Archive for the ‘ Experience Wrigley Field ’ Category

Cubs to host 10th Annual Race to Wrigley run

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Ready, set, go! The Cubs will host the 10th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run on Saturday, April 25, outside Wrigley Field. In recognition of the Race to Wrigley’s 10th anniversary, the Cubs will introduce an additional race, the “Let’s Run Two” 10K.

Registration for the races is open now through April 24. Participants can register at racetowrigley.com.

The Race to Wrigley 5K begins at 8 a.m. and the 10K will start at 8:20 a.m. The course routes will allow race participants to run through the streets of the scenic Lakeview neighborhood before returning to the Friendly Confines.

Proceeds from this year’s race will benefit Cubs Charities, which provides increased access to sports opportunities and targets improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Cubs Charities will once again donate all proceeds from personal fundraising to support critical care needs for pediatric patients in Chicago. The top fundraising team will receive tickets to the April 29 Cubs game against the Pirates and be recognized during a pregame ceremony on the field. The top overall individual fundraiser will receive an autographed Cubs jersey and be recognized on the field prior to a Cubs home game. Runners who raise more than $1,000 will receive all of the prizes from each fundraising level as well as the opportunity to run a post-race victory lap with their names displayed on the new video board.

ATI Physical Therapy, the Official Physical Therapy Provider of the Chicago Cubs, will provide post-race massages and lead the group in a pre-race stretch.

“The Race to Wrigley 5K has become a tradition in the Lakeview community attracting runners from Chicago and beyond. We are excited to celebrate 10 years of promoting fitness and raising money for deserving causes in our community,” said Cubs Charities Vice President of Development Connie Falcone. “We especially look forward to growing the race with the introduction of the first ever 10K at Wrigley Field.”

The registration fee for the 5K fun run is $40 and the chip-timed 5K is $45. The chip-timed 10K fee is $55. Packet pickup will be available at the Cubs Store and a downtown Sports Authority location. Registrants will receive details closer to the event.

All participants will receive a race shirt, refreshments and one beverage (Budweiser, Bud Light or Pepsi product) courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi at the post-race celebration, and the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the April 29 game at Wrigley Field.

2015 Under Armour All-America Baseball Game returns to Wrigley Field

The 2013 Under Armour All-America squad (Photo by Stephen Green)

Under Armour announced early Thursday that that the 8th-Annual Under Armour All-America Baseball Game will be played at Wrigley Field on Aug. 15. Additionally, Baseball Factory announced the first thirteen players selected to the roster for the game, which will air nationally and showcase 40 of the nation’s elite high school baseball players.

The showcase is the culmination of a four-day premier baseball experience, highlighted by a formal workout for major league scouts and a home run derby, all while under the tutelage of some of the game’s best players and coaches. The players are selected by a committee of Baseball Factory scouts.

“The Under Armour All-America Baseball Game provides the world’s best high school baseball players with a premier opportunity to compete alongside tomorrow’s superstars in a major league environment,” said Jim Bel Bruno, senior category director of baseball at Under Armour. “Now in its eighth year, the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game is a prime example of Under Armour’s commitment to the growth of the game and the empowerment of athletes at every level, from grassroots to the Major Leagues.”

All thirteen selected players will be 2016 high school graduates, including OF Seth Beer and RHP Anthony Molina, who participated in the 2014 showcase and now join a small, elite group of two-time Under Armour All-Americans. Over the past weekend, six of the thirteen selected players participated in the Under Armour All-America Pre-Season Tournament at the Cubs’ Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The following is the roster of the first thirteen players who have committed to compete in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game:

