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The 28th annual Cubs Convention kicked off tonight in the Grand ballroom of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.
A per tradition, the Convention kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts began by talking about his family’s commitment to achieving three goals: winning a world championship, preserving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor in Chicago. He also spoke about Chicago Cubs Charities work with the RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and introduced a group of kids and coaches from the program.
The Chicago Cubs RBI program is run through the Union League Boys and Girls Clubs in Chicago and supported through a grant from Cubs Care, which provides $100,000 to fund the entire effort. RBI offers nearly 300 inner city youth the opportunity to play ball and participate in weekend tournaments. Ricketts announced that 11 high school seniors of the Chicago Cubs RBI program have been offered college scholarships to play baseball next year.
After a video about the team, the players entered the hall down a red carpet that ran through the middle of the crowd. This allowed fans an opportunity to interact with the 2013 team. The Cubs introduced veteran players, including new veteran Kerry Wood, and some of the top prospects, who have been in town all week as part of the Rookie Development Program. Fans also got a chance to see many of the newest Cubs, including free agent signee Edwin Jackson, up close.
The evening ended with an autograph hunt game that saw players, prospects and alumni scattered all over the Convention hall. Top prospects Matt Szczur and Javier Baez joined us at the Vine Line booth.
The Convention starts back up tomorrow morning with the Ricketts Family Forum at 9 a.m.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.
The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.
Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.
Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
- Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
- Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
- WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:
- Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
- Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.
In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:
Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.
Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.
MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.
American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.
The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.
Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.
Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.
Though the Arizona Fall League is mostly about improving on an individual basis and competing against some of baseball’s elite, young talent, it’s also nice to win a few games. Unfortunately for Cubs prospects on the Mesa Solar Sox’s roster, wins came few and far between during the AFL season.
Mesa dropped its season finale 8-3 to Phoenix Thursday afternoon, giving the Solar Sox a league-worst 10-20 record.
Matt Szczur went 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot, with an RBI groundout in the third inning. Logan Watkins finished 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Nick Struck pitched the fourth and fifth innings, surrendering only one hit, a solo home run, and striking out a batter.
Despite missing the last two weeks of the season, Javier Baez finished in a tie for third in home runs (4) and finished sixth in RBI (16). Szczur finished tied for fourth with nine stolen bases, just one less than base-stealing phenom Billy Hamilton (Reds). He also drew 14 walks, good for a tie for seventh in the league. And despite playing in just nine games, Watkins’ on-base percentage was .375, thanks in part to his eight walks.
On the rubber, Tony Zych fared the best of any Cubs pitcher. His 3.86 ERA in 14.0 innings would have been even lower had he not surrendered two earned runs in his final outing. While he struck out only four batters during the season, he walked only two.
Kevin Rhoderick was also solid in the hitter-friendly league. He posted a 4.82 ERA in 9.1 innings and managed to strike out 14 batters—sixth on the team—despite pitching fewer innings than all but two Mesa pitchers.
How the Solar Sox fared during the Arizona Fall League:
The Surprise bats were just too much for Mesa in a 10-8 loss Tuesday afternoon. While no Cubs pitchers threw, the Solar Sox’s lineup included a trio of contributing Cubs farmhands.
In the fourth inning, Rubi Silva singled to center and scored from third three batters later on Rafael Ynoa’s two-run single. Ynoa, who represents the Dodgers, advanced to third on an error. Cubs center fielder Matt Szczur drove him home on a single past the pitcher. He would score later in the inning on a wild pitch.
In the fifth, Silva drove in George Springer (Astros) on an RBI single to right. The outfielder finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Szczur went 1-for-4 with a walk, an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Logan Watkins was 0-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.
Mesa heads to Scottsdale Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Mesa’s winning ways continued into the weekend as the Solar Sox downed Salt River 7-5 on Friday and outslugged Peoria 11-8 on Saturday. In both games, Logan Watkins’ bat played a pivotal role.
On Friday, Watkins doubled in the top of the second and scored a batter later on a Brian Ward (Orioles) single. He also reached base on a single in the fifth to go 2-for-5 on the day.
Rubi Silva finished 0-for-4 with a run scored.
No Cubs pitchers threw on Friday.
In Saturday’s matchup, Watkins’ bat really got going. He singled in the third inning and then hit his first homer of the fall on a solo shot to right field in the fifth. In the seventh, he singled again, scoring Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) from third. Three batters later, Watkins scored from third on a George Springer (Astros) single. He finished the day 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Matt Szczur also contributed in Saturday’s victory, going 2-for-5 with a single, a double and a run scored.
Dae-Eun Rhee got the start and went two innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks. He struck out two.
The Cubs host Salt River on Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
The Solar Sox let a three-run lead over Phoenix slide into a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth, but Mesa got a run back in the bottom of the frame and held on for a 4-3 victory Thursday afternoon. Outside of Tony Zych, however, it wasn’t the most exciting day for Cubs farmhands.
