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From the Pages of Vine Line: Kris Bryant is the Complete Package

VLBryant(Photo by Stephen Green)

There’s a big divide between Kris Bryant the media creation and Kris Bryant the man. As an exercise, let’s separate these dueling Bryants into column A and column B.

In column A, you have the burgeoning celebrity. This is the young superstar who hit .275/.369/.488 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI in his All-Star rookie campaign. The 6-foot-5 matinee idol whose crystal blue eyes have spawned multiple Twitter accounts. The man who collected the Golden Spikes (given to the nation’s best amateur player), Minor League Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in consecutive seasons. This is the Scott Boras client whose image was plastered across an enormous Adidas billboard staring down at Wrigley Field from Addison Street to start the 2015 season—before he had even cracked the 40-man roster. He’s the Sports Illustrated cover boy who has done viral videos for Lyft and Red Bull—posing as a taxi driver, swimming with sharks and masquerading as a European transfer player at Mesa Community College—and who was recently named the face of Express clothing.

It’s a compelling package, and, like with any celebrity, it’s easy to assume you know Bryant from this well-publicized and carefully groomed construction.

But the Bryant in column B is markedly different. This is the quiet, usually smiling gentleman teammates see in the clubhouse. This Bryant is confident and likes to have fun, but he’s also polite, respectful and hesitant to draw attention to himself. He works hard and listens to his coaches. He’s the humble player who calls his dad after most games and recently got engaged to his high school sweetheart.

So how did Bryant B, the flesh-and-blood human being who is still working to adjust to this rapidly expanding new life, learn to embrace Bryant A? The 24-year-old has the remarkable ability, rare in someone so young, to separate what he does on the field from what he does off the field. He has no problem saying no to the things he doesn’t want to do, but he embraces the opportunities that sound fun, confident in the belief that taking time away from the game to clear his head will ultimately make him a better player.

“I completely leave the game at the field—other than, I’ll probably call my dad after the game and talk to him about it,” Bryant said. “After that, I’m done. I watch Netflix. We go out to dinner a lot, especially in Chicago. The food is awesome. I play a little guitar too. I just tinker around with some things, video games, that kind of thing.

“But there is never much time off the field when you’re not playing. You have a couple of hours after the game to watch some TV, go to sleep, wake up, go right to the field. It’s a crazy lifestyle, but a lifestyle I want to live.”

Of course, the celebrity Bryant persona is still quite new and will take some getting used to. So for now, he’s moving forward one step at a time and trying to remain laser-focused on getting better at his day job.

THE MACHINE
Everything about Bryant’s career so far has had a whiff of inevitability to it. At times, he’s seemed like a man among boys—even when he was still a boy himself.

Bryant’s father, Mike, a former minor-league outfielder in the Red Sox organization and a disciple of Ted Williams, loves to tell of how his son still holds the Las Vegas Little League record for home runs in a season. As a senior at Bonanza High School, Bryant hit .489 with 22 home runs and 51 RBI en route to AFLAC, Baseball America and USA Today high school All-American honors. In his junior (and final) year at the University of San Diego, he mashed 31 home runs, which seems like a reasonable total for a man with his size, power and uppercut swing—until you realize Bryant hit more homers than 223 out of 298 Division I baseball programs by himself and led the NCAA in eight different offensive categories, including runs, slugging percentage, total bases and walks.

After the Cubs selected him second overall in the 2013 draft, he continued to punish baseballs. From his rookie-league debut until his major-league call-up on April 17, 2015, Bryant hit an absurd .327/.426/.667 with 55 bombs and 152 RBI in 181 minor-league games.

“If you just look at him, he looks the part,” said Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, a 12-year major-league veteran who won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2002 with Toronto. “The guys that are the All-Stars and the Hall of Famers, they’re touched on the way out. He’s one of these guys who is just blessed with all the talent, and he’s got the right head on his shoulders. The sky is the limit, for sure.”

