Results tagged ‘ Chris Bosio ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Our February Q&A with pitching coach Chris Bosio

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Now entering his fourth season with the Cubs, Chris Bosio has earned a reputation as one of the emerging pitching coaches in the game. His success stories include everyone from Jason Hammel and Scott Feldman to Jake Arrieta and Hector Rondon. And this season, he should boast one of the best staffs in the NL. The following feature is from the February issue of Vine Line.

Don’t let the Cubs’ record in each of the last three seasons fool you. While the team has struggled, the pitching has remained comparatively strong. Despite massive turnover and an influx of unproven arms, the staff has continued to surprise. Much of the credit for that steadiness amidst turmoil goes to emerging pitching coach Chris Bosio.

The 51-year-old former major leaguer came to the organization prior to the 2012 season, the first under the new baseball operations department headed by president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer.

From 2012-14, the Cubs traded established pitchers like Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Jeff Samardzija, James Russell and Jason Hammel. In their place stepped everyone from Jason Berken and Justin Germano to Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.

Talk about having to adjust on the fly. But Bosio has done it masterfully and managed to keep the staff running in a positive and consistent direction under three different managers. Now that the Cubs appear to be at the end of their “acquire-and-flip” phase when it comes to pitchers, he is ready to lead the organization’s arms into their next stage of development.

At any point in the season, a pitching coach has to keep tabs on between 11-13 pitchers, factoring in the rotation and the bullpen, but many more arms than that filter through the club during the course of six months thanks to injuries, ineffectiveness and trades. The Cubs trotted out 30 pitchers in 2013. Couple that with all the personnel a team uses in Spring Training, and that’s a lot of players for any single person to process, making the roles of associates such as bullpen coach Lester Strode and catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello all the more vital.

Bosio, known simply as “Bos” around Wrigley Field, brings a great deal of clubhouse credibility to the Cubs. The right-hander carved out an impressive career as a major league pitcher, going 94-93 with a 3.96 ERA over 11 seasons, seven with the Brewers and four with the Mariners, for whom he threw a no-hitter in 1993.

“I work great with Bos. He and I are kind of two of the same—very intense competitors,” said Hammel, who rejoined the Cubs on a two-year deal in December after spending the second half of last season with the Athletics. “I think he’s a little grumpy sometimes, but it is what it is. I kind of speak for everybody here. We’re tired of the old Cubs. This is the new Cubs. We want to change the feel.

“Coming back here, Bos called me back too. He made his pitch: ‘Hey, I want you back. I work great with you.’ He was very good with his words to help me make adjustments, very simple stuff. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Always approachable when media members need the latest update on one of his protégés, Bosio took some time out for a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with Vine Line just days after the Cubs re-obtained Hammel and signed Jon Lester to a six-year deal to be the ace of the staff.

Lester will lead a competitive rotation that, at midwinter, also included Jake Arrieta, Hammel, Hendricks and potentially Travis Wood in the five spot.

Vine Line: Did you feel like Christmas came early with the signing of Lester?

Chris Bosio: I think we all do. We’re adding not only a quality player, but we’re also adding a quality person. Everything I’ve heard about Jon—his upbringing, the things that he’s gone through (e.g., beating cancer) in his life—he’s a guy who has overcome a lot, and he’s a guy who has achieved a lot.

At the same time, he’s a guy who is hungry to achieve more. I think that’s what made Jon Lester so attractive for us, honestly.

VL: In addition to Lester being a great pitcher and giving you added depth, is there a residual effect on the rotation in that guys can now be slotted into more comfortable roles?

CB: No doubt. Any time you can add a guy, a 200-inning guy, it’s going to help everybody—not just on the pitching staff, but also on the 40-man roster. You have a guy who’s going to be out there longer, that third time through the batting order, in the sixth or seventh inning.

Jon Lester is going to be out there in those situations. We just haven’t had that. We haven’t had that No. 1 big gun in the past. We all knew how well Jeff Samardzija threw the ball, and his All-Star selection, and Jason Hammel. But for me, you can never have enough of these guys.

VL: Travis Wood struggled for much of 2014. What’s the key to getting him back on the track that made him an All-Star just two years ago?

CB: You know what? If you really jumped into the numbers, the No. 1 thing that pops out is the walks (Wood had a career high 76 bases on balls in 2014). Travis will be the first one to say that his command was not there. The big inning killed him. You reflect back on what caused the big innings, and it was the walks. In the year he was an All-Star, he had his fastball command. Being in that position of a starting pitcher, it comes and goes.

