Results tagged ‘ Geovany Soto ’
MESA, Ariz.–In 1987, after Andre Dawson got plunked by the Padres’ Eric Show, a young Greg Maddux was told not to retaliate. If he did, he’d be on the first bus back to Triple A.
Still just trying earn his keep at the big-league level, Maddux did not heed those words and uncorked a fastball at Benito Santiago. He wasn’t sent down right away, but he did earn respect.
“It’s all about the team,” he told me, when recalling that story a couple of years ago.
On Monday, the man who probably will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball history took his turn….throwing batting practice.
It was very non-descript. I’m not sure anyone else saw it. And in his illustrious career, it was the FIRST time he had ever done it. He’s thrown BP to his kids before, but all these years he’s been in camp as a player and never done it.
In the cage were three young catchers–Robinson Chrinios, Blake Lalli and Steve Clevenger. All three probably hadn’t been born or at least were toddlers when Maddux plunked that guy nearly 23 years ago.
There might be a little paunch to his middle these days, but excuse the guy for enjoying himself a little after spending more than two decades winning 355 games, throwing over 5,000 innings and striking out 3,371 men.
“The game gave me more than I could ever want or ever hope for,” Maddux said. “It’s just nice to be back in it and try and give back and help the players and team. That’s what it’s all about. You help the players, hopefully the team wins more games.”
He was huffing and puffing a little bit out there. “Yeah, throwing BP let’s you know how out of shape you are,” he laughed. “It’s OK for the first 10 minutes, then toward the end you’re sucking wind.”
After the session was over I spied Clevenger packing up his bat and helmet. It was then he gave a quick glance out to the mound. While Maddux was picking up balls–just like any other guy–Clevenger shook his head and smiled a big ol’ grin as if to say, “Man, that was pretty cool. I hit BP off of Greg Maddux.”
“Well, hopefully these young guys realize they are good enough to be in the big leagues,” Maddux said. “I hope they understand to work hard to be successful. Because what this game can do for you and your family is incredible, so they should take advantage of that.”
NOTES FROM THE DAY 2:
— Carlos Silva pitched for the first time. He looked decent. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild encouraged him to drive more off his back leg.
— Geovany Soto returned to action, looking fit and solid.
— During double play drills and infield practice, it was amazing to see how smooth Andres Blanco is at shortstop.
— Rookie Starlin Castro looked good during live BP, raking several John Grabow offerings into left field. Line drives, not flyballs, mind you.
— Xavier Nady sat out outfield cutoff drills because of his arm, on which he had Tommy John surgery last year. He stood next to manager Lou Piniella, talking about angles of pursuit.
— It was the “Carlos Show” with Silva and both Zambrano and Marmol throwing live BP. Both looked good, throwing hard and crisp.
Vine Line subscribers will read more of this Greg Maddux interview in the coming months in Vine Line and its new landing page on cubs.com, soon to debut this month.The page will include stories from the current month’s issue, a photo gallery from Steve Green and video from spring training and Wrigley Field, during the season.
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On Sept. 2, Geovany Soto chaired the 2nd Annual Rooters Ball at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in downtown Chicago. Organized by the West Side Rooters Social Club, the event benefitted Chicago Cubs Charities, supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Major League Baseball Dominican Development Alliance.
Several current Cubs players joined Soto, including Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Carlos Marmol, Jake Fox, Sam Fuld, Randy Wells and John Grabow. Also present was “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, chairman of the West Side Rooters Social Club.
We talked to several players, in Spanish, about their charitable support:
VL: Why are you participating in the Rooters Ball?
Geovany Soto: Well, growing up in Puerto Rico, I was lucky that I had everything I needed and I was healthy all my life. But I saw the needs around me, and I thought that, if I ever had the chance, I would love to help kids. And in this case, kids with diabetes need a lot of help. Also, when I was playing in the minors, I had a coach [Alan Dunn] whose son was diagnosed with diabetes. I had a really good relationship with him and his son, and that painful moment for them affected me because they were important to me.
Alfonso Soriano: Geovany invited me. I am here supporting him in this worthy cause. Tonight we are participating for the Chicago Cubs.
Jake Fox: No. 1, I have great respect for Geovany Soto, and when he invited me to participate, I did it gladly. This is a noble cause, and when a player of his caliber asks you to help, you do it because that’s what friends are for. Another reason is that my wife has diabetes. She is a Type 1 diabetic, and every time I can help JDRF, I am first in line.
VL: We know some of the proceeds from this event will go to the Dominican Republic through the MLB Dominican Development Alliance. What does it feel like to know that you are helping the Dominican community?
Cubs fans were treated to a fun slugfest last night, highlighted by four Cubs home runs, including a solo shot and grand slam by Derrek Lee. The crowd was loud, the team had fun, and the win drew the Cubs within 2.5 games of the Brewers. There’s certainly some opportunity this series.
? Sam Fuld had another high-energy, productive game for Chicago atop the order. He almost seems to be working at double speed: On his second-inning double, Fuld had to grab his helmet off his head as he was almost running too fast for it to keep up, and when he takes his lead off the base, his fingers, arms and legs all are in continious movement.