In some ways, Bryant was biomechanically engineered to be a major-league slugger. His father, who gives private lessons in his backyard batting cage in Las Vegas, has admitted to treating his son like a big-league hitter since he was a preteen. From the age of 5, Bryant was getting daily swing lessons and learning the intricacies of Williams’ seminal opus, The Science of Hitting. The main lesson—and one the slugger has internalized well—was to hit the ball hard and put it in the air.

Mike Bryant worked tirelessly to fine-tune his son’s trademark uppercut swing, designed to loft the ball with sufficient drive and backspin to carry it out of most parks, short of Yellowstone. The problem with that extreme uppercut is that it also creates a lot of swing and miss. Despite spending the first few games of the 2015 season at Triple-A Iowa, Bryant still led the NL in strikeouts with 199. While the young slugger understands strikeouts are an inevitable byproduct of the way he swings the bat, he did notice last season that he was missing on too many pitches in the strike zone.

“He’s talked a lot about staying flatter in the zone with his bat path,” Hinske said. “He has a tendency to uppercut his swing a little bit, so he wants to keep that barrel in the zone longer. He’s worked a lot in the offseason doing that. He does a stop-the-bat drill where he just tries to stop that barrel in the zone using his lower half to get there. He works at his craft, man. He’s a pro, and he’s got an idea.”

Both hitting coach John Mallee and Hinske agree that Bryant is almost the perfect pupil. He takes coaching well, and his problems are easy to fix because he’s so mechanically correct.

“His aptitude is tremendous,” Mallee said. “He studies the opposing pitcher, he takes a lot of pride in his pregame preparation, and he develops his own plan when he gets up in the game. If he sticks to his plan, he’s as good as anybody.”

That’s high praise for a man who came into the 2016 season with only 650 major-league plate appearances. But hitting exploding fastballs and gravity-defying sliders from the best pitchers on the planet takes more than just the right chromosomal mix. As the old adage goes, even the best hitters fail seven out of 10 times, and no rookie gets through his initial tour of duty without hitting the skids for a few games.

Though Bryant famously didn’t log his first major-league home run until May 9 of last year, 21 games into his career, he actually still swung the bat well during that brief power outage. His season found its nadir between July 6 and Aug. 6, when he hit .168/.289/.295 with only two home runs and 38 strikeouts in 27 contests, dropping his season average 29 points in the process.

“He got in a little bit of a funk there, and the veterans picked him up and kind of showed him the way to get through it,” Mallee said. “When you have that much talent, if we can just not let him think of it as a big situation—[we want to] just let him go up there and see it and hit it and let his instincts take over.”

It would have been more than understandable if Bryant had started to press, as a young man trying to prove himself in the big leagues. But that’s what truly separates him from most of the other premier hitters around the league. He has an almost preternatural calm about him. Teammates rave about his ability to never get too high or too low, which allows him to easily shrug off the occasional 0 for 4.

“The mental game is huge in baseball, and he’s very strong-minded up there,” said teammate Kyle Schwarber. “It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re going bad. Everyone gets to that point of second-guessing themselves at some point. A couple of bad games here and there, and you start thinking about it too much. But he does a really good job of turning that switch back on and getting right back to it.”

Bryant also has a unique ability to made adjustments quickly if things get out of whack. When most hitters are battling their swing, it can take weeks in the cage and/or video room to find the microscopic grain of sand in the machine. But Bryant has such a good feel for his mechanics and is such a student of hitting that he can sometimes make at-bat-to-at-bat adjustments. This is a skill even other major leaguers marvel at, and it’s anomalous in someone so young.

“[Making those adjustments] is hard,” Schwarber said. “I mean, you’re seeing the best pitching from around the world. These guys are getting paid a lot of money to get you out, and you have to make adjustments on the fly because they start picking up on what your weaknesses are pretty quick.”