And Travis, not having an exceptional secondary pitch to bail him out, relied a lot on his fastball, his cut fastball. When the fastball command is not there, you’re really rolling the dice. That’s the kind of year he had. But I’m expecting him to bounce back. He’s durable. He’s a fighter. He’s everything that we are as the Chicago Cubs. I’m expecting him to come back with a vengeance like he did two years ago.

VL: The team has between 11-13 pitchers at any given time during the season, but more guys than that pass through, either from the minor leagues or via trades. How important is it to have Lester Strode and Mike Borzello to help you keep track of everything and everybody?

CB: We have a system that we work with in the spring. Everybody has a role, including our minor league coaches. We all trust it. We’ve had great success coming out of Spring Training with it. It’s even more so with fresh eyes on it. It’s always good to get fresh eyes and that fresh input.

The biggest thing is staying positive with guys, but at the same time being honest with guys. We’ve got a really good, open line of communication with our pitchers. We’re going to work on the things that we need to work on, and the things that we’re good at, we’re going to get better at. Having Lester Strode and Mike Borzello with me is huge in our pitching structure, as well as the [minor league] pitching coaches and pitching coordinators.

In Spring Training, you’ve seen it in action. All these guys have roles. We talk a lot with the minor league pitching coaches and coordinators during the season, and it’s not just the 12 guys on a pitching staff. We say in Spring Training, “We need 11 or 12 starters, and we’re going to need 11 or 12 relievers.” If we get to those numbers, then we’ve had a couple of hiccups, if you will.

If we don’t get to that number and we’re able to maintain a solid five or maybe even six starters, it means we haven’t had to make a lot of trades like we’ve had to in the last three years, and we’ve remained healthy. Being healthy has allowed some of our young pitchers to have really important innings. It’s a nice mix that we have, and it’s going to get better with the additions on our coaching staff and when you bring in All-Star- and world champion-caliber pitchers like Jon Lester and Jason Motte. We added an All-Star catcher in Miguel Montero, and Hammel could have been an All-Star.

VL: You mentioned Motte. The bullpen ended up being a strength as the season went along, but do you feel like you can never have enough arms out there?

CB: With Hector Rondon having the season he had—he was basically the seventh- and eighth-inning guy before that—and having 29 saves in basically four months is pretty impressive. Jason just gives us another arm down there to go along with the guys that we have, with Rondon, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Brian Schlitter.

We’ve got some guys down there. You add Motte to that equation, and our bullpen is becoming even more competitive. That’s what you want as an organization. You want to keep adding competition at every position. That’s how you close the gap on talent with so many other clubs, especially in a really tough National League Central.

VL: Do you consider yourself more of a mechanics guy or a psychology guy? Or do you have to be a bit of both to be a pitching coach in this day and age?

CB: You’ve got to be a little bit of both. Some of my best work is sitting and talking. Some of my other best work is a little of both, like with Jake Arrieta or Scott Feldman or Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel. You’ve got to be able to listen. You’ve got to be able to teach. You’ve got to be there not only for them, but also for the rest of the players on that club.

There are a lot of conversations that go on, not just with your pitchers and your catchers, but with your position players—what we’re going to be doing, how we’re going to be pitching certain guys. The communication is endless.

That’s where we made up a lot of ground in the second half of the season. We had really good communication with everybody on defense—where we’re going to play guys, how we’re going to pitch guys. It really didn’t matter who we threw out there because all the guys were following the game plan, and our preparation was better than it had been. That’s why we were winning more games against really tough clubs coming down the stretch.

We’re definitely going in the right direction. We’ve got a little more pop with our pitching staff. A lot of good things are happening, and the players and the coaching staff are aware of it.

—Bruce Miles, Daily Herald

Cubs announce 2015 coaching staff

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Manager Rick Renteria’s 2015 staff has been finalized. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs announced their 2015 coaching staff Thursday, and it includes a few new faces as well as a member shifting roles in manager Rick Renteria’s crew.

John Mallee has been named the new hitting coach, while Doug Dascenzo will take over first base/outfield coaching duties. Last season’s first base coach Eric Hinske will shift to assistant hitting coach.

Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Mike Borzello (catching and strategy coach), Jose Castro (quality assurance coach) and Franklin Font (staff assistant) return to the coaching staff in their previous roles. Eric Hinske will shift from first base/outfield coach to assistant hitting coach.

Mallee, 45, will replace Bill Mueller as the team’s hitting coach. He’ll begin his fifth season as a major league hitting coach. He previously served as a big league hitting coach with the Marlins (2010-11) and Astros (2013-14).  Overall, Mallee has 19 seasons of experience in pro baseball. Prior to moving to the big leagues, he spent eight-plus seasons as the Marlins minor league hitting instructor. A Chicago native, Mallee also served as a minor league hitting coach within the Brewers and Expos organizations starting in 1996. He spent two seasons as an infielder in the Phillies system from 1991-92.

