South Bend Cubs players will be able to relax here before and after games. (Photo courtesy of the South Bend Cubs)
At the conclusion of the minor league season, the dance begins. Player development contracts between major and minor league teams expire, often resulting in a frantic search for new partners.
This fall, the Cubs were the belle of the ball with three openings, all at the Single-A level. And it’s easy to see why, as the organization has one of the most widespread and devoted fan bases in all of sports.
“With the Cubs on WGN for all those years, every TV in America was able to pick up Cubs games,” said Director of Player Development Jaron Madison. “In almost every area of the country, you’ll find Cubs fans.”
The team chose two of its new affiliates for the usual reason: they offered better facilities. After striking a deal with the Short-Season Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs will now assign newly drafted players and young prospects to a state-of-the-art complex on the University of Oregon campus.
The Emeralds share PK Park with the school, which reinstated its baseball program in 2010. Set in the shadow of the Ducks’ football facility, Autzen Stadium, PK Park has all the latest training and clubhouse facilities big league organizations need.
“One area we don’t mess around with is player development,” said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level.”
One of the tougher decisions the Cubs faced was moving the Low-A affiliate from Kane County, located just 40 miles down the road from Wrigley Field, to South Bend, Indiana. Madison said the organization was satisfied with the Kane County partnership and was ready to re-up, but South Bend impressed Cubs executives with a list of improvements, including upgrades to the turf, video room and clubhouse at Four Winds Field, and the construction of a new strength-and-conditioning facility. The team even rebranded itself, changing its name from the South Bend Silver Hawks to the Cubs.
“The owner there was committed to wowing the Cubs and really making us a part of their community,” Madison said. “They went all out with the presentation [and] with all the upgrades they were willing to make.”
As for the change to High-A Myrtle Beach, the organization wasn’t necessarily swayed by facilities. It was more about the weather. Cubs fans who have climbed atop the third-base bleachers at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Florida, know they can get a great view of the marina and downtown area. They also get a good look at advancing storm fronts blowing in.
In the last three seasons, the Daytona Cubs have suffered 33 rainouts, second most in the Florida State League to Lakeland’s 34.
“It puts a lot of strain on the players to have to play rescheduled games on their days off and back-to-back doubleheaders,” Madison said. “It’s no fault of anyone in Daytona. When Myrtle Beach became available, we knew we’d get more consistency with the weather and more getting our games in on time.”
The decision to move ended a fruitful 22-year relationship with Daytona that culminated in back-to-back years of record attendance at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. It was easily one of the longest affiliations in professional baseball.
But player development isn’t about looking back. It’s about the future, and Madison likes where his prospects will be headed for at least the next several years.
From hot stove rumors to fan engagement, social media has become a game changer in sports. Led by Vine Line magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Gary Cohen, this event discussed the role of social media in today’s game from the perspective of Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, broadcaster Len Kasper, cubs.com writer Carrie Muskat and Cubs communications manager Kevin Saghy.
Over the last decade, the way people obtain information has drastically changed. Instead of receiving a morning newspaper regarding yesterday’s news, information is passed along in up-to-the-minute fashion.
To wrap up Saturday night’s convention, the Cubs introduced a new panel to the fan fest in #CubsSocial. The panel explained how receiving information quickly has altered the way the Cubs operate from a broadcast standpoint to the players themselves.
Saghy explained that through social media outlets like Twitter, he has better connected fans to the organization, with state lines and distance no longer an issue. Using the Cubs’ twitter feed, he is now able to communicate and better interact with fans.
“Social media is a conversation,” Saghy said. “If you want to reach out to the team, we’re out there.”
In addition to providing an update on the organization’s accomplishments and progress, the Business Operations Update gave fans additional insight into what to expect at Wrigley Field next season. From the overall expansion and restoration of Wrigley Field to the new video board, Cubs executive leadership covered a wide range of important topics related to the 2015 season.
All great plans have minor setbacks. That may be the case for the 2015 plans of the extensive 1060 Project, the stadium-wide renovation of Wrigley Field. During Saturday afternoon’s business panel, a panel that continued its trend of being one of the most attended, the Cubs announced that the bleacher restoration will not be ready for the start of the 2015 season.
The left-field bleachers are expected to be ready in early May while the right-field bleachers hope to be prepared by late May. That said, the new scoreboard in left field will be up and running come Opening Day, while the scoreboard in right field should be ready in May.
Bleacher season-ticket holders have been given three options on their tickets for the first few series: receive a credit on their account, relocation on tickets, or a full refund on the game tickets. Those fans have until the end of January to let the Cubs know of their decision.
“This is about trying to get this project done right instead of cutting corners,” said Carl Rice, the vice president of ballpark operations.
It wasn’t all bad news from the panel, as business president Crane Kenney announced the Cubs have more season ticket holders today than any time in the organization’s history, and could possibly have the most in the league. Season ticket renewals were also at 90 percent.