THE MAN
When a player appears to be a perfectly tuned hitting machine, it can be easy to forget he’s also a human being. While Bryant was racking up accolades last year, he was also adjusting to a completely different life, both on and off the field. Almost every pitcher he faced last season was new to him, meaning he had very little intelligence on how they would attack him and what their pitches would look like in real time. And that doesn’t even factor in what it feels like to stand in the batter’s box at Dodger Stadium for the first time.

“It’s great to get to know the pitchers better,” Bryant said. “It’s not just me going up there and saying, ‘Oh man, it’s Max Scherzer. I saw him on TV. He was on my fantasy team a couple of years ago.’ You know? He’s just another guy in the big leagues, and you have to approach it that way. Every pitcher is a nameless, faceless opponent, and that will be easier this year.

“That’s the biggest thing when you get up there and you start facing guys who are household names. Playing against guys like that, it’s really hard to get over that hump and realize that it’s just another game of baseball, just at a different level, with cameras everywhere and a whole lot of fans in the stands.”

One factor that made last season even more complicated was the constant scrutiny he was under. Every time Bryant came to the plate in 2016, it was like Christmas morning for the media and fans. What will he do this time? Can he clear the new left-field video board? When will he detonate the next walk-off bomb?

While the hype may not dissipate given his rookie performance and the expectations saddling this 2016 Cubs squad, Bryant is more of a known commodity this year, and there are plenty of other stars around him to pull focus.

“The whole hype thing and the tuning in to every at-bat, it’s something as a player, I don’t know if you really want that,” Bryant said. “You just want to go out there and play your game. I think this year will be a little bit more of that. Just let me go out there and play and do what I do on the field and kind of keep all that other stuff a little bit more quiet, which will be nice for me and the team.”

In some ways, baseball has always come easy to Bryant. But it’s nearly impossible to prepare a person for the constant stream of demands and opportunities that accompanies celebrity. And Bryant is undeniably a celebrity.

Though he is surprisingly grounded and calm, he still leaned heavily on his clubhouse mates to ease him through the adjustment period. It helped that he was far from the only rookie sensation on the team, as he came up in the same season as Addison Russell, Schwarber and Jorge Soler. Another plus was that the team was in the hunt all season long. There was little time for clubhouse hazing and rookie initiations (though the rookies did have to put on princess dresses for the occasional flight) with the club fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch.

“It definitely was easier because we had so many young guys, but it wasn’t just because of all the young guys,” Schwarber said. “The veteran presences around us brought us in. It was, ‘You’re part of this team, and let’s go.’

“It definitely makes it easier when you have a group of guys up here who are so worried about winning, they don’t really have time to waste. It’s time to go, and when we get up here, they don’t treat us any differently. They treat us with respect, and we treat them with respect.”

Bryant’s true partner in crime on the Cubs is Anthony Rizzo. The two fun-loving former top prospects bonded almost immediately last year, spawning the Bryzzo phenomenon, which has since been immortalized in a commercial for MLB.com.

“We just have fun, we’re young,” Bryant said. “We just have a good time on the field and goofing around in the locker room. It really isn’t just us though. There are so many people here and different personalities who like to goof around. But he’s a really good guy. He does a lot for the community. He’s someone I look up to in terms of that. He does so much for people and treats everybody with respect. It’s good to see that out of a superstar.”

Bryant is a firm believer in working hard when it’s time to work and getting completely away from the game during his downtime. That philosophy is not altogether different from the way manager Joe Maddon handles things, and it may be the key to a healthy major-league lifestyle. Across every sport, there have been plenty of athletes who have lost their way when the “A-Rod” or “Johnny Football” or “Star-bury” alter egos overwhelmed their real lives.

While the offseason was busy for Bryant, he did manage a little rest and relaxation. Aside from getting engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Jessica Delp, he said the best thing he did this winter was travel to Hawaii. He spent some time on the islands watching the pro surfing tour and paddle boarding, but he also tapped into his inner adrenaline junkie by taking helicopter rides and, yes, swimming with sharks—a little escapade that set the Cubs Twitterverse aflutter. When Bryant initially posted a video of his underwater encounter to his Instagram account, it looked as if he was swimming freely with the man-eaters. Rest assured, he was safely ensconced in a protective cage.

“I was not free-swimming with sharks,” Bryant said, laughing. “I don’t even know if they’d let you do that. No way I’d ever do that. But it was cool. There was a little mystery behind it, but I was definitely in the cage. I didn’t mind doing it. I wasn’t scared at all. I knew we’d be in a cage. I was more worried about the boat ride out there because I get super seasick. I was just like, ‘Just get me in the water, let me see these sharks and then let’s go back.’”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Despite his many successes in the game, Bryant is constantly and furiously driven to get better, which means he also spent plenty of time this offseason working on his swing. Though that trademark uppercut was good enough to deliver a unanimous Rookie of the Year Award, it wasn’t good enough for him. When asked to grade his first year in the bigs, Bryant was a stern evaluator.

“In terms of handling everything that came my way—the struggles, the tension, the craziness—I’d give myself an A+,” he said. “I was really able to kind of tune that out and just go out there and play my game and help the team win. I was pretty proud of myself for doing that.

“Overall, maybe a B+. I’m pretty hard on myself—like, a lot. There are areas last year where I can think back on not getting the runner in from third base or making a silly error, that kind of thing. I really want to get better at that. I think I’ll always give myself a B+ or a B. It’s just who I am. I just want to continue to get better and be the best I can be and not be complacent or settle for anything less.”

For many, the second year in the big leagues can be harder than the first. Even a player as heralded as Bryant essentially arrives in The Show as a mystery, but now pitchers have detailed scouting reports on him. Plus, they have faced Bryant mano a mano, so they know how he reacts to their arsenal.

To offset this, Bryant spends a lot of time in the video room studying opposing pitchers, but he said he doesn’t immerse himself in it because watching too much video can be detrimental to him. He just wants to know what each pitcher throws and how their pitches move. After that, he trusts his swing and his ability to make real-time adjustments.

“Once I figure something out that I did wrong and I make that adjustment, I’m so determined to fix it,” Bryant said. “I think that’s really what sets me apart in terms of my mentality is just that determination and the desire to change what’s not going good for me. That’s really what’s gotten me this far, and I hope I can continue to learn how to be even quicker at making adjustments so that my game can go to different levels.”

As far as the Cubs coaching staff is concerned, Bryant is already well ahead of the curve for a player of his age and experience level. Mallee said once the second-year phenom learns to relax from at-bat to at-bat and let the game come to him, the result could be scary for opposing pitchers.

“Kris’ ability to hit and recognize pitches and command the strike zone is outstanding,” Mallee said. “As a young hitter, he gets in trouble sometimes because he tries to do it all in this at-bat instead of being patient. When he’s patient, he walks a bunch.

“He’s going to become a better hitter, and he’s learning that with the lineup we have, he doesn’t have to get that hit. The next guy behind him has a chance to get the hit. He just has to look for a good pitch to hit, [and if] he doesn’t get it, [he’ll] just take his walk and let the next [guy come] up.”

So how does a man who has gone from relative anonymity to the owner of the second-best-selling jersey in the game in just three years’ time stay grounded, avoid the sophomore slump and manage the colossal expectations on his back after his spectacular freshman campaign? Somehow, he handles it all with the same steady hand that smoothed his transition into the upper echelon of baseball and instant celebrity.

“I have no problem with those expectations, because mine are way bigger than theirs—than anybody’s out there,” Bryant said. “My expectations are the sky. I’ve always had that mentality. I think if you don’t set your expectations high, if you don’t write your goals down and make them lofty or crazy or record-breaking goals, then you shouldn’t be playing this game. That’s what I do all the time. I write my goals down, what I want to do as an individual and as a team, and I look back on them at the end of the year. There are some I don’t get, but there are some where I’m like, ‘Wow, I did that. That’s pretty good. Let’s make it even higher next year.’”