Seth Beer – OF, 6’3, 195, Lambert High School, GA
Austin Bergner – RHP/IF, 6’4, 180, Windermere Prep High School, FL
Bo Bichette – SS, 5’11, 200, Lakewood High School, FL
Garrett Gooden – RHP/IF, 6’4, 205, St. Pius X High School, GA
Herbert Iser – C, 6’3, 207, Killian High School, FL
Austin James – IF, 6’1, 180, Bloomingdale High School, FL
Carter Kieboom – 3B, 6’2, 180, Walton High School, GA
Anthony Molina – RHP, 6’5, 180, West Broward High School, FL
Riley Pint – RHP, 6’4, 190, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Lenexa, KS
Cole Ragans – LHP, 6’4, 190, North Florida Christian High School, FL
Blake Rutherford – OF, 6’2, 185, Chaminade High School, CA
Alex Speas – RHP, 6’3, 185, McEachern High School, GA
Graeme Stinson – LHP, 6’5, 245, Norcross High School, GA

“We are thrilled to announce the first group of players selected to this year’s Under Armour All-America Game,” said Steve Bernhardt, executive VP at Baseball Factory and chairman of the Under Armour All-America Game selection committee. “Every year we scout worldwide to find high school players to represent Under Armour and Baseball Factory. A talented group, we expect this class to continue the tradition of greatness that Under Armour All-Americans have demonstrated in previous years.”

Current Cubs pitcher Jacob Turner competed in the 2008 game while prospects Addison Russell (2010), Billy McKinney (2012) and Dylan Cease (2013) have also participated. Since the game’s inception in 2008, 185 of the 208 draft eligible players from the Under Armour All-America Game were selected in the MLB Amateur Draft including 51 first round picks.

For more information on the event, please visit baseballfactory.com/AllAmerica.

Cubs 6- and 12-game packages on sale now

(Photo by Stephen Green)

On Wednesday, the Cubs announced an opportunity to purchase Cubs 6-Game Packs and Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs, allowing fans a chance to secure themed tickets throughout the season.

The multi-game packages feature tickets for Opening Night against the Cardinals, summer Friday games, weekend bobblehead promotional games and Family Sundays. These packages also include rivalry matchups with the White Sox and Cardinals, as well as Interleague matchups with rare visits from the Indians, Tigers and Royals.

The packages are on sale now at cubs.com/packs.

Cubs 6-Game Pack
The Cubs 6-Game Pack provides a choice of four different pre-selected, six-game plans, with each option tailored to different fan interests. Options include the “Summer Six Pack,” featuring six Friday games from late May to early September; the “Family Day Pack,” featuring Sunday home games with promotional giveaways and opportunities for kids 13-and-under to run the bases post-game; the “Rivals Pack,” featuring matchups with the White Sox and NL Central foes; and the “Bobblehead Pack,” featuring weekend bobblehead promotional games.

Cubs 6-Game Packs are available in the reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Fans must order the same number of tickets for each of the six games in their package. Prices start at just $128 before service fees and City and County amusement taxes for either a “Rivals Pack” or “Family Day Pack” in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield, with other prices varying based on plan and location.

Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack
Fans looking to customize their ticket package can choose the Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack. This package allows fans to select from two marquee games, such as Opening Night vs. the St. Louis Cardinals or summer weekend dates vs. the White Sox, plus 10 additional games from each month throughout the season. Overall, fans can select from 49 total games when purchasing the Cubs 12-Game Flex Pack.

“The Cubs and our fans have enjoyed an offseason full of exciting additions to the team, and we’re pleased to now offer Cubs 6-Game Packs and Cubs 12-Game Flex Packs for anyone looking to secure tickets to their must-see matchups before single game tickets go on sale March 6,” said Cubs Vice President of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner. “We think fans will be excited about the quality of games and diversity of the plans available through these multi-game packs.”

Tickets may be purchased online through cubs.com/packs, by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS (1-800-843-2827) or by speaking with the Fan Services team at 773-388-8270.

Cubs announcer Hughes named Illinois Sportscaster of the Year

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(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.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Planning the Party of the Century

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(Photo by David Durochik)

Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season is in the books. To celebrate the milestone, the Cubs embarked on an unprecedented and ambitious plan for a yearlong celebration. Now that it’s over, we take a look back at how it all came together. The following can be found in the December issue of Vine Line.