Dascenzo, 50, joins the Cubs as first base and outfield coach, marking a return to the organization that drafted him in 1985 and for whom he played five big league seasons from 1988-92. Dascenzo served as the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves in 2014, his first as a coach at the big league level. Prior to joining the Braves in 2013 as a minor league outfield/baserunning instructor, he spent 13 seasons as a manager or coach in San Diego’s system. Dascenzo spent seven years in the big leagues as an outfielder and has spent the last 16 years as a coach or instructor starting in 1999.

Bosio, 51, returns for his fourth season as the club’s major league pitching coach. Overall, this is his third stint as a big league pitching coach, previously coaching in the majors for Tampa Bay in 2003 and Milwaukee in 2009. A veteran of 11 big league seasons, the righthander worked as a special assignment pitching coach in Seattle’s system from 2000-02, including a stint as Triple-A Tacoma’s pitching coach, before joining Lou Piniella’s staff in Tampa Bay.

Hyde, 41, enters his second year as bench coach and fourth in the Cubs organization. This is his second stint in the role, previously serving as bench coach for Jack McKeon and the Marlins from June 23, 2010 through 2011. Overall, Hyde has 12 years of coaching experience, including nine seasons in the Marlins chain. Hyde joined the Cubs in December, 2011 as minor league field coordinator and was named director of player development on August 29, 2012.

Jones, 53, returns for his second season as third base coach and infield coach after spending the last 11 years in the Padres organization. Prior to joining the Cubs, he had one year of big league experience as the first base coach for Oakland in 1998. Jones has 15 seasons of experience as a minor league manager, earning four minor league manager of the year awards. He originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 1982.

Strode, 56, returns for his ninth season as Cubs bullpen coach and his 27th year in the Cubs organization. Prior to his current role, Strode spent 11 seasons as the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator (1996-2006), two seasons with the big league club as a pitching assistant (1994-95) and five seasons as a minor league pitching coach (1989-1993). Strode pitched professionally in the minor leagues for nine seasons (1980-88).

Hinske, 37, shifts to assistant hitting coach after joining the Cubs staff as first base/outfield coach for the 2014 campaign, replacing Mike Brumley. His 12-year major league career (2002-13) included 2002 American League Rookie of the Year honors with Toronto and three-straight World Series appearances bookended by championships with Boston in 2007 and the New York Yankees in 2009. Hinske was originally selected by the Cubs in the 17th round of the 1998 Draft.

Borzello, 44, enters his fourth season with the Cubs and his second in an expanded role of catching and strategy coach. Prior to joining Chicago, he spent four seasons (2008-11) with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their bullpen catcher, a stint that followed 12 years in the New York Yankees organization starting in 1996 (roles included bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher). Overall, Borzello has 19 years of experience with three major league clubs.

Castro, 56, returns for his second season as the club’s quality assurance coach after spending the previous 25 years as a minor league hitting coordinator or hitting coach in the Kansas City, Seattle, Florida, San Diego and Montreal organizations. He also served an interim stint as Seattle’s major league hitting coach in 2008.

Font, 36, returns for his 21st season in the Cubs organization, his fourth at the major league level. Font played in the Cubs system for six seasons from 1995-2000 before becoming a Single-A Daytona staff assistant in 2001. He served the Cubs as a minor league manager, hitting coach and coordinator from 2002-11.

Now Playing: Jake Arrieta, Evolution of an Ace

Jake Arrieta has been in this position before. Call it being the ace of the pitching staff. Call it being the Opening Day starter. Call it being the team leader. He was all that a couple of years ago with the Baltimore Orioles. And he’s all that again now with the Chicago Cubs.

A lot has happened in the intervening time, of course, including a trade from Baltimore to Chicago and some time in the minor leagues, as Arrieta attempted to add a little more polish and command to his outstanding pure stuff. It’s all led to a dramatic career renaissance that once again has Arrieta acting as the No. 1 starter on a big league pitching staff.

We sat down with Arrieta to talk about his career path and what’s changed this season. Pick up the September issue of Vine Line for the full cover story on Arrieta’s development.

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Five

Playing professional baseball is a dream job, but it’s not the most likely career choice. So what would your favorite players be doing if their big league dreams hadn’t come true? We talked to Cubs personnel about some other possible career choices.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Positive Energy in Cubs Camp
Cubscast Mesa: Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Four

Now Playing: The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Two

Think you know everything about your favorite Cubs players?