Opposing pitchers beware.

—Gary Cohen

Cubs Minor League Report: 5/12/16

Myrtle Beach picked up a shutout victory Thursday, but Iowa, Tennessee and South Bend were all on the wrong end of the decision. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league Cubs action.

Iowa Cubs (16-16)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
T-Third Place (-3.0)

Iowa went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, falling at home to Nashville, 7-2.

  • C Miguel Montero (.200) went 0 for 3 in his third rehab game. He is 2 for 10 with Iowa.
  • CF Albert Almora (.328) finished 2 for 4 with a run scored. The outfielder has hit safely in nine straight games (15 for 43) with multi-hit games in the last three contests.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach (.346) continued his hot stretch, going 2 for 3 with a walk, a solo homer (6) in the ninth inning and two RBI (27). He has hit safely in six straight games (8 for 21), scoring six runs and driving in six during that span.

Tennessee Smokies (15-19)
Southern League (Double-A)
T-Third Place (-3.0)

Tennessee rallied for three runs in the ninth, but fell in walk-off fashion, 5-4, in 10 innings at Montgomery.

  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.306) had a double (4) and went 2 for 4 with an RBI (15) and a run scored. It snapped an 0 for 19 stretch that spanned 13 games.
  • LF Mark Zagunis (.267) reached base three times, going 1 for 3 with a two-out solo homer (2) and a pair of walks.
  • C David Freitas (.260) finished 1 for 4 with a double (4), an RBI (8) and a run scored.
  • RHP Juan Paniagua (2 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO) registered his second straight hitless outing. He hasn’t allowed a run in nine of 11 appearances this season (1.23 ERA).

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (17-15)
Carolina League (High-A)
Second Place (-6.5)

Three Pelicans pitchers combined to shut out Winston-Salem, as Myrtle Beach won 3-0.

  • 3B Jason Vosler (.333) went 2 for 3 with a solo homer (1), a double (7) and two runs scored. He has notched a hit in five straight games, three of which have been multi-hit affairs.
  • 2B Ian Happ (.280) and DH Daniel Lockhart (.241) both added sacrifice flies.
  • RHP Trevor Clifton (3.10 ERA) pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 10 batters and walking none to pick up the win. It’s the first time this year he didn’t surrender a base on balls.

South Bend Cubs (19-13)
Midwest League (Single-A)
Second Place (-1.5)

South Bend only mustered two hits and fell to Lansing 5-0.

  • CF Donnie Dewees (.297) went 1 for 4 with a stolen base (8).
  • C P.J. Higgins (.271) finished 1 for 3 with a walk. The backstop was the only Cub to reach twice.
  • RHP Scott Effross (2 IP, 2 H, 2 SO) tossed his third straight scoreless outing.

Cubs Lineup: 5/13/16 vs. Pirates

Cubs vs. Pirates — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, rhp (4-0, 1.85 ERA)
Padres Starter: Francisco Liriano, lhp (3-1, 3.60 ERA)
TV: WGN, MLB Network (out-of-area only); Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Jason Heyward, rf
3. Kris Bryant, 3b
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
5. Ben Zobrist, 2b
6. Jorge Soler, lf
7. Addison Russell, ss
8. David Ross, c
9. Jason Hammel, p

Cubs Minor League Report: 5/11/16

Iowa and South Bend collected wins Wednesday, but Tennessee and Myrtle Beach were on the losing end of their matchups. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league Cubs action.

Iowa Cubs (16-15)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Third Place (-2.0)

Iowa claimed its seventh win in the last nine games, topping visiting Nashville, 4-2.

  • DH Miguel Montero (.286) went 2 for 4 with two RBI in his second rehab game. He is 2 for 7 with Iowa.
  • CF Albert Almora (.322) finished 2 for 5 with two doubles (6), two runs scored and an RBI (17). He has hit safely in eight straight games (13 for 39) with multi-hit games in three of his last four.
  • SS Kristopher Negron (.300) went 2 for 4 with a double (4) and run scored.
  • 3B Taylor Davis (.344) extended his hitting streak to six games (9 for 21), going 2 for 4.