Under the best of circumstances, party planning can be stressful. There’s deciding on the menu, stocking the bar, planning activities to ensure revelers have a good time, figuring out what to wear, and compiling an interesting and appropriate guest list.

Now imagine your party swelled to include some 2.6 million people and lasted for 81 days. Daunting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

When the Cubs set out to throw fans the Party of the Century during the 2014 season to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday, it was a nearly unprecedented task. The only other franchise that had attempted anything near this scale was the Boston Red Sox, who celebrated Fenway Park’s centennial with an amazing one-day blowout on April 20, 2012.

But, unlike their Boston counterparts, the Cubs decided to make their celebration last all season long, thereby embarking on one of the most ambitious and lengthy promotional campaigns ever attempted in professional sports.

Throughout the year, the Cubs tied in most of their activities during 10 different decade-themed homestands to the Wrigley Field 100 theme. They brought in special guests who had a connection with the decade being celebrated, including Pat Brickhouse, the widow of late, great broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, and Lennie Merullo, the last living link to the Cubs’ most recent World Series team in 1945; they wore 10 different throwback uniforms, more than any other team had ever attempted; they created a set of 10 era-specific bobbleheads, from Babe Ruth’s called shot to a Rick Sutcliffe first night game edition with working lights; they offered 10 different historic toys to children on Sundays, like a Cubs Etch A Sketch and a Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby; and they served up historic food and drink options, from a classic Old Fashioned to the famous Vienna Beef Decade Dogs.

This, coupled with an improved team, added up to an increase in attendance over the previous season and some 2.25 billion media impressions—double what the Cubs were expecting—about the Wrigley Field 100 celebration on TV and radio, in print and online, including in nonsporting outlets like The New York Times, The Today Show and Forbes magazine.

So how did it all come together?

* * * *

Though the organization had its collective eye on the centennial for years, the real planning kicked off with an email sent in December 2012, a full 16 months before the key season was set to kick off on April 4, 2014. Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller, who had just joined the Cubs from General Mills in July 2012, gathered her team for a kickoff meeting and brainstorming session about Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. To get everyone in the mood, there were cupcakes, hats and party favors.

“It was an exciting time because you’re sitting around a table throwing ideas around, and you realize the opportunities are almost endless,” said John Morrison, manager of brand activation. “The difficulty was figuring out, oh, there are so many opportunities and so many wonderful things we can do that the players, front office, fans, single-game ticket purchasers and season ticket holders would all love. Let’s really dial this thing in on what are going to be the coolest, most impactful things.”

To generate ideas for the celebration, the Cubs looked for inspiration off the field. Because there were really no other sports teams that had attempted anything like this, the Cubs looked at companies that were adept at celebrating key milestones—first and foremost, Disney.

The Mouse House has always had a keen eye for integrating its promotions throughout the company.

“It’s one thing to have the anniversary, but it’s all in how you integrate it, not only in your advertising, but in your own organization,” Miller said. “Then you’re in meetings, and people are saying, ‘Well, what if we tied it into the 100th, or how can we make this tie into the campaign?’ That’s what I want as a marketing person. If anybody’s thinking of an idea, they’re bringing it back to the campaign.

“Then, as the consumer, you’re seeing a very holistic look from us. You’re seeing anything from the Cubs this year was all tied to Wrigley Field turning 100. Everything from the boxes of tickets that you got, to when you show up at the ballpark, to the giveaways that we did, to the uniforms that we’re wearing, to the food that we served—everything is really synced into one campaign.”

Early on, the brain trust decided the celebration should focus on Wrigley Field, not just the Cubs. That opened up a world of possibilities for the marketing team. Though the Cubs have now played at the ballpark for 98 years, they were not the original tenants. That honor belongs to the Chi-Feds of the old Federal League. And Wrigley has hosted much more than just baseball over the years, including Bears football, boxing, ski jumping, hockey, soccer and concert events.

Once the Cubs settled on the yearlong decades concept, they enlisted Chicago advertising agency Schafer Condon Carter to help them flesh out how they would put the idea into action. The agency came up with the 10 Decades/10 Homestands theme and the Party of the Century tag, and the Cubs were off and running.

The next goal was to get everybody in the organization on board. To make a promotion of this magnitude work, the marketing team needed buy-in from all levels of the organization. This necessitated a number of meetings to get everyone pulling in the same direction, but it also included little things like making sure every team employee received Cubs merchandise with the Wrigley Field 100 logo to wear throughout the season.

“I remember at one of the first meetings, [business president Crane Kenney] was like, ‘Everyone has to get behind the 100th. This is our big initiative,’” Miller said. “That set the tone, but orchestrating that is a lot.

Making sure everyone’s synced up. … That was a little bit more of a challenge, but that’s personally rewarding as well when it all comes together. I think we look back, and it’s like, holy cow, this was a lot that we did. But we pulled it off.”

* * * *

One of the first fan-facing initiatives of the 100th birthday celebration was the Wrigley Field Turns 100 Logo Contest, which allowed people to submit logo designs to be featured on all Cubs promotional items, in the ballpark and on team uniforms throughout the 2014 season. The Cubs received more than 1,200 submissions in February 2013, and fans voted on the designs through April 23, 2013.

The reason this was done so early is because the Cubs needed the lead-time to produce the Wrigley Field 100 merchandise, complete with logo. This included team uniforms, which had to be submitted to the league and manufacturer Majestic Athletic early in the 2013 season. The now-ubiquitous winning logo, designed by Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, was unveiled in August, but by then, the merchandising machine was already in full swing.

The 10 decade-specific throwback uniforms, which made their debut with 1914 Chi-Feds attire at the 100th birthday game, turned out to be one of the more popular promotions the team ran. Following April 23, the Cubs and their visitors each wore historic uniforms on the first home Sunday of each decade celebration.

Throwbacks have been popular throughout the game in recent years, but, according to Majestic, no team had ever attempted something as ambitious as creating 10 uniforms to be worn by both the home team and the visitors.

“[Majestic] kind of looked at us like, ahh, do you know what you’re getting into?” said Lyndsey Wittemann, coordinator of Authentics and licensing, who was in charge of the season’s retro looks.

The goal was to find uniforms that harkened back to significant events at Wrigley Field during each decade of the ballpark’s history. The marketing team put together a committee, which included Cubs board member Todd Ricketts, to help decide which uniforms to use. Wittemann had to coordinate with Major League Baseball, Majestic and the visiting teams to make sure everyone was on board and the uniforms were as historically accurate as possible.

“We obviously looked into the top moments at Wrigley Field to kind of figure out which one from each decade we wanted to celebrate,” she said. “From there, we would go and try to find some historical images of each uniform, and make sure we had one of every angle and of every component. Then we sent over the images and the years we wanted to do to Majestic. They did their own background research on top of ours and compiled everything all into one uniform and sent a sample out to us.”

This was also one of the more interesting promotions because it actually impacted the players, who found new, historic uniforms hanging in their lockers 10 times in 2014.

“The players absolutely loved the uniforms,” Wittemann said. “A lot of the players actually wanted them for themselves. Many players were like, ‘Oh, this is my favorite. I’m keeping this one.’”

By this point, the marketing team was also cranking out ideas and designs for the 10 bobblehead and toy giveaways. Before producing the bobbleheads, the Cubs needed to work with either the individuals or the estates representing the individuals for each idea to get likeness clearances. For the retro toy series, they had to work with the different toy manufacturers. But all parties quickly realized what a unique opportunity it was to feature themselves, their family member or their product at the Wrigley Field 100 celebration.

“This was really an opportunity for us to showcase all the unbelievable events and historic events and milestones that have taken place at Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “There was an opportunity here to showcase things we’ve never before had such an ideal opportunity to showcase—and probably won’t in the near future.”

The real trick, according to the marketing team, was settling on just 10 concepts for each type of giveaway.

