual Rookie Development Program. The prospects have spent their time going to seminars, practicing at Northwestern University and getting better acclimated to the ways of major league baseball.
“The whole thought behind it really is to get some players in the minor leagues … expose them to the market, get them in a smaller group and talk about what to expect when they get here, how to be professionals, how to handle the media, how to deal with the fans,” said Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod.
The minor leaguers, including notables Javier Baez, Matt Szczur and Trey McNutt, have received instruction from former pitcher Kerry Wood, Bears linebacker Nick Roach and current pitching coach Chris Bosio. Former Cub Mark Prior was scheduled to fly in and speak to the group Thursday, though he is unable to make this weekend’s Cubs Convention.
Today’s low-key practice saw the pitchers throw a little long toss before getting on a mound, while the position players took fielding practice and eventually got some rounds in the batting cages.
The organization’s player and pitcher of the year, Logan Watkins and Nick Struck, were both in attendance. Others joining them were Dallas Beeler, Jae-Hoon Ha, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Zach Rosscup, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych. All players at the program are scheduled to be at this weekend’s Cubs Convention.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
On Wednesday, two buses filled with Cubs players and personnel visited local schools, hospitals, a fire house and a military base as part of the 2013 Cubs Caravan. During one of the stops, Steve Clevenger, Tony Campana and Mike Borzello (from left) read books to children at the Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library.
The tour continues tomorrow with stops at several schools and hospitals around the area.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The 28th Annual Cubs Convention kicks off Friday at a brand new location, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event will welcome Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney, and more than 50 former, current and future Cubs.
This got us thinking about some of the greats who have graced past Conventions, like Harry and Ronnie. So who are you excited to see this year?
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The 2013 Cubs Convention is less than a week away. On Monday afternoon, the Cubs unveiled their full list of participants, with more than 80 current or former players, coaches, front office members and executives expected to be on hand. Those scheduled to be in attendance include:
Scott Baker, Darwin Barney, Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Tony Campana, Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Steve Clevenger, David DeJesus, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson, Carlos Marmol, Dioner Navarro, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Rusin, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Dave Sappelt, Nate Schierholtz, Alfonso Soriano, Ian Stewart, Josh Vitters, Travis Wood
Javier Baez, Dallas Beeler, Jae-Hoon Ha, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Zach Rosscup, Nick Struck, Matt Szczur, Logan Watkins, Robert Whitenack, Tony Zych
Dale Sveum, David Bell, Chris Bosio, Rob Deer, Dave McKay, Jamie Quirk, James Rowson, Lester Strode
Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Bobby Dernier, Jeff Fassero, Randy Hundley, Fergie Jenkins, Jay Johnstone, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews, Keith Moreland, Dave Otto, Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith, Tim Stoddard, Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Todd Walker, Billy Williams, Kerry Wood
Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush, Shiraz Rehman, Jason McLeod, Joe Bohringer, Brandon Hyde, Jim Deshaies, Pat Hughes, Len Kasper
Tom Ricketts, Laura Ricketts, Pete Ricketts, Todd Ricketts, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.
The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.
Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.
Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
- Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
- Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
- WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:
- Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
- Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.
In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:
Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.
Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.
MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.
American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.
The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.
Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.
Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.
(Art by Jerry Neumann)
Kerry Wood has spent most of his adult life honing his craft as a major league pitcher. So excuse him if he’s not a world-class bartender.
On Jan. 18, you’ll get your chance to see him in action and critique his skills as he slings drinks at the second annual Woody’s Winter Warm-Up at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier. Starting at 8:30 p.m., Wood will join former and current Cubs players, as well as local celebrities, behind the bar, where they will compete for tips with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Family Foundation. Wood said the event is a good time, and current players like Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are expected to attend.
“People want to give back and do it for a good cause,” Wood said. “Last year … people got really into it, and it was really cool.”
At the inaugural mixer in 2012, the Grammy-nominated band Plain White T’s performed. They even got a little help from former Cub Randy Wells and baseball president Theo Epstein on a few songs. The event raised more than $85,000, thanks to about 30 current and former players, who pitched in behind the bar or simply enjoyed the evening.
But don’t count on Wood to make you the best Old-Fashioned or dirty martini of your life, as he admits this probably won’t be a new career path.
“I’m really good at taking the tops of beers off with the opener,” Wood joked. “I pour a mean glass of wine, but I’m not a mixologist.”
Tickets are on sale now and in limited supply. For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.