(Photo by Stephen Green)
The 28th annual Cubs Convention is in the books. Next stop: Mesa.
The Convention kicked off with the Opening Ceremony in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Fans got an opportunity to interact with players and alumni as they walked down a red carpet on their way to the stage at the front of the hall.
We’ll post pictures from the Convention all week here on the blog.
Cubs Convention-goers: We have an autographed copy of Vine Line for the next person to visit our booth and say “I love Vine Line!”—find us on the first floor of the Sheraton (in the Exhibition Hall). We’ll update the post once we have a winner.
Update: We have a winner—see our next post for our awesome follower!
We’re back live from the 2013 Cubs Convention, with a couple more panels to go. This morning’s session will cover the farm system, from scouting to player development. Jason McLeod, Joe Bohringer, Brandon Hyde, Josh Vitters and Chris Rusin. Here we go!
9:10 Gary Cohen, editor of Vine Line, starts things by talking about some of the overall progress in the farm system—he also mentions the February issue of Vine Line, which includes the annual Minor League Prospectus. Over 60 prospects profiled—don’t miss it!
9:15 Dave Otto introduces the panel, and we’re into questions. McLeod talks about the “Cubs Way,” which is all about defining how the organization is going to teach every prospect. Every organization does that to some extent, but McLeod says it’s all about accountability for staff and players.
“How to run the bases, defense, holding runners—it’s holding everyone accountable to do that. How are we going to teach our players and really impact every player in the organization. As a development staff, we talk about how it should be our goal to get every player in the minor leagues a cup of coffee.”
9:20 Hyde talks about the Rookie Development Program, held last week: Brought in 12 players—give them a feel of the city and Wrigley Field. They brought in speakers and introduced the major league staff.
9:22 On big league debuts: Rusin says that he told his family not to talk to him before his first game, reserving the celebration for afterward. Vitters said it was a great experience and a whirlwind—he flew out on his first at-bat but said the swing felt good.
Everyone is still buzzing about this afternoon’s panel on the proposed Wrigley Field restoration—here are the images to show just how exciting it all is. Renderings were provided by the Chicago Cubs. Thanks for all your support of the Vine Line blog today. Check back tomorrow for updates from Sunday’s panels and a few more images of Wrigley Field’s bright future under the Ricketts family.
“Apparently, a lot of people care about Wrigley Field,” opens Crane Kenney to a room full of laughs.
Got your seatbelt on? We’ll be updating this post thoroughly—both live and also to paste in photos as we can.
1:33 Kenney says, in all of his years on this panel, he’s never been more excited for one. And with all the news they want to share about Wrigley Field’s future, they’re going to keep this session to the ballpark only.
1:34 “I never thought we’d have a focus group on the troughs,” Kenney says to more laughs. Fan feedback played an integral role through the entire process here, and it’s a cornerstone of what we’re about to see.
“We can better serve our fans” and “We can better serve our partners” are key goals here, with the latter referring to neighbors, media and sponsors.
1:36 Total price tag? $300 million. A guiding principle is for people to experience Wrigley Field as those did generations ago.
1:38 Video playing now, with Pat Hughes narrating the walkthrough. Great stuff!
A quick rundown:
Expanded concourses, more point-of-sale, so less lines. Structural upgrades in the upper deck, with the wooden roof being removed. The seats and concrete will be removed from the upper deck for new seating platforms. Then a new grandstand roof will be built.
The lower deck will undergo a makeover too. Behind the dugouts, seats and concrete will be removed. New steel structures will be built and seating platforms added. All of this is to make way for a new underground batting tunnel for Cubs players. Dale Sveum’s prayers answered!
Expanded dugout, clubhouse and training room (with hydrotherapy available).
Better premium seats and lounges. The press will have a better seating area as well as enhanced network infrastructure.
More behind-the-scenes: better food-delivery avenues, plumbing and more. Restroom capacity will increase by 42%. Food points of sale will increase 100%.
New outdoor concessions servicing the upper deck, allowing fans to eat and enjoy great views of the city.
And great news: The historic facades of the ballpark will be preserved.
The video has just ended, and the crowd is going crazy! It’s electric in here.
With the Cubs prospects having just wrapped up, we pick up the panel with the big league coaching staff already in progress. Refresh for updates.
12:30 Jamie Quirk is answering a fan question about advance scouting and preparation. The hitters go over opposing pitchers each series, with hitting coach James Rowson and other coaches walking through each one. The pitching coaches go over all the hitters from the opposing hitters. And players look at video on their own. For relievers who warm up, bullpen coach Lester Strode uses his binder to walk through upcoming hitters once again.
12:33 Dave McKay says that, despite having been with the Cardinals organization for over a decade, he’s never been in a clubhouse that is so prepared. There’s an incredible amount of background, behind-the-scenes work that goes into this. But you have to break down what’s important and what’s just noise.
12:34 On advanced stats that the coaching staff uses, Sveum says they do have access to and utilize some—but he jokingly adds that the front office has some so advanced they don’t even share it with them. Bottom-line stats that he uses: OPS on the offensive side. Anything over .800 is good, over .750 in the middle infield. Pitcher WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and to strike out more and walk less. But ultimately it comes down to players playing and executing.
12:38 Rob Deer, the Cubs’ new assistant hitting coach, tells players, “Do I say, not as I did.” He has always had a passion for hitting. He preaches to hitters about their two-strike approach and using the whole field. You will not hear him talk about hitting a home run—that’s the product of the right approach and situation. Their motto is to be “selectively aggressive.” And Deer adds he is very grateful to be on the coaching staff.
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.