“To take 100 years of history and only represent 10 moments or figures is a very difficult thing to do,” Morrison said. “There were concerts at Wrigley Field. There have been ski jumps, boxing matches, basketball games, soccer matches. They’re all so unique and neat, and a lot of fans don’t even know these ever existed. So, yeah, there was tons of discussion. Do we do this boxing match, or do we do the Harlem Globetrotters, or do we do the Chicago Sting? We could have done a 50-bobblehead set. No question.

“You’d be surprised, with all the big issues that come across people’s desks when working for a professional sports team, how much discussion about which 10 moments we should celebrate [there was]. How those can quickly get prioritized to the top of the list. It was comical.”

Once the season drew near, it was time to start scheduling visits from the people who made the Wrigley Field 100 festivities so special. Every year, the Cubs bring in guests to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh-inning stretch at home games. For 2014, they decided each visitor should tie in to the promotion or decade if possible. They still went for A-list celebrities like Chris Pratt and Charles Barkley when the opportunity arose, but they also tried to bring in former Cubs players from each decade or people who had a special connection to the era.

Over the course of the season, the Cubs welcomed guests like Joe Tinker’s family members; Sue Quigg, the grandniece of former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman; Merullo; and former Bears players Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. Quigg, who passed away during the 2014 season, was on hand for the birthday game, where she tossed a 100-year-old ball her grandmother once threw at a Federals game.

“When you get someone who hasn’t been back here in 30, 40 years, and they step onto the field for that first time, it’s like they’re going back in time,” said Jim Oboikowitch, manager of game and event production. “When [the media] talks to them, it’s just exciting for them, and they’re back in that same spot they were in 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

* * * *

The crown jewel of the Wrigley Field 100 celebration was obviously the 100th birthday blowout on April 23. That was the day the marketing team and the entire Cubs organization breathed a collective sigh of relief that this was actually happening—that they had pulled it off—after more than a year of planning.

Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they breathed that sigh of relief on April 24. On the previous day, much of the Cubs team, including Manager of Broadcast Relations Joe Rios, had been up for more than 24 hours helping coordinate the various photo shoots, newscasts and media requests from outlets around the world. But, ultimately, the day was still all about the fans.

“I think when you really had that ‘ah ha!’ moment that this is a special day was before the pregame festivities even started, when lines started to form around Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “They were wrapping from under the marquee north down Clark. The lines at Gate K were wrapping east down Waveland, and the fans were lined up north along Sheffield hours before first pitch.

“At that moment, I understood, wow, this is important to all these people. It’s not that the newscasters are here, and these historic figures are here. These are the people of Chicago. These are the people that have come to Wrigley Field over the past 100 years, taking their moment to celebrate and take this all in.”

To make the day worthy of the venue, the team brought in former athletes or their relatives, team representatives and dignitaries who helped shape Wrigley Field; actors and grounds crew members dressed in period costumes; the first 30,000 fans went home with replica 1914 Chi-Feds jerseys; a biplane flyover punctuated the pregame festivities; the Cubs released balloons from behind the left-field wall; the crowd serenaded Wrigley Field with “Happy Birthday” after the fifth inning; and everyone went home with a cupcake thanks to Jewel-Osco.

Feedback from fans and the media was universally positive, and the marketing team was able to finally enjoy the moment later that night at the Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball at the Field Museum. To a person, the only thing the group said they regret is that the Cubs couldn’t bring home a victory to cap the afternoon. The Cubs (dressed as the Federal League’s Chi-Feds) dropped the game 7-5 to the Arizona Diamondbacks (dressed as the Kansas City Packers).

“The 23rd will always stand out because we’re not going to see the 200th birthday,” Oboikowitch said. “You and I are only here for one of these.”

While it’s nearly impossible to explain all the work that went into—and all the people who played a part in—pulling off the Party of the Century at Wrigley Field, it was definitely a labor of love for everyone in the Cubs organization.

“It was certainly daunting to a certain degree,” Morrison said. “But any sense of being overwhelmed is quickly squashed when you step back and realize, as a lifelong Cub fan, I am in a position to evaluate what are all the figures and moments that make up Wrigley Field, and how can we represent those the best to showcase them to people just like me, who grew up fans of the team and of the ballpark.”