While you may be able to talk OBP, WHIP and VORP with the best of them, did you know Jeff Samardzija is a big fan of birds or that Travis Wood might be trying to read your mind? Every spring, we get personal with Cubs personnel to dig up some facts that you can’t find anywhere else. In the second part of our Lighter Side series, we ask Cubs players which talent or superpower they wish they had.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the New Guys

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff

Monday morning was photo day at the brand new Cubs Park Spring Training Facility in Mesa, Ariz. The players and coaches went from station to station posing for the camera and answering questions from various media outlets.

Vine Line got a chance to talk to Cubs manager Rick Renteria, pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach and former Cubs third baseman Bill Mueller, and first-base coach Eric Hinske about the early days of spring camp and their expectations for the 2014 season.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park all week long, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Live at CubsCon: Welcome the New Skipper

Jim Deshaies welcomes the crowd and the entire—mostly new—coaching staff. Mike Borzello, Bill Mueller, Mike Brumley, Jose Castro, Brandon Hyde, Chris Bosio, Eric Hinske, Gary Jones and new manager Rick Renteria. The ballroom is packed. Standing room only.

This is mostly a Q&A session with Deshaires moderating.

First question: First impression of Chicago and CubsCon. Renteria says it’s truly unbelievable. The amount of support and the love for Cubs is amazing and wants to prove this team deserves your support.

Renteria says every person on the staff has a tremendous quality of imparting information and confidence, and an array of knowledge. They all have compassion and understanding for players.

Bosio says pitching has made great strides in last few years with Samardzija, Wood, Rondon, etc. They now have more depth, big arms and a lot of talent coming in the system. He wants the staff to give the team a chance to win every game by the sixth inning. They definitely have more depth in the ‘pen with Wesley Wright, who should take some pressure off Russell, and other guys. That should give them more flexibility.

Borzello talks about Welington Castillo’s development as a catcher. He’s really built trust with the pitchers and is helping get the best out of each one. He thinks last year was a great start on a solid career.

Each coach takes a minute to give his bio.

So the big question: Jose Castro. What is a quality assurance coach? Answer: He’s a jack of all trades, master of none. Castro jokes he will probably do some cleaning in clubhouse, laundry, whatever. In reality, he’s an extra pair of hands wherever they’re needed.

Renteria says Veras will anchor the back end of the bullpen. He has confidence that he can get the job done in the ninth inning. That’s why he’s here. But the team should have some flexibility to mix and match in the ‘pen before Veras.

Renteria says the focus shouldn’t be on him. It should be on the players. He wants to be like a little mouse that no one pays attention to. The team and players might at times feel disheartened but he will not let them quit. It’s not in his nature to quit. He’s a fighter. And he doesn’t believe he needs to beat people up to motivate them. If you ever see him quit, he welcomes fans and the media to “come and stomp on him,” but it won’t happen.

Bosio talks about how the staff used to be a bunch of veteran guys. It’s much younger now. The players call the games. It’s about getting them to believe in following the scouting reports and pitching to a plan. Sometimes players go off plan because they have confidence in themselves, but the goal is to follow the scouting reports. They spend countless hours on them.

There’s a question about returning to small ball—steals, sacrifices, hit and runs, etc. Renteria says the game will dictate what they can do, and Mueller talks about the need to really understand the players and what they can do. Then they’ll try to start working on these kinds of skills.

Renteria talks about the role of prospects. Says when a game-changing prospect arrives, it’s probably because he’s going to play. He’s not getting brought up to sit on the bench. Some guys make a splash immediately. Some don’t. He says dealing with prospects who succeed or struggle is all about communication in the system. Even if guys struggle and get sent back down, it can be a valuable experience—a learning experience.

Renteria says he’s not a micromanager. His staff is all very gifted and he’ll leave their jobs to them. But he likes to be active, throw BP, etc. He used to take infield with the players.

In response to a question about finding an everyday third baseman, Renteria throws his support behind the Murphy/Valbuena combo. He says he hates to hear people complain about what they don’t have. Let’s work with what we have and make it work.

In response to the usual World Series question, Renteria says he can’t answer to the past. He’s focused on moving the team forward. And he’s looking forward to the party in this city when it happens.

Mueller talks about really learning the players and finding their strengths and weaknesses, how they handle pressure, how they handle emotions, etc., so they can better help the players understand how to improve at-bats. Every player is different. Swings are very personal. They really need to get in the trenches so they can understand each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Renteria cites Johnny Lipon (former Tiger infielder and coach) as a big influence because he was so positive. He never let anyone doubt themselves. Says Jim Leyland and Dick Williams were very firm. He tries to combine all of the good things from his former coaches and get rid of the bad traits.

Hinske cites Joe Maddon, Terry Francona and Bobby Cox as big influences. Players can struggle with confidence. Coaches can play a big part in keeping them upbeat.

Jones talks about how his dad taught him how to play to win, but he tried to learn from every coach and manager and take things from them.

Renteria says Starlin Castro is Starlin Castro. We want you to hit the pitch that you can hit, in reference to the push to make him more patient. He says Starlin had some “horrible” at-bats last season where he was swinging at balls in the other batter’s box, but he’s a guy who puts the bat on the ball

Renteria says the team needs to have better at-bats. It’s unacceptable to strike out with the infield back and a man on third.

“We mistake the idea of being a selective hitter with being a good hitter. We’re trying to expand the ability to be a good hitter.”

Renteria’s passion for working with young players is the same as it would be with veterans. His passion comes from being told he wouldn’t play in the majors. While going through process, he never thought his first-round selection was a mistake. His passion comes from proving everybody wrong. “You can beat me up, but you’re going to know you were in a fight.”

Finally, Renteria believes the team has the arms to get from the six through the ninth innings. And he believes any team that takes the field has a chance to win.

The Cubs name most of their 2014 coaching staff

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Pitching coach Chris Bosio will be back for his third season with the club. (Photo by Stephen Green)

With the Rick Renteria era now two weeks old, the Cubs officially named the majority of their major league coaching staff Friday.

Pitching coach Chris Bosio, bullpen coach Lester Strode and staff assistant Franklin Font all return to the organization. Mike Borzello will also be back, but with an expanded role as the club’s catching and strategy coach.

Joining the field staff in 2014 will be Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Bill Mueller (hitting coach), Mike Brumley (assistant hitting coach) and Jose Castro (quality assurance coach). Jaron Madison will replace Hyde as the director of player development.

Bosio, 50, returns to the club for his third season. This is his third stint as a pitching coach (previously with the Devil Rays and Brewers). He spent 11 years playing in the majors, most notably with the Mariners.

Strode, 55, returns for his eighth season as the bullpen coach and his 26th with the organization. Before his current role, he spent 11 seasons as a minor league pitching coordinator.

Font, 36, returns for his third season at the major league level and 20th overall with the organization. Prior to joining the big league staff, Font spent three years as the minor league infield coordinator. He also played within the organization before becoming a staff assistant at Single-A Daytona in 2001.

Borzello, 43, is now in his third season with the Cubs. He was previously with the Dodgers from 2008-11 as a bullpen catcher and also served that role with the Yankees from 1996-2007.

Hyde, 40, enters his third season with the Cubs and will begin his second stint as a major league bench coach, previously working under Jack McKeon with the Marlins for 1.5 years. Hyde joined the Cubs in December 2011 as the minor league field coordinator and was named director of player development in August 2012.

Jones, 53, spent the previous 11 years in the Padres organization, including the last seven as the minor league infield coordinator. He was a first base coach with the Athletics in 1998. Jones managed for 15 seasons in the minors, acquiring four minor league manager of the year awards.

Mueller, 42, has spent the last six seasons as a special assistant in the Dodgers front office. The 2003 AL batting champ also served as an interim hitting coach for the Dodgers in 2007. He spent 11 years in the majors playing with the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers, finishing with a .293 career average.

Brumley, 51, spent the last four seasons as an assistant hitting coach with the Mariners. From 1997-2009, he served as a minor league manager, field coordinator and instructor with Seattle. He spent seven years playing in the majors from 1987-94.

Castro, 55, spent 25 years as a minor league hitting coordinator or hitting coach for the Royals, Mariners, Marlins, Padres and Expos. He was also an interim hitting coach in 2008 for the Mariners.

The Cubs have not announced a first base coach.

1000 Words: Happy birthday Chris Bosio

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio is celebrating his 50th birthday today. We’re sure he’ll enjoy the present the Cubs organization got him—new starter Edwin Jackson, who will take the mound Wednesday versus the Pirates at 6 p.m. CST. Like this post to wish Bosio a happy golden birthday.

Now Playing: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 3

The major league season can be a grind. Playing 162 games takes a toll on an athlete’s body and mind. That’s why downtime is so important. Some players play video games; others spend time with their families.

This week, Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. In the last installment of our spring Kicking Back video series, we talk to Cubs players about how they spent their offseason, what they do to kill time on the road and who is the worst dresser in the clubhouse.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Top Prospects on the Rise

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

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