Zych kept his solid fall going with two scoreless innings of relief. The righty surrendered just a pair of hits and walked none.
Matt Szczur went 0-for-1 with a pair of walks. Logan Watkins was 0-for-4 but reached on a fielder’s choice and crossed the plate as the eventual game-winning run. Rubi Silva pinch-ran for Aaron Westlake (Tigers) but was forced out on a fielder’s choice.
Cubs minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck got roughed up in his 1 1/3 innings on the hill. He retired the side in order in the seventh but ran into trouble in the eighth. The leadoff hitter singled and the next batter drew a walk. After a flyout to right, Grant Green (Athletics) homered to center to tie the game.
Mesa heads to Salt River Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Thanks to the offensive exploits of Cubs prospect Matt Szczur, Mesa managed to hold off Scottsdale 4-3 Wednesday afternoon.
Szczur led off the game with a single to center. He promptly swiped second for his eighth stolen base of the season. Fellow farmhand Rubi Silva moved him to third on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Nick Castellanos (Tigers), grounded out and scored Szczur. The outfielder’s second at-bat resulted in a bases-loaded walk, which scored L.J. Hoes (Orioles). In his next at-bat, he drove a triple to center, scoring Rafael Ynoa (Dodgers) in what would prove to be the winning run. He finished the day 2-for-3 with two RBI, a run scored and a walk.
Silva finished 1-for-3 with an RBI single in the second inning,
No Cubs pitcher threw for the Solar Sox Wednesday.
Mesa hosts Phoenix Thursday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
It was an offensive struggle for Mesa Tuesday afternoon, as the Solar Sox fell 7-0 to visiting Surprise. The team managed just six hits in the losing effort.
Cubs minor league player of the year Logan Watkins, who replaced the injured Javier Baez on the Sox roster, recorded his first hit of the fall season with a single to right in the fifth. He also drew a walk to finish the day 1-for-3. Matt Szczur singled in the seventh for his only hit in four at-bats.
Fresh off of earning the victory in Saturday’s Rising Stars Game, rightly Tony Zych pitched a scoreless eighth inning, retiring the side in order.
Mesa heads to Scottsdale on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Mesa loaded up its lineup with Cubs prospects Monday night as the Solar Sox rallied in the seventh and earned a 5-4 win over Scottsdale.
Five Cubs farmhands got into the action. None of them fared better than the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck, who pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh inning, allowing no hits, striking out two and walking just one batter. His efforts earned him his first win of the season.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs’ Rubi Silva ripped a one-out triple to center. Matt Szczur walked two batters later and Logan Watkins, making his fall league debut after replacing the injured Javier Baez, walked to load the bases. Silva scored when L.J. Hoes (Orioles) drew a walk, and Szczur scored to tie the game on Jonathan Singleton’s (Astros) free pass. Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) then drove in Watkins and Hoes with a two-out single to give Mesa the lead.
Silva finished the game 1-for-4 with a triple; Watkins was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks; and Szczur was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Starting pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee allowed two earned runs, giving up three hits and two walks in four innings for Mesa. He allowed just two hits in the first three innings before getting into trouble in the fourth. Rhee also struck out two batters.
Mesa hosts Surprise Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
It was more a case of being at the right place at the right time, but Cubs farmhand Tony Zych earned the win in Saturday afternoon’s Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game, as the East team scored a 9-4 victory over the West.
Zych entered the game with one out and a man on first in the fifth inning. Reds speedster Billy Hamilton singled on a bunt and advanced to third on a throwing error by first baseman Jonathan Singleton (Astros). Pinch-runner Nick Ahmed (Braves) scored from first on the error. Former Cubs prospect Hak-Ju Lee (Rays) singled up the middle, scoring Hamilton and giving the West a 4-3 lead. Padres prospect Rymer Liriano doubled on a soft fly ball to right, putting runners on second and third. After that, Zych settled down, striking out Hunter Morris (Brewers) and getting Nick Franklin (Mariners) to pop out to shortstop.
But luck was on Zych’s side because in the bottom half of the fifth, the East offense scored six, putting the game away. Zych was the only Cubs prospect to play in the game. Javier Baez also earned an invite, but a thumb injury effectively ended his AFL season.
On Friday the Solar Sox lost 7-5 at the hands of Peoria.
Outfielder Matt Szczur went 0-for-4 with a walk and drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the second inning. He also stole his seventh base of the season in the second inning. Kevin Rhoderick saw three batters, getting the first two to fly out to the outfield. The third batter, Cody Asche (Phillies), doubled and Rhoderick was removed. Asche would score later score on a Rymer Liriano single.
Mesa hosts Scottsdale Monday night, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 local time. Dae-Eun Rhee is scheduled to pitch for the Solar Sox.
How the Cubs have fared: