(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija delivers the first official Cactus League pitch ever thrown at Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz., to Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra. The Shark walked Parra on four pitches and allowed a quick single to third baseman Martin Prado, but he settled down after that.
“It must have been the fireworks,” Samardzija said. “I think it was the first time the Cubbies ever had fireworks.”
In 2.0 innings pitched, Samardzija allowed no runs on two hits, walked one and struck out two. Despite RBI from Luis Valbuena and Starlin Castro, the Cubs dropped the opener 5-2.
The Cubs and Under Armour announced a multi-year naming rights agreement for the Under Armour Performance Center at the new Cubs Park training facilities in Mesa, Ariz on Wednesday.
The fitness center includes a two-story weight and cardiovascular facility, along with a hydrotherapy room, 120-seat theater, video room and cafeteria. The major league clubhouse has an oval-shaped locker room with 68 lockers wile the minor league clubhouse has 206 lockers to accommodate players training year-round.
“The Under Armour Performance Center gives our players the opportunity to train in a strength and conditioning facility that rivals any in baseball,” said Cubs Executive Vice President and General Manager Jed Hoyer in a press release. “We’re thankful to partners like Under Armour who help us bring this vision to life.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The day got off to an exciting start on Tuesday as Cubs legends Fergie Jenkins and Rick Sutcliffe addressed the team before morning workouts. They talked about their time with the Cubs, setting goals and having a long major league career. Jenkins’ goals were fairly lofty; he said he always strove for 250 innings, 20 wins and the league lead in strikeouts. Jenkins posted 20 wins seven times in his career, logged 200 innings 13 times (and 300 innings five times), and was in the top 10 in strikeouts 11 times.
Despite the many practice fields at new Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz., it’s always easy to spot catcher George Kottaras because he usually has a friend in tow. One of the most popular new members of the Cubs has been Kottaras’ dog, Leo, who even managed to sneak into some of Monday’s photo day shots.
The 8-month-old yellow lab is remarkably well-behaved and usually sits patiently by the Cubs training complex while Kottaras is at work on the field. The dog has a big legacy to live up to, as he was named after King Leonidas of Sparta.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs prospect Jorge Soler turns 22 years old Tuesday. The La Habana, Cuba native signed a nine-year deal with the club in the summer of 2012 and has been viewed as one of baseball’s top prospects since his arrival. MLB.com recently named him the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect and No. 26 in baseball.
Injuries shortened what looked to be a promising 2013 campaign, where he hit .281/.343/.467 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with eight home runs, 13 doubles and 35 RBI in 55 High-A Daytona games. A member of the 40-man roster, Soler has been in Mesa with the major league side, though it’s likely he’ll start the 2014 season in Daytona or Double-A Tennessee.
(Photo by Jon Antonoff)
Starting next week, Vine Line will take the field along with the rest of the Cubs at Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz. We’ll be at the new facilities talking to the team and front office, watching the home opener at Cubs Park and blogging throughout the week.
Be sure to stay tuned for photos, stories and more from Mesa. And, if you don’t already, follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline to get all the news first.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Spring Training is officially underway as pitchers and catchers reported to the new Cubs Spring Training facilities in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday. Position players will get underway on Tuesday. The pitching staff hopes to improve across the board as it finished with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, tied for 12th in the NL.
The Cubs officially opened their new, state of the art Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday morning—just in time for pitchers and catchers to report on Thursday.
The facility includes Cubs Park—which seats 15,000 people—a two-story player development facility and a rebuilt Riverview Park. It all sits on a 146-acre site, making it the largest facility in the Cactus League.
Cubs board members Tom and Laura Ricketts, executives Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, as well as Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins joined Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, City Manager Chris Brady, City Councilmen Dave Richins and Dennis Kavanaugh, and other members of Mesa City Council for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This new ballpark and player development facility will allow our players to better train and compete,” Tom Ricketts said. “To achieve our goal of winning a World Championship, we must be able to provide our players with the world-class facilities they deserve.”
When Cubs fans enter the ballpark for the first time, they will notice a few features reminiscent of Wrigley Field, including the brick wall behind home plate, green scoreboard with the Wrigley Field-style clock, arched steel work on the light standards and cantilevered roofs. A replica of the Wrigley Field marquee is also located in the main concourse, and fans can pose for a photo with their own name digitally displayed on the sign.
In left field, the Cubs created the Eighteen | 76 viewing area, which features bleachers and high-top tables. Party decks are also available on the first- and third-base sides.
To further enhance the fan experience, the Cubs have partnered with Ovations Food Service to create a variety of food offerings. There will be six different concession areas, each with a separate theme that ties back to either Chicago or the Southwest.
Behind the lawn seating, a citrus grove with picnic tables and a small field serve as a family and children’s play area. The Cubs also will have food trucks here to complement ballpark fare with unique or specialty offerings on game days only.
The players will enjoy a brand new player development center with a two-story weight room, cardiovascular facility, hydrotherapy room, 120-seat theater and cafeteria. The major league clubhouse features a football-shaped locker room with 68 lockers and a lounge area, while the minor league clubhouse has 206 lockers to accommodate players training year-round. In addition to the player development center, the training facility includes 12 covered batting tunnels, two groups of 12-mound bullpens, six full-size practice fields and a half-size field for infield work.
The facility was built in 15 months by Hunt Construction Group and Populous.
The first game at Cubs Park is Thursday, Feb. 27, at 1:05 p.m. when the Cubs open their inaugural season at Cubs Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Experiencing Spring Training in Arizona is simply unparalleled, thanks to our pristine weather, countless tourist attractions and some of the best baseball fans in the nation,” said Governor Brewer. “The Cactus League and the Chicago Cubs have been a tremendous part of our longstanding and cherished tradition, drawing visitors from across the nation each year to enjoy America’s favorite pastime in Arizona. I’m proud to welcome the Cubs and their fans to their second home every spring.”
Lawn tickets on the outfield berm are still available for the home opener. Tickets may be purchased over the phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827) or online at http://www.cubs.com.