Though there may be a delay in the 2015 plans, the Cubs’ concourse restoration has actually made 2016 renovation plans ahead of schedule. The 2015 delay has also not slowed plans for new clubhouse construction, which was planned to be finished prior to 2016. The organization plans to work all season long to ensure its completion.
“We’re getting ahead of next year’s project, now,” Kenney said.
In terms of the new video boards, the panel unveiled what types of graphics and images would be displayed going forward. Concepts were divided into five categories: game replays, in-game stats, historical videos of the club, in-season team videos and other scores around baseball. Though the new video boards will be nothing short of state of the art, the Cubs intend to have the text graphics look similar to the historic scoreboard in center field. The Cubs showed simulations as to what the scoreboard would look like on an in-game basis. They’ll combine the classic look with some some full-color animated images. They wanted to remind people the purpose of the boards is to enhance the game-day experience, not detract.
With the new TV deals, some fans are concerned they’ll be blacked out for a vast majority of Cubs games in the near future. Kenney said the team is willing to contact outlets like MLB.TV, should something not be worked out.
It was a quiet day Tuesday in the Caribbean, as only the Dominican League was in action. Both Frank Batista and Junior Lake had solid performances in their respective team’s victories. Here are some notes from yesterday’s games in the Dominican:
- RHP Frank Batista surrendered one run in 3.1 innings to pick up his first postseason victory in the Aguilas Cibaenas’ win over the Toros del Este. He struck out four as the Aguilas improved to 6-8 in the playoffs.
- CF Junior Lake finished with two hits, including a double, as the Estrellas de Oriente defeated the Gigantes del Cibao Tuesday. Lake went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored as the second-place Estrellas picked up a game on the postseason-leading Gigantes in the Dominican playoffs.
Javier Baez had a pair of hits, and Christian Villanueva drove in a run as Caribbean postseason play continued Monday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:
- SS Javier Baez recorded a pair of hits, drove in a run and scored a run in the Cangrejeros de Santurce’s 5-4 win over the Criollos de Caguas. Santurce remains in first place in the round robin postseason, sitting at 6-2.
- 3B Christian Villanueva went hitless, but drove in a run on a sacrifice fly as the Yaquis de Obregon tied the semifinal series against the Charros de Jalisco 1-1 with a win Monday. Villanueva finished 0-for-2 with a walk.
- 3B Jonathan Herrera went 0-for-3, but the Navegantes del Magallanes picked up a win over the Aguilas del Zulia. Magallanes sits at 5-3, a game out of first place in the postseason round robin.
- LHP Joseph Ortiz picked up a loss, surrendering three earned runs on three hits, as the Tiburones de La Guaira fell to the Tigres de Aragua. La Guaira is now 3-5.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes has been named the 2014 Illinois Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my wonderful broadcast partner, Ron Coomer, and to the Chicago Cubs fans, the best listening audience in the world,” Hughes said.
This is Hughes’ ninth Sportscaster of the Year honor and his sixth in Illinois, having previously won the award in 1996, 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Hughes was honored as Wisconsin’s Sportscaster of the Year in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Hughes is entering his 33rd campaign broadcasting big league baseball and his 20th season with the Cubs. The 2015 season will mark his second year teaming with Coomer on the Cubs Radio Network. He and Coomer join their new broadcast home, WBBM Newsradio 780, in 2015.
The award will be presented June 9, 2015, in Salisbury, N.C.
Javier Baez had a nice day at the plate, and Junior Lake drove in a run in playoff action Sunday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean:
- SS Javier Baez went 1-for-3 with two walks despite his Cangrejeros de Santurce falling to the Gigantes de Carolina in postseason play. He added two runs scored as Santurce lost its second game of the postseason.
- CF Junior Lake had a hit and drove in a run as his Estrellas de Oriente picked up the win. He finished 1-for-5, and the Estrellas improved to 7-6 in postseason play.
- LHP Joseph Ortiz retired the lone batter he faced as the Tiburones de La Guaira secured a victory against the Aguilas del Zulia in postseason round robin play. La Guaira sits at 3-4 and 2.5 games out of first place.
- 3B Christian Villanueva finished 0-for-3 with a walk in the Yaquis de Obregon’s loss to the Charros de Jalisco in Game One of the league semifinals.
Junior Lake hit his first home run of the playoffs, and Christian Villanueva reached base on a double in Thursday’s postseason play. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean.
- LF Junior Lake hit a second-inning home run to give the Estrellas de Oriente its first run of the game in a 3-2 loss to the Toros del Este. He finished 1-for-4 as the Estrellas slipped to 4-6 in the postseason.
- 3B Christian Villanueva finished 1-3 with a double, but it was not enough as the Yaquis de Obregon were blanked by the Aguilas de Mexicali, who forced a Game Seven in the first round of playoff action.
- 3B Jonathan Herrera went 0-for-3 with a walk but scored the Navegantes del Magallanes’ lone run in a 3-1 loss to the Tigres de Aragua. Magallanes sits in the middle of the round robin postseason standings with a 3-2 record.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Weekend passes for the 30th Annual Cubs Convention and hotel packages at the event’s location, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, are now sold out.
For those who have not booked their rooms, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late. A limited number of room packages with weekend passes remain available at the W Chicago Lakeshore Hotel. Cubs Convention room rates include passes at a discounted price of $20 each. For more information or to book one of the last remaining room packages, visit cubs.com/convention.
The 2015 Cubs Convention will feature more than 80 guests, including members of the current Cubs roster and coaching staff, alumni, minor leaguers, broadcasters and team executives who will interact with fans from Jan. 16-18. Guests attending the three-day weekend event will enjoy an updated event layout, more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities, enhanced activities and traditional favorites.
Valet and self parking are available at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, but garage space is limited. The use of public transportation is highly encouraged.
Attendees can visit the Cubs Convention page for the most up-to-date list of confirmed players, coaches, alumni and weekend events.
The list of confirmed guests includes:
Major League Players:
Arismendy Alcantara, INF/OF
Jake Arrieta, RHP
Javier Baez, INF
Dallas Beeler, RHP
Welington Castillo, C
Starlin Castro, INF
Chris Coghlan, OF
Justin Grimm, RHP
Jason Hammel, RHP
Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Edwin Jackson, RHP
Eric Jokisch, LHP
Tommy La Stella, INF
Jon Lester, LHP
Rafael Lopez, C
Miguel Montero, C
Jason Motte, RHP
Mike Olt, INF
Blake Parker, RHP
Neil Ramirez, RHP
Anthony Rizzo, INF
Hector Rondon, RHP
Zac Rosscup, LHP
Brian Schlitter, RHP
Jorge Soler, OF
Dan Straily, RHP
Pedro Strop, RHP
Ryan Sweeney, OF
Matt Szczur, OF
Jacob Turner, RHP
Luis Valbuena, INF
Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP
Travis Wood, LHP
Minor League Players:
Albert Almora, OF
Kris Bryant, INF
C.J. Edwards, RHP
Pierce Johnson, RHP
Addison Russell, INF
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
George Altman, INF/OF
Glenn Beckert, INF
Ryan Dempster, RHP
Bob Dernier, OF
Mark DeRosa, INF/OF
Leon Durham, INF/OF
Bob Howry, RHP
Randy Hundley, C
Fergie Jenkins, RHP
Jay Johnstone, OF
Jacque Jones, OF
Les Lancaster, RHP
Jon Lieber, RHP
Ted Lilly, LHP
Bill Madlock, INF
Gary Matthews, OF
Dave Otto, LHP, Broadcaster
Milt Pappas, RHP
Glendon Rusch, LHP
Lee Smith, RHP
Tim Stoddard, RHP
Rick Sutcliffe, RHP
Steve Trout, LHP
Billy Williams, OF
Kerry Wood, RHP
Joe Maddon, Manager
Henry Blanco, Quality Assurance Coach
Mike Borzello, Catching Coach
Chris Bosio, Pitching Coach
Eric Hinske, Asst. Hitting Coach
Brandon Hyde, First Base Coach
Gary Jones, Third Base Coach
John Mallee, Hitting Coach
Dave Martinez, Bench Coach
Lester Strode, Bullpen Coach
Tom Ricketts, Chairman
Laura Ricketts, Board Member
Todd Ricketts, Board Member
Theo Epstein, President, Baseball Operations
Crane Kenney, President, Business Operations
Jed Hoyer, EVP/GM
Jason McLeod, SVP, Scouting & Player Development
Randy Bush, Assistant GM
Shiraz Rehman, Assistant GM
Pat Hughes, Radio Broadcaster
Ron Coomer, Radio Broadcaster, INF (2001)
Len Kasper, TV Broadcaster
Jim Deshaies, TV Broadcaster
Clark, Team Mascot
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Chicago Cubs and Tribune Broadcasting’s WGN-TV today announced a new five-year agreement under which the local station will televise 45 games annually beginning with the 2015 season. This new agreement continues a broadcasting partnership that spans more than 60 years. Specific terms of the agreement were not released.
As part of the new agreement, broadcasters Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper will become employees of the Chicago Cubs after previously being employed through WGN-TV.
“Cubs fans have grown accustomed to watching Cubs baseball on WGN since 1948, so we are pleased to continue this longstanding tradition through our new broadcast agreement,” said Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney. “We are very excited to begin a new chapter of Cubs baseball with WGN and welcome Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper, two of the best broadcasters in the business, as teammates in our organization.”
This new broadcast deal extends a partnership that dates back to 1948, and sets the Cubs’ local TV lineup for next season. Games will now be split among WGN-Ch.9, WLS-Ch.7 and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
“We’re pleased to enter into this new agreement, which continues our longstanding, historic partnership with the Cubs and we’re looking forward to some great baseball,” said Larry Wert, President of Broadcast Media for Tribune Media. “The positive moves made by the Cubs, including the hiring of Joe Maddon, the signing of Jon Lester, and the club’s investment in Wrigleyville will be great for our city. We believe in the Cubs and the Ricketts family, and we look forward to growing the fan base even further for both the Cubs and WGN-TV.”