Tennessee Smokies (15-18)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-5.0)

The Smokies lost their third straight game at Montgomery, falling 8-1.

  • LF Mark Zagunis (.265) had the team’s only multi-hit game, going 2 for 4.
  • 1B David Freitas (.261) went 1 for 4 with a double (3) and an RBI (7).
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.246) and DH Kelly Dugan (.269) each walked twice.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (16-15)
Carolina League (High-A)
Second Place (-6.5)

The Pelicans collected just five hits in a 5-1 setback at home against Winston-Salem.

  • C Cael Brockmeyer (.189) hit a solo homer (3) in the third inning for the only Pelicans run. He has an RBI in each of his last four games.
  • CF Rashad Crawford (.261) went 2 for 4 with a double (6).
  • 3B Jason Vosler (.324) reached twice, going 1 for 3 with a walk. He is batting .355 (11 for 31) in May.
  • RHP Zach Hedges (1.89 ERA) gave up two earned runs in six innings, striking out six. He tossed his fifth straight quality start, posting a 1.38 ERA (5 ER/32.2 IP) during that stretch.

South Bend Cubs (19-12)
Midwest League (Single-A)
Second Place (-1.0)

South Bend blanked host Dayton, 2-0. The SB-Cubs have won five of their last six games.

  • 2B Andrew Ely (.301) went a perfect 4 for 4 with three doubles (5), a run scored and a stolen base (1).
  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.385) added a season-high three hits, going 3 for 4 with an RBI (4).
  • LHP Justin Steele (7.08 ERA) fanned six in five scoreless innings for the win.
  • RHP Kyle Miller (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 SO) has allowed just one earned run in 8.1 innings (1.08 ERA) this year.

Cubs Minor League Report: 5/10/16

Myrtle Beach picked up the win behind another strong starting effort, and South Bend secured a split in a doubleheader Tuesday. Iowa couldn’t hang on, and Tennessee lost in walk-off fashion again. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league Cubs action.

Iowa Cubs (15-15)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Third Place (-2.0)

Iowa struck first, scoring three in the second frame, but Nashville came back to beat the I-Cubs, 8-5.

  • C Miguel Montero (.000) went 0 for 3 in his first rehab appearance.
  • 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.250) knocked in four runs (4), going 2 for 4 with a three-run homer (4) and a run scored.
  • RF Shane Victorino (.294) went 2 for 4 with a triple (1), an RBI (4) and a run scored.
  • CF Albert Almora (.319) went 2 for 5 with a stolen base (4) and a run. He has hit in seven straight.
  • RHP Spencer Patton (1 IP, 1 BB, 1 SO) has not allowed a run in 11 appearances at Triple-A.

Tennessee Smokies (15-17)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-5.0)

The Smokies lost in walk-off fashion for the second straight day, falling 4-3 (11 inn.) at Montgomery.

  • RHP Duane Underwood Jr. (3.86 ERA) fanned six and gave up two earned runs in five innings for the no-decision.
  • RF Billy McKinney (.215) went 3 for 4 with a walk, a double (3), a run scored and an RBI (7).
  • 1B Kelly Dugan (.280) went 2 for 4 with a double (1), a solo homer (5) and two runs scored. He has five homers in his last eight games and has driven in a run in eight of 10 games this season.
  • LHP Gerardo Concepcion (2 IP, 3 SO) tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three. He has not allowed a run in 10 appearances this season (17.2 IP), surrendering just five hits.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (16-14)
Carolina League (High-A)
Second Place (-5.5)

The Pelicans notched 11 hits and stole six bases en route to a 5-2 victory over Winston-Salem.

