Results tagged ‘ spring training ’

1000 Words: Baseball is back


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Spring Training is officially underway as pitchers and catchers reported to the new Cubs Spring Training facilities in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday. Position players will get underway on Tuesday. The pitching staff hopes to improve across the board as it finished with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, tied for 12th in the NL.

Ricketts, Epstein kick off new era at Cubs Park

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The Cubs officially opened their new, state of the art Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday morning—just in time for pitchers and catchers to report on Thursday.

The facility includes Cubs Park—which seats 15,000 people—a two-story player development facility and a rebuilt Riverview Park. It all sits on a 146-acre site, making it the largest facility in the Cactus League.

Cubs board members Tom and Laura Ricketts, executives Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, as well as Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins joined Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, City Manager Chris Brady, City Councilmen Dave Richins and Dennis Kavanaugh, and other members of Mesa City Council for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This new ballpark and player development facility will allow our players to better train and compete,” Tom Ricketts said. “To achieve our goal of winning a World Championship, we must be able to provide our players with the world-class facilities they deserve.”

When Cubs fans enter the ballpark for the first time, they will notice a few features reminiscent of Wrigley Field, including the brick wall behind home plate, green scoreboard with the Wrigley Field-style clock, arched steel work on the light standards and cantilevered roofs. A replica of the Wrigley Field marquee is also located in the main concourse, and fans can pose for a photo with their own name digitally displayed on the sign.

In left field, the Cubs created the Eighteen | 76 viewing area, which features bleachers and high-top tables. Party decks are also available on the first- and third-base sides.

To further enhance the fan experience, the Cubs have partnered with Ovations Food Service to create a variety of food offerings. There will be six different concession areas, each with a separate theme that ties back to either Chicago or the Southwest.

Behind the lawn seating, a citrus grove with picnic tables and a small field serve as a family and children’s play area.  The Cubs also will have food trucks here to complement ballpark fare with unique or specialty offerings on game days only.

The players will enjoy a brand new player development center with a two-story weight room, cardiovascular facility, hydrotherapy room, 120-seat theater and cafeteria. The major league clubhouse features a football-shaped locker room with 68 lockers and a lounge area, while the minor league clubhouse has 206 lockers to accommodate players training year-round. In addition to the player development center, the training facility includes 12 covered batting tunnels, two groups of 12-mound bullpens, six full-size practice fields and a half-size field for infield work.

The facility was built in 15 months by Hunt Construction Group and Populous.

The first game at Cubs Park is Thursday, Feb. 27, at 1:05 p.m. when the Cubs open their inaugural season at Cubs Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Experiencing Spring Training in Arizona is simply unparalleled, thanks to our pristine weather, countless tourist attractions and some of the best baseball fans in the nation,” said Governor Brewer. “The Cactus League and the Chicago Cubs have been a tremendous part of our longstanding and cherished tradition, drawing visitors from across the nation each year to enjoy America’s favorite pastime in Arizona. I’m proud to welcome the Cubs and their fans to their second home every spring.”

Lawn tickets on the outfield berm are still available for the home opener. Tickets may be purchased over the phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827) or online at

Hot Off the Presses: The 2014 Minor League Prospectus


We always have mixed feelings about the February issue. The annual minor league prospectus probably takes more work, and more combined man-hours, than any other issue. To compile our comprehensive breakdown of the Cubs farm system, we pore through each of the organization’s minor league affiliates, from Iowa to Kane County to the Caribbean.

That’s a lot of players in a lot of different locations. To get our information, we read prospect reports, watch fall and winter league games, and talk to people in the know. By the time this issue goes to the printer, the whole Vine Line staff needs a nap.

But it’s also one of the most rewarding magazines we publish, because it gives us a clearer picture of what to expect in the Cubs’ future. And since President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer and Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod took over more than two years ago, the Cubs have been all about what’s on the horizon.

The team has enjoyed top 10 picks in each of the last three drafts, has been among the most aggressive in baseball on the international free agent market, and has made shrewd trades to add young, high-ceiling talent. The process may be taking more time than many fans and even upper management hoped it would, but the efforts are paying off—and the evidence could soon become evident at Wrigley Field.

Baseball America’s 2013 organizational rankings, released shortly after the season ended, had the Cubs system tied for fifth-best in baseball. And prospect experts such as’s Jonathan Mayo and Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks rave about Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Jorge Soler and others.

This month, frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma sat down with McLeod to review the organization’s top players and talk about the system as a whole. Though it’s the big names that rightfully grab the headlines, the Cubs farm now has enviable depth, especially in position players. A few years ago, for example, the team struggled to find a serviceable third baseman. In addition to Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, they now have Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva, Arismendy Alcantara, Josh Vitters, Jeimer Candelario and others who could all effectively man the position.

We break down the Cubs talent into five categories: The Elite, Close to the Big Leagues, International Impact, Pitching Depth and Ready to Break Out. This is your primer on everyone, from seasoned talent that could make the jump to the major leagues this year