Results tagged ‘ Justin Berg ’

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Vine Line Video: Cubbie Blues

Straight from Vine Line’s first-ever Music Issue, Justin Berg goes from bullpen to blues band in an exclusive video of his performance at Buddy Guy’s Legends Club this past winter. It’s an extra look inside our July issue, where Berg talks about how he learned to play the drums and what music he likes to listen to. Don’t miss it: Subscribe to Vine Line today.

Cubbie Blues

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 Last night, about 250 people showed up for a Vine Line “boutique” event at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, right across the street from the Chicago Hilton, where the 26th annual Cubs Convention will be held this weekend.

The event’s proceeds benefitted the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation and most importantly created awareness of DiGeorges Syndrome amid a new audience. For more information on DiGeorges/22q deletion, visit

But the star of the show? Cubs pitcher Justin Berg, who wailed on the drums with Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials. Though he also plays the guitar, the band allowed Justin to sit in with them on two sets for about 30 minutes each. The 26-year-old from Antigo, Wis., –population 8,560–was a little nervous at first. But once he got in the rhythm of it, with the help of Chicago blues legend Lil’ Ed–Berg helped all the Cubs fans sing the blues. A reporter with Blues Revue thought Justin had a possible career after baseball.

“That was probably the best experience of my life,” said Berg, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. “Unbelievable. I practiced with my brother at home, but honestly, I was coming in cold. So I was just going to wing it.”

Teammate Randy Wells, who was on the Cubs Caravan with Berg, attested to the aspiring musician’s nerves.

“Justin was talking about it all day,” Wells chuckled. “He said he was really nervous.”

Originally, the event simply began as a content idea for Vine Line and its “Cubs CrossOver” feature. But with no Len and Bob bash this year and Cubs fans needing some musical outlet, Vine Line turned up the volume on the event. Ryan Dempster even sent a video thank you to everyone at the club. He wasn’t able to make it because his wife Jenny was due with their third baby.

 The Cubs CrossOver places a Cubs player in a non-baseball situation. It’s your typical “fish-out-of-water” story. However, Berg looked anything but out of place.

“The longer I was up there, the more I got comfortable,” said Berg, who got to jam classics like “Sweet Home Chicago.” He even got to meet Lil’ Ed and the band in Buddy Guy’s personal office.

“I was more nervous about going on stage than I was in my big-league debut,” Berg laughed. “But Lil’ Ed and the band helped me through it.”

The foundation offered a silent auction of various autographed items as well as a live auction that featured a two Gibson guitars autographed by the band and Justin.

Of course, who was the highest bidder? Justin’s teammate, catcher Koyie Hill, who was celebrating a newly minted contract for 2011.

-Mike Huang

The Road To Omaha

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ON LOCATION LOGO.jpgDes Moines–It felt more like a Sunday, with the way the guys sauntered into Principal Park this morning around 11 AM. But from what I am told, it was a much-preferred and welcomed alternative to the typical 4 AM wake-up call for 6 AM flights to further Pacific Coast League cities like Portland, Fresno and Salt Lake City.

Today, the guys were headed to Omaha, Neb., just a short two hours away down Interstate 80, and I was going with them.

Everyone’s seen the 1988 film “Bull Durham” starring Kevin Costner. There’s a classic scene where Costner’s character Crash Davis is telling all his teammates about his time in the big leagues while strumming a guitar confiscated from a shrill Nuke LaLoosh.

Well, right-hander Justin Berg, who apparently plays in a band in his off-season, brings a guitar on the road, as does rightfielder Brad Snyder. But neither pulled out their axes on the bus.

DesMoinesDay3 001a.jpg“I only play in my hotel room,” Berg said. However, during his brief cup of coffee earlier this season, I saw Berg’s guitar in the home clubhouse. In fact, I saw the guitar before I saw Berg. But on this trip, the guitar and wa-wa pedals were stowed below.

Some guys slept, some guys just listened to music. Left-hander JR Mathes watched a movie on his laptop. It was surprisingly quiet, guys weren’t even talking to each other much. Because Omaha was so close, manager Bobby Dickerson, who normally flies ahead of the team to rent a car for the staff, simply drove ahead in his own truck so that the staff would not have to rent a car. In the minor leagues, cutting costs is applicable all over.

Dickerson is a fair, but tough manager, who is not afraid of calling out a player, but will offer a pat on the back just as readily. At the Triple-A level, many of the players have “grown-up” responsibilities, supporting spouses and children, mortgages. In a short trip like this, he allowed several players who had family with them to drive themselves to Omaha. So the bus was a little light of personnel.

I asked infielder Bobby Scales–who himself is married– about the seeming lack of interaction among his teammates. A veteran of nearly 11 minor-league seasons, Scales has seen a lot and his insight was enlightening.