  • 3B Jason Vosler (.324) was 2 for 4 with a triple (2), two RBI (13) and a run scored. He has reached base in 10 out of his last 11 games.
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.245) did not record an out, going 3 for 3 with a double (7), a run scored, a walk and a stolen base (4). He has had three straight multi-hit games, going 8 for 12 (.667) over the span.
  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.264) and RF Shawon Dunston Jr. (.230) both swiped a pair of bags.
  • RHP Jonathan Martinez (3.00) gave up one earned run in six innings, fanning one batter. He allowed only one run for the second straight start.
  • RHP Jeremy Null (1.2 IP, 2 H, 3 SO) fanned three in his season debut at Myrtle Beach.

South Bend Cubs (18-12)
Midwest League (Single-A)
Second Place (-1.0)

South Bend shut out Dayton in the first game, 2-0. In the nightcap, an SB-Cubs comeback attempt in the top of the seventh fell short, and Dayton won, 5-4.

  • DH/RF Eloy Jimenez (.306) went 3 for 6 over the two games, including a double in each affair (10).
  • LF/CF Eddy Martinez (.250) finished 2 for 6 combined, hitting a two-run homer in Game 1.
  • CF/LF Donnie Dewees (.300) hit his first homer at South Bend, a two-out, two-run shot in Game 2.
  • LHP Carson Sands threw his second straight scoreless outing (11 IP combined).
  • RHP Casey Bloomquist (2 IP, 1 SO) relieved Sands and extended his scoreless inning streak to 15 IP. He has only allowed three hits over this stretch.

 

Cubs Lineup: 5/11/16 vs. Padres

Cubs vs. Padres — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 12:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, rhp (2-2, 3.10 ERA)
Padres Starter: Colin Rea, rhp (3-1, 3.82 ERA)
TV: CSN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Ben Zobrist, 2b
2. Jason Heyward, cf
3. Kris Bryant, rf
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
5. Jorge Soler, lf
6. Javy Baez, 3b
7. Addison Russell, ss
8. Tim Federowicz, c
9. Kyle Hendricks, p

Cubs Lineup: 5/10/16 vs. Padres

Cubs vs. Padres — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jon Lester, lhp (3-1, 1.58 ERA)
Padres Starter: Cesar Vargas, rhp (0-1, 1.10 ERA)
TV: WPWR; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, cf
2. Jason Heyward, rf
3. Kris Bryant, lf
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1b
5. Ben Zobrist, 2b
6. Javy Baez, 3b
7. Addison Russell, ss
8. David Ross, c
9. Jon Lester, p

Cubs Minor League Report: 5/9/16

Iowa got off to a fast start and claimed a victory Monday, but Tennessee suffered a walk-off loss. Myrtle Beach had the day off, and South Bend was postponed due to rain. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor-league Cubs action.

Iowa Cubs (15-14)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Third Place (-1.5)

Iowa scored five runs in the first inning and cruised to a 10-3 victory at Omaha.

  • DH Dan Vogelbach (.337) went 2 for 4 with two homers (5) and four RBI. He has nine RBI in his last five games.
  • CF John Andreoli (.216) went 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
  • C Willson Contreras (.348) reached base three times, going 1 for 3 with two walks, two runs and a stolen base (2).
  • RF Shane Victorino (.231) and 1B Taylor Davis (.296) each went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI.
  • RHP Jake Buchanan (4.24 ERA) gave up three earned runs in seven innings, striking out four in the win. He has gone 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA (4 ER/19.0 IP) in his last three starts.

Tennessee Smokies (15-16)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-4.0)

The Smokies suffered a walk-off defeat to Montgomery, 2-1.

  • 1B Victor Caratini (.289) went 2 for 3 with a double (5), stolen base (1), walk and run scored. It was his seventh multi-hit game of the season.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.263) added a triple (2), going 1 for 3 on the day.
  • LF Mark Zagunis (.269) was 1 for 4 with his fifth double of the year.
  • DH Kelly Dugan (.238) went 1 for 3 with an RBI (12).
  • LHP Rob Zastryzny surrendered just one earned run in seven innings in the no-decision.

