Results tagged ‘ Micah Hoffpauir ’

Football Sunday

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ON LOCATION LOGO.jpgDes Moines–An overcast day at Principal Park today. I was commenting to Andrea Breen, Iowa’s manager of media relations that the clouds covering Iowa will most likely meet me in Chicago when I return tomorrow.

It was business as usual for these farmhands, most of them strolling into the clubhouse around 10:00. Poker chips lay strewn across a table in case an impromptu game might just break out during a rain delay. Clubhouse manager Cleo Welch was busy cooking breakfast–big fluffy pancakes, some eggs.

Five guys were taking early cage work with hitting coach Desi Wilson. Utilityman Matt Matulia, catcher Chris Robinson, and infielders Darwin Barney and Bobby Scales were all taking their hacks.

Andrea told me that when she asked the players to fill out a questionnaire at the during the season, the player teammates voted as the “most intense” was Scales. In the cage, that was evident.

Always quick with a smile and a guy who loves to talk about college football–especially his alma mater the University of Michigan–you’d never think Scales was that intense given his usually cheery disposition when we last saw him in Chicago. But there he was, talking and muttering to himself, motivating himself, trying to talk himself into squaring up the ball better and not swing a bad pitches. He takes his job very seriously, and after getting his first taste of the big leagues this year, he desperately wants to return.

Outside, the pitchers started throwing long toss; Jeff Samardzija looked relaxed, as did lefty James Russell. Playing a different kind of long toss was Micah Hoffpauir and Matt Craig. They were throwing the pigskin around a little bit.

DesMoinesDay2small.jpgAs a guy who was with the big-league club most of the season, Hoffpauir is in the awkward position of being a strong consideration for a call-up but he has put up mediocre numbers at Iowa.

“I don’t have any control over what happens in Chicago,” Hoffpauir said. “My numbers aren’t what they should be, but I’ve been working things out, trying to right the ship here.”

He has tried to prevent the impending Sept. 1 date from hovering in his mind, despite his eagerness to return to Chicago. Like Scales, when you get that taste, you want more. There’s something special when the skipper calls you in on that day.

“For younger guys, they probably aren’t even thinking about [Sept.1]; they’re just happy to be in Triple A,” Hoffpauir said. “But for some older guys, they might be a little more disappointed. But I remember when me and Koyie Hill went up at the same time. Pat [Listach] called us in. We both had been up once already, so he told us together. But Casey McGehee hadn’t been up yet. So when it was his turn, they called him in by himself to make it a little more special.”

It was Chris Robinson’s last game, too, chipping in a single for good measure. Afterward, he shook hands with every one of his teammates and coaches and set off to the Great White North and Team Canada. To a man, Iowa personnel and the team all said Robinson was one of their favorite players this year.

The I-Cubs took down the Redhawks again, 2-0, behind some fine pitching from Mitch Atkins, John Gaub and Blake Parker.


–Mike Huang

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Did they send you down, too?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ON LOCATION LOGO.jpgDes Moines–I arrived at Principal Park startled to see a huge board in the concourse with the current standings of the North Division of the Pacific Coast League. Even at Triple A, the Cubs were chasing the Cardinals.

The Iowa Cubs entered tonight trailing the Memphis Redbirds by a game and a half. I’m here doing a story for Vine Line following our Triple-A club. I wanted to see what life was like for Triple-A players leading up to the Sept. 1 call up day.

DesMoines2.jpgNot only that, I wanted to see what that proverbial minor-league bus ride was like. Thanks to Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita and Iowa Cubs media relations manager Andrea Breen, I was able to somehow weasel my way on to the bus for their Aug. 30 road trip to Omaha.

But before that, I am taking in two games at Principal Park, watching the I-Cubs take on the Oklahoma City Redhawks, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Before the game, I wandered around batting practice saying hi to a bunch of players and coaches. There were a lot of familiar faces, as many of them, like Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Bobby Scales, Justin Berg, Jeff Samardzija, Mitch Atkins and Jeff Stevens, have seen big-league action this year. It was almost as if I were watching the Chicago club.

Blanco came over to me and laughed, “Hey, did they send you down, too?”

Hitting coach Desi Wilson was watching behind the cage while catcher Chris Robinson lined a shot to third where Andres Blanco, who has been battling a calf injury, snagged the ball that would have certainly speared teammate Nate Spears.

“There’s baseball going on right now, you know!” yelled Hoffpauir.

Hoffpauir, who had made the big-league club out of spring training seemed to be in OK spirits, but there was a tinge of melancholy.

“How you doin’ Hoffy?”

“I’m doing fine. Things in Chicago good for you?”

“It’s been a little rough, as you might have heard.”

“Yeah, well, it’s still where you want to be, right?”

And that was when it hit me that even though the big-league team was struggling, as a player, the big-leagues was where he would rather be.

Don’t get me wrong; he loves Des Moines, saying “it’s a great city. Quiet. Clean. A lot like where I live now.” But he’d trade it for a ticket back to Chicago in an instant.

The I-Cubs ended up winning 7-4. Robinson’s last game is tomorrow, as he will be going to play with Team Canada. He was voted the team’s MVP.