—Gary Cohen

Hot Off the Press: The January issue featuring new ace Jon Lester

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NOTE: THE HOLIDAYS THE BEST TIME TO SUBSCRIBE TO VINE LINE. FROM NOW UNTIL JAN. 1, 2015, USE THE PROMO CODE MERRY, AND YOU CAN GET VINE LINE FOR JUST $22/YEAR.

Now things are starting to get fun. Last month when I sat down to write this letter, I was reflecting on the improvements of the past year and the splash the Cubs made by signing free-agent manager Joe Maddon to a five-year contract. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein had recently spoken about how the organization was turning a corner and how he expected the Cubs to contend for the NL Central crown in 2015.

“We’re going to be very involved [in the free-agent market],” Epstein said. “It’s starting to be the right time to add impact talent.”

I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t exaggerating. Christmas came early for Cubs fans when the team landed coveted left-hander Jon Lester, righty Jason Hammel, All-Star catcher Miguel Montero and backup catcher David Ross around December’s Winter Meetings.

Lester, whom the Cubs signed to a six-year deal with an option for a seventh, was the jewel of the offseason pitching market, and several top teams—including the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers—waged a fierce battle over him. Though those teams have been postseason fixtures in recent years, Lester ultimately chose to come to Chicago and reunite with Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, the executives who drafted him back in 2002 with Boston.

For years, people have questioned the front office’s plan for the organization, and many wondered aloud if and when they could get a major free agent to buy into their vision. But the Cubs’ plan all along has been to rebuild the minor league system as quickly as possible and add impact players from outside the organization when the time was right.

These recent moves weren’t a deviation. They were a confirmation.

The Cubs’ pitch to Lester, who turns 31 years old on Jan. 7, centered around the lure of bringing a World Series title to the North Side, the unrivaled young talent filling the system and the restoration of Wrigley Field, which will soon provide players with some of the best facilities in the game.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think [the Cubs] were going to win in 2015,” Lester said. “So that’s how I think. I’m never going to say, ‘Well, we’ll be all right this year, and we’ll get ‘em next year.’ I’m going in with the intention of winning in 2015. And that means the division, that means the World Series, that means everything. Like I said, I don’t like to lose. You can call it arrogant, you can call it cocky, whatever you want. But I like to win, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

The baseball world has long been drooling over the Cubs’ preponderance of young bats, from Javier Baez to Kris Bryant to Addison Russell to Jorge Soler. Add that to an already solid bullpen and proven major league players like Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Hammel, Lester and Montero, and you’ve really got something.

This month, we only touch on the recent signings, which hit the Chicago area like a tsunami moments before we went to press. Next month, we’ll take a deep dive into all the moves (along with providing our annual minor league prospectus).

It’s funny how fast things change. Last I checked, the Cubs were at 12-1 odds to win the World Series at online sports book Bovada. Like I said, things are starting to get fun.

Speaking of fun, in this month’s issue, we get the backstory on three decades of the Cubs Convention, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary from Jan. 16-18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. We also shed some light on the charitable work the team performed in the last year as part of its 100 Gifts of Service, the club’s most ambitious philanthropic initiative ever. Finally, we get our first chance to talk to new hitting coach John Mallee about his philosophy and what he hopes to achieve on the North Side. With a talented crop of young players now under his tutelage, it’s safe to say the Chicago native is eager to get started.

Here’s the good news: We’re just one month away from pitchers (Lester, Hammel) and catchers (Montero, Ross) reporting to Spring Training. As always, look for us at the convention, where we’ll be renewing subscriptions, meeting fans, and possibly hosting a player or two. See you there.

—Gary Cohen

The Best of 2014: No. 6, Wrigley Field celebrates its 100th birthday

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(Photo by David Durochik)

Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment per day.

