Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks dies at age 83

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(Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

The Chicago Cubs tonight are saddened to announce that Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, the greatest Cub in franchise history, has passed away at the age of 83.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” said Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And, more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind-hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

Inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977, Ernie played the game he loved as a lifelong Cub for 19 seasons from when he made his debut with the club in 1953 until his retirement in 1971. He was a 14-time All-Star and back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959. He hit 47 home runs with 129 RBI in 1958 and followed that up with 45 home runs and 143 RBI in 1959.

Banks hit 512 home runs in his career, surpassing the 40-home run mark five times, and his 277 home runs as a shortstop remain a National League record.

Banks ranks first among Cubs players in games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706); second in home runs (512), RBI (1,636) and hits (2,583); third in doubles (407); fifth in runs scored (1,305); seventh in triples (90); and eighth in walks (763).

While still a player in 1967, Ernie turned his eye to coaching and served in that role through 1973, becoming the first African-American to manage a major league team on May 8, 1973, when he took over for the ejected Whitey Lockman.

Banks became the first player in franchise history to have his number retired in 1982, and his flag flies from the left-field foul pole to this day. He was also voted to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team, and he was honored on the field at the All-Star Game in Fenway Park in 1999.

Beyond his statistics on the field, Banks was famous for his endearing charm and his remarkable wit. He became the first player in franchise history to be honored with a statue at Wrigley Field when he helped with the unveiling at Clark and Addison on March 31, 2008. His statue is adorned with his famous line, “Let’s Play Two.”

In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award given to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cub

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Cubs claim right-hander Gonzalez Germen off waivers from Texas

Germen

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Chicago Cubs today claimed right-handed pitcher Gonzalez Germen off waivers from the Texas Rangers. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 40 players.

Germen, 27, is 1-2 with one save and a 4.31 ERA (31 ER/64.2 IP) in 54 relief appearances covering the last two seasons with the New York Mets. He has struck out 64 batters in 64.2 innings pitched while limiting opponents to a .248 batting average, including a .229 mark by right-handers. The Dominican native went 1-2 with one save and a 3.93 ERA in 29 outings for the Mets in 2013 and posted no record and a 4.75 ERA in 25 appearances in 2014.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pound pitcher originally signed with the Mets as a nondrafted free agent in 2007. He is 38-31 with 10 saves and a 3.51 ERA in 148 appearances (80 starts) in seven minor league seasons in the Mets farm system (2008-14).

Germen was designated for assignment by the Mets on Dec. 15 and traded to the New York Yankees on Dec. 19.  \He was then designated for assignment on Jan. 13 and traded to the Texas Rangers on Jan. 20.

Cubs’ Schwarber among MLB’s top catching prospects

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(Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)

Well, that didn’t take long. Just seven months after being selected with the fourth-overall pick in the 2014 draft, catching prospect Kyle Schwarber’s name is already beginning to rise up prospect lists. MLB.com is currently going through their positional ranks, and they recently named the Cubs’ farmhand the No. 3 catching prospect in baseball. Here’s what MLB.com had to say about Indiana University product:

In his pro debut, Schwarber showed why many scouts considered him the best all-around college hitter in the 2014 Draft. He combines strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate and excels at recognizing pitches and working counts. He repeatedly makes hard contact and has the tools to become a .280 hitter with 30 homers and a high on-base percentage.If he can stay at catcher, Schwarber’s bat could make him a superstar. He moves well for his size and has some arm strength, but his throwing and receiving need a lot of work, and most scouts outside the organization don’t think he can make it as a backstop. If he has to move to left field, where he played some in Indiana and in his pro debut, he still should make an offensive impact.

Schwarber sped through the Cubs system, playing five games in Short-Season Boise before a promotion to Single-A Kane County. After a 23-game stint with the Cougars, the left-handed-hitting slugger finished the year in High-A Daytona. In 262 total at-bats, Schwarber hit .344/.428/.634 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 38 extra-base hits, including 18 homers.

“The season overall, it was great,” Schwarber told Vine Line at the 2015 Cubs Convention. “I learned a lot of things, I matured a little bit. I got through my mind that, you know, you are going to struggle at some points. It’s just how you get through that that really defines you as a player.”

After struggling for the first few weeks in High-A, Schwarber rebounded strong, recording hits in 23 of his last 27 games. He played a big role in the D-Cubs’ run to the Florida State League championship series and finished his FSL season with a .302/.393/.560 line.

“Overall, I took it as a good season, but it’s over now. It’s done. I can’t look on the past,” Schwarber said. “It’s time for the present now, and the future, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Cubs Winter League Recap: 1/22/15

Games were scarce around the Caribbean Thursday, with many leagues taking the day off. However, there was a game in Venezuela featuring a pair of Cubs representatives. Here’s how they fared:

  • 1B Willson Contreras had a two-hit game, finishing 2-for-5, as the Tigres de Aragua took down the Tiburones de La Guaira. He finished with two runs in the finale of the round robin portion of the postseason. Aragua finished 8-8 and will not advance to the finals.
  • LHP Joseph Ortiz pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Tiburones, earning his third hold of the playoffs. La Guaira finished the postseason 5-11.

1000 Words: #TBT to the 2015 Cubs Convention

Last weekend’s 30th Annual Cubs Convention was enjoyed by thousands of fans who had an opportunity to mingle with members of their favorite team at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Whether it was their first convention, or their 30th, most walked away with lasting memories. Though it was only a few days ago, here are some images to remember from the sold-out event:

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Cubs Winter League Recap: 1/21/15

Junior Lake recorded a home run for his Dominican squad in an otherwise quiet day for Cubs representatives around the Caribbean Wednesday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:

Dominican Republic

  • CF Junior Lake provided all the offense for the Estrellas de Oriente in their 5-1 loss to the Gigantes del Cibao. Lake hit his second home run of the postseason in the fifth inning, finishing 1-for-3 with a walk. His team reached base only two other times as the Estrellas now trail 3-2 in the best-of-nine championship series.

Puerto Rico

  • SS Javier Baez went 0-for-5 with a walk, though his Cangrejeros de Santurce squad topped the Indios de Mayaguez to tie the best-of-nine championship series 1-1.

Venezuela

  • 1B Willson Contreras couldn’t repeat his solid Tuesday, going 0-for-4 on Wednesday, but his Tigres de Aragua topped the Aguilas del Zulia. The Tigres have been mathematically eliminated from advancing to the championship round.

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.

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