-Mike Huang



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

Bringing in the Cardinals

The Cubs are taking on their third NL Central rival in the first four series of the season, and it’s a four-game set to get the Interstate 55 battle started.

With rightfielder Milton Bradley expected to be back this weekend from a groin strain, manager Lou Piniella decided to place some lefty power in the middle of the order today:

Soriano, LF
Fukudome, CF
Lee, 1B
Hoffpauir, RF
Ramirez, 3B
Fontenot, 2B
Soto, C
Theriot, SS
Marshall, LHP

The Cardinals will have right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-0, 1.74 ERA) on the mound.

In the Cards

From the Cubs media relations department:

Chicago went 9-6 against the Cardinals in 2008, marking the fourth-straight season series win for the Cubs … that previously happened when Chicago won 12 straight season series against the Cardinals from 1902-1913 … the Cubs are 41-25 (.621) against St. Louis since the start of the 2005 season:

Cubs yearly record vs. Cards

Vine Line EXTRA: Profiling Micah Hoffpauir

The following story was published in the March issue of Vine Line, as part of the semi-regular feature “The Profile.” Select the page below to see a PDF of the full page, and don’t forget to subscribe to Vine Line for more!

Mar09 VL hoffpauir.JPGWith the road to Wrigley Field going through the minor leagues, Micah Hoffpauir feels he has paid his dues and is ready to make Chicago his summer home.

“To me, [the minors] is a transition stage, where you pay your dues, do your time, and work towards your ultimate goal of playing in the big leagues everyday.”

Hoffpauir finally got a taste of the big leagues last summer when an injury to Daryle Ward gave him the call for which he had been waiting. It came when the Iowa Cubs were in Round Rock, Texas, roughly three hours from where Hoffpauir grew up. Hoffpauir received a phone call from Pat Listach, then the Iowa Cubs manager, saying that he wanted to see him.

“I was kind of nervous; I was thinking this is either really good or I am going home.” When Listach showed up at his room, he informed Hoffpauir that he was going to Chicago. “I got the chills, and I looked at my wife and she was sniffling. It was awesome. I called my family, and since they were in the same hotel, you heard a lot of screams up and down the halls.”

Mar09-VL-cover-WEB.jpgDespite being sent back to Iowa, Hoffpauir put up stellar numbers for the I-Cubs. In 71 games at Iowa, he set career highs with 25 homers and 100 RBIs, along with a .362 average and 34 doubles after missing the first month with a strained left oblique.

Hoffpauir hopes that his success in the minor leagues can translate into a spot on the big-league roster and that he can experience another postseason rally in October.

“I can’t wait to play for these fans. I think their enthusiasm helps us play the way we do,” he said.

Original article by Kerry Kerness

Sweet signs of spring

INSIDE THE IVY LOGO.jpgIt was the first time I had heard the radio in the office in months.

Wednesday marked the start of spring training games, and though we’re just through the first game of the 201 scheduled this season, this one seemed as important personally as any other one we’ll play. After a second consecutive brutal winter in Chicago, it’s baseball season once again.

But I can only imagine how Micah Hoffpauir must have felt after Game 1. After hitting into a bases-loaded double play in his first at-bat, Hoffpauir turned one around his next time up for a grand slam. At 29 years old, he’s no longer a prospect, but there are a lot of people who are rooting for him.

Hoffpauir grand slam.jpgVine Line writer Karry Kerness profiled Hoffpauir in our March issue, focusing on Hoffpauir’s first call-up to the big leagues last season. The slugger spoke of receiving the word from his Iowa Cubs manager Pat Listach.

“I was kind of nervous; I was thinking this either really good or I am going home,” Hoffpauir said. “I got the chills, and I looked at my wife and she was sniffling. It was awesome. I called my family, and since they were in the same hotel, you heard a lot of screams up and down the halls.”

Half staff

Other than game time, the office is quiet these days. With the departure today of some or all of the baseball operations, media relations and community affairs departments, the front office feels like it’s half full. And right now everyone is focused on finishing all their projects for Opening Day — including our game-day program and April issue of Vine Line — because once the team is back in town, there’s a whole new pace to the day.

New province for Provus

Congrats to Cory Provus, who called three innings of today’s Cubs-Brewers radio broadcast today … for Milwaukee’s radio network. Provus just was hired for Milwaukee’s open No. 2 gig and will be missed in the Wrigley Field clubhouse. He’s a great guy who always had an enthusiastic hello — and a WGN Radio microphone — everytime I ran into him.

And I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him plenty around the ballpark. When he stopped by to say goodbye to his friends in the front office, he was reminded that he said he wanted to make more visits around the community this season. It sounds like he’s going to be held to that promise!

Signs of spring

There’s some work going on around Wrigley Field to update it for the coming season, though none of it is being done on the field yet. With the heavy snow sticking because of frigid temperatures, we’ve seen the grass blanketed in white ever since the Winter Classic. But yesterday’s 60-degree temperatures in Chicago — don’t worry, they disappeared today — have revealed the muddy yellow-green again.

— Sean Ahmed