No. 10: Rizzo’s late-season walk-off homer
No. 9: Hendricks makes an easy transition to the bigs
No. 8: Castro, Rizzo named All-Stars
No. 7: Maddux gets inducted into the Hall of Fame

The Cubs celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday—April 23

Reaching 100 years old deserves a little fanfare, and the Cubs pulled out all the stops to properly celebrate Wrigley Field’s big day on April 23.

A number of dignitaries were on hand for the special pregame ceremony, including Cubs alums like Andre Dawson and Ryan Dempster; Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, who called Wrigley Field home until the 1971 NFL season; then-Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig; and representatives of past Cubs ownership groups.

The Cubs took the field wearing 1914 Chi-Feds uniforms as part of the team’s yearlong throwback celebration. The visiting Arizona D-backs sported Kansas City Packers uniforms to re-create the Federal League matchup that took place 100 years ago when the stadium first opened its doors.

Fans dressed up in period costumes, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” during the fifth inning as balloons flew from behind the left-field wall, and Dutchie Caray, widow of beloved broadcaster Harry Caray, led a group of Wrigley alumni in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Though the Cubs/Chi-Feds ultimately dropped the game 7-5, it was certainly a day to remember for fans and alums alike.

Now Playing: Cubs ring in the holidays with 100 Gifts of Service

The Cubs welcomed the Lake View community to their annual tree-lighting ceremony Thursday to celebrate the holidays and conclude the team’s 100 Gifts of Service initiative. The 100 Gifts of Service projects were part of a yearlong program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins was on hand along with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Cubs Charities Chair Laura Ricketts, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and representatives from many of the organizations that benefited from the team’s charitable acts this year. The large tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes, is located in front of the Cubs Store at the northwest corner of the Clark and Addison intersection. We were at Wrigley Field last night to help ring in the holiday season. And look for a feature story on the 100 Gifts of Service project in the January issue of Vine Line.

Help the Cubs make the holidays happy at their annual toy drive

TREE_LIGHTING-CEREMONY-113012-DD-001(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs are inviting their fans to participate in a holiday toy drive benefiting children at Lawrence Hall Youth Services to conclude the team’s yearlong 100 Gifts of Service. Toys may be donated at the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field beginning today until December 4 at 5:30 p.m., when the team will once again host a holiday celebration and tree lighting ceremony at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.

Fans and neighbors are invited to attend the tree-lighting ceremony and may bring their new, unwrapped toys to donate at the event. The large tree donated by Christy Webber Landscapes will stand at the northwest corner of the Clark and Addison intersection to avoid conflict with Wrigley Field construction. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be joined by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and representatives from many of the organizations that benefited from the team’s 100 Gifts of Service this year. These 100 Gifts of Service represent a yearlong program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season.

For fans and neighbors who are unable to attend Thursday evening’s tree-lighting ceremony, the Cubs Store will accept new, unwrapped toys as donations during its business hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Lawrence Hall Youth Services has compiled a wish list of desired toys (attached) that include action figures, board games, dolls, educational toys, puzzles, sporting equipment, stuffed animals, toy cars and more.

“Lawrence Hall’s foster care and treatment programs serve youth who have experienced trauma or neglect,” said Connie Falcone, vice president of development for Cubs Charities. “These holiday gifts will provide much-needed smiles to some very deserving children.”

In addition to the toy drive, fans worldwide can offer a monetary donation to Cubs Charities to support the toy drive and other programs targeting improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Those interested in donating are encouraged to do so on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2), which is a global day dedicated to giving back. The Cubs will participate in the global #GivingTuesday social media campaign and request fans share both the #GivingTuesday and #CubsCharities hashtags when encouraging donations online. Donations to Cubs Charities may be submitted online at cubscharities.com.

Now Playing: Stretching Out with Robbie Gould

Robbie Gould knows a thing or two about playing in front of an enthusiastic fan base. The longtime Bears kicker, who has called Chicago home for the last decade, has quietly become one of the NFL’s greatest special teamers of all time. Vine Line caught up with the 32-year-old before a chilly, early-May showdown against the White Sox to talk about the similarities between the Bears and the Cubs, playing football at Wrigley Field and the pressure that comes with his chosen profession.

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