? Geovany Soto also seemed to be enjoying himself. As he waited outside the batter’s box before leading off the fourth inning, Soto spotted a loose warm-up ball skipping his way and swatted it back toward the field, to the amusement of everyone around the plate. When he stepped into the batter’s box, Soto tapped home plate umpire Lance Barksdale on the shin guard and exchanged a laugh.
And Soto followed it up with a hooking home run to left just moments later.
? Ryan Dempster’s kick save on the mound was an appropriate sports crossover for the native Canadian and hockey fanatic. Some pitcher deflections are nothing more than half-hearted reachers for up-the-middle grounders; Dempster’s was an all-out stop, field and throw.
After the play, the infield surrounded Dempster to make sure he was OK, but he waved everyone off as if it was no big deal. Of course, head trainer Mark O’Neal and pitching coach Larry Rothschild watched him throw a practice pitch to make sure …
? Even better was seeing Dempster be the first player to congratulate Sean Marshall as he returned to the dugout after striking out Prince Fielder with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh. Marshall had his curveball working.
— Sean Ahmed
MESA, Ariz.—Every year, major-league ballplayers must endure an annual ritual of combing their hair, shaving their faces clean (or at least somewhat) and mugging for the camera. It is Photo Day for them, and they put their best faces forward, despite the fact it’s 7:00 in the morning.
The entire first floor of Fitch Park is turned into a massive photo studio. Among the participants, the Associated Press, Major League Baseball, Topps and Comcast, among others. It’s all put together very efficiently and organized, led by media relations director Peter Chase and his staff. Our staff photographer Steve Green organizes the photographers in location.
For the most part, all the players arrive at their designated times, albeit bleary eyed. There are very compliant to whatever poses we ask them to do. Steve and I are there to do a special photo shoot for our gameday program, CUBS2009. We had scripted the poses beforehand knowing we wouldn’t have more than a minute with each one.
The shoot went swimmingly. We got some great shots Geovany Soto and Ivan DeJesus modeling the WBC jersey of their home country Puerto Rico. We also got a couple and of Mike Fontenot and Carlos Zambrano doing their pregame routine of “Z” hammering “Font” into the ground. They were very playful and the shots turned out great. But to see them, you’ll have to get the program at Wrigley Field!!!!
We also got Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden playing hockey with hockey sticks and using a baseball as a puck. Tremendous. Chad Gaudin and Reed Johnson seem like they are in a competition to see who can look most like a billy goat. Perhaps when they finally shave off their goatees, we can say we killed the “curse of the billy goat!”
Of course, then there was manager Lou Piniella, who’s seen his fair share of photo days. In fact, say Lou, how many of these photo days have you seen?
“Too many,” he laughed.
However, Cubs legend Billy Williams skipped photo day and went straight out to the field..
“‘Greenie!’ You don’t need me, right? Man, you got enough pictures of me after all these years. Look, after you turn 65, your face don’t change much year to year,” Williams said, cracking up all the photographers.
Hey, when a Hall of Famer says he doesn’t want to take a picture, he doesn’t have to take a picture.
We also worked with Morry Gash, the photographer from AP. I asked him for a photo that he shot the other day. It was such a candid shot of Alfonso Soriano that I had to ask him if we could just borrow it for the blog.
But altogether, the photo shoot–and day–worked out very well….I’d encourage everyone to check out the gameday program the next time you’re at Wrigley Field. The pictures and experience was certainly worth more than a 1000 words.
PS. And one special note of sympathy goes out to our hitting coach Gerald Perry, who also was not at photo day. He lost his father last Friday to colon cancer. We are all thinking about you, G.
Many of you probably have heard by now that the Cubs declined to offer arbitration to any of the club’s free agents. As was mentioned yesterday, the team still can negotiate with these players under the current Basic Agreement (which eliminated the restriction that a club must re-sign a player or offer him arbitration before the deadline else lose his rights until May 1).
The entire baseball operations department is at Wrigley Field and preparing for next week’s Winter Meetings. Those run from Dec. 8 to 11 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Some other notes:
? For those of you who have voiced your support for more Stephen Green photos on the blog, the longtime team photographer has heard your call. He is currently assembling some photos so that we can pepper them on the front page throughout the off-season.
? Charitable foundation Cubs Care funded and supported the annual National Runaway Switchboard Thanksgiving dinner at a local church last week. Play-by-play announcer Len Kasper and WGN Executive Producer Bob Vorwald helped prepare and serve food along with 20 members of the Cubs front office.
? Geovany Soto visited Wrigley Field a couple weeks ago and said that he has been back from San Juan Puerto Rico since late October. He, his wife, Luzem, and his daughter, Gia Leizan, enjoyed Gia’s first birthday on Oct. 24.
? Geo autographed hundreds of photos as gift items … including some Vine Line Cubs Convention prizes! Be on the look out for signed, uncut sheets of our exclusive 2008 Rookie of the Year cards at the Vine Line booth from Jan. 18-20.
? We offer our condolences to Henry Blanco and his family after the reported shooting of Henry’s brother, Carlos, in Venezuela.