Cubs Charities and Cubs Care grant more than $1 million to Chicago-area nonprofits

Chicago-Scholars-Foundation

Cubs Charities today teamed up with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to announce more than $1 million in grants to nonprofit organizations serving those in need in the Chicago area. McCormick Foundation’s Cubs Care has donated more than $20 million to Chicago nonprofit organizations since its inception. This is the 12th consecutive year more than $1 million has been donated to Chicago communities through Cubs Care and Cubs Charities. Cubs Care grants help organizations to provide youth health and wellness programs and education programs.

“Cubs Charities is proud to team up with the McCormick Foundation to support deserving nonprofit organizations serving those in need in our community,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “Through our shared commitment to helping our community thrive, we are able to leave a lasting impact felt far beyond the Friendly Confines.”

Events such as the Bricks and Ivy Ball and Race to Wrigley Charity Run, along with activities such as the gameday 50/50 raffle, personal video board messages and contributions from Cubs players, fans and partners help raise funds for Cubs Care grants.

“Chicago is filled with passionate fans and caring neighbors,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “For more than 25 years, the McCormick Foundation and Chicago Cubs have shared a commitment to supporting amazing community organizations that work to improve the lives of underserved youth and families across Chicagoland. Together, we will continue to build a stronger community for all of us in the years to come.”

Wood hitting a homer with his foundation’s fundraising event

Battle-of-Bats-Preview-0040(Photo Courtesy Wood Family Foundation)

Cubs fans don’t need another reason to spend an afternoon at the Friendly Confines, especially this year. But Kerry Wood is offering up an opportunity that may just be too good to miss.

On May 25, the Wood Family Foundation is hosting its second-annual Kerry Wood and Friends Battle of the Bats Home Run Derby. The event gives fans a chance to live out their childhood dreams by stepping into the batter’s box and taking their hacks at Wrigley Field.

“I think both Cubs Charities and my foundation realized what kind of an event it can be,” said former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. “Last year, we had a great turnout, a great event. We raised a lot of money for charities, so I think we’re looking to do bigger and better this year.”

What makes the event truly special is that participants get to do something unique and possibly something they have been dreaming of their whole lives. Though Wood was able to step into the Wrigley Field batter’s box on 190 regular-season occasions throughout his 14-year big-league career, what this opportunity means to fans isn’t lost on the ex-Cub. With money being raised for his foundation and participants having a good time, the event becomes twice as rewarding.

“I think when you’re running a foundation or you’re doing it for charity or anything to raise money, you do [make]… experiences,” Wood said. “You get the emails after it’s over, and they all had great stories.

“We had people in bare feet in the grass in the outfield, walking around. I don’t think I’ve done that—walk around in the outfield in my bare feet.”

Former Cubs players Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee will be on hand, and Wood said others will likely make an appearance. Contestants will each get 10 outs—that’s any swing that isn’t a home run. The top 10 qualifiers will reach the second round, with the top three going to the finals.

Interested parties can sign up in teams of four with a $15,000 minimum donation, or as individuals for $3,500. New this year, the top six high school-aged fundraisers will also get an opportunity to compete.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Cubs Charities and the Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In Program. The Pitch In Program partners young students, fourth grade and up, with a caring adult who will serve as a mentor throughout the school year. The goal is for the students, currently in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, to have guidance until they reach high school. The program started in October 2014 and is continuing to grow.

“I feel like we’re getting a chance to affect multiple kids in the neighborhood,” Wood said. “It’s been great for us. It’s been a great learning experience for us. I know the kids are really enjoying it. I know the families are really enjoy us being there. We’re all going through this together.”

Last year’s home run derby raised more than $100,000 and will play a big role in Pitch In’s summer program, which kicks off this year.

“Any time you can get fans out, get a chance to get out on the field and take some hacks, it’s a pretty special day,” Wood said.

For more information or to sign up, visit cubs.com/derby. Or visit wffpitchin.org for more information on the Pitch In program.

—Phil Barnes

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