“Part of it is the technology,” Scales said. “You mentioned Bull Durham. Yeah, they put a lot of stuff in movies, but really, if you think about it, technology has changed things. Guys have a lot personal entertainment devices, so guys aren’t really talking all that much. I think guys back in the day probably talked more because there was nothing else to do.

DesMoinesDay3 b.jpg“The other thing is this team is very heavy on both ends, there aren’t a lot of guys in the middle,” Scales added.

“There are a bunch of older guys, maybe 27 or older then a bunch of guys 24 and younger. So there’s a gap there. What do you talk about? I talk about my wife and my house, but these younger guys don’t want to hear that.”

The busiest guy on the bus was trainer Matt Johnson, whose duties also include acting as the traveling secretary–arranging bus and plane rides, keeping track of meal money and hotel arrangements. Or in the case of this photo, coordinating travel arrangements for the end of the season for outfielder So Taguchi, who lives in St. Louis.

“Sometimes there’s a lot to do that isn’t necessarily athletic training,” said Johnson, the LaGrange Park, Ill., native said. “First and foremost, our job is to keep these guys healthy, but there are a lot of other things you have to do as well. It is the minor leagues.”

–Mike Huang


Getting back the Phils

Slightly different lineup today. There was no full-field BP this morning because of the night-day follow-up, but several guys took some time in the batting cage, under the rightfield bleachers.

Theriot, SS
Fukudome, CF
Bradley, RF
Lee, 1B
Fox, 3B
Soriano, LF
Soto, C
Baker, 2B
Dempster, RHP

Left-hander Cliff Lee (2-0, 1.13 ERA in the NL) pitches for the Phillies.

Fresh arms

Right-hander Justin Berg was recalled today, and last night’s starter, Jeff Samardzija, was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. With the injuries and extra-inning games lately, the Cubs can use as many fresh arms in the bullpen as possible.

The Road To Wrigley: Iowa comes to Chicago

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for INSIDE THE IVY LOGO.jpgIt’s often a long road for a lot of minor-leaguers to travel, but they do it because playing in the major leagues has been a lifelong dream.

Today at Wrigley Field, some of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs players and coaches just soaked up their big-league surroundings before their game against the Las Vegas 51’s in the second annual Road to Wrigley game.

Last year featured the Cubs’ low Class-A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, including current Iowa hitting coach Desi Wilson, who served as Peoria’s hitting coach last year. He is the only repeat participant, but it doesn’t make the experience any less special.

“I just love seeing how the players respond,” Wilson said. “But it’s great for the fans to see some of the organization’s prospects.”

However, with Iowa just three and a half games out of first in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s North Division, the game still is a game–one they must win.

“We try to tell the guys that it is just another game,” said Iowa Cubs manager Bobby Dickerson. “But I’ll tell you what–this is special, and I am going to try my darndest to get as many guys in as I possibly can. Not everyone can make the big leagues. For some guys, this could be the closest they ever get.”

DICKERSON SANDBURG small.JPGSo it probably would be great for the Iowa Cubs to get out to a 14-0 lead by the third inning so Dickerson could sub guys in at will, right?

“Heh, well I wish it were that easy,” he laughed. “But there are places where I can pick and choose to bring some guys in.”

Last year featured Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (pictured, left), who managed the Peoria Chiefs and is now the manager of the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. This year it was Dickerson’s (pictured, right)  turn at the helm.

“Heck, this might be the only time I’m up here, but hopefully not,” Dickerson said. “Desi made it up to the bigs as a player. I never did. So I’m just going to enjoy the heck out of this.”

For some Iowa Cubs, being at Wrigley Field was more than de ja vu. They’ve actually been here already this year. I-Cubs like right-handers Justin Berg, Mitch Atkins and infielder Bobby Scales all have seen cups of coffee with the big club this year. Heck, first baseman Micah Hoffpauir–who was optioned Aug. 7 to make room for Geovany Soto–still has his old locker. 

Clubhouse attendants Rich Rupp, Gary Stark and Tim Hellmann sheeted off the big-leaguers’ lockers with plastic and ran a steel rod the length of both walls for the minor-leaguers to hang their clothes. I patted Hoffpauir on the back to sort of “welcome” him back.

“So, Hoffy, it’s like you never left! But you can’t use your old locker?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t want to ruin the delicate plastic sheets in front of them,” he laughed, pointing to his big-league jersey lurking just behind the I-Cubs jersey hanging on the steel rod. “But really it’s not that big a deal. And a lot of these guys have been here before earlier in the year, so for them it’s old hat. But for the new guys it’s great to see their faces as they walk out on to the field. Because [Wrigley Field] is an awe-inspiring place.”

Iowa Cubs general manager Sam Bernabe said: “For the Iowa Cubs organization, the game is extremely exciting. I’ve been in town two or three times in the past couple of weeks and to see our logo all over the place promoting the game, it’s incredible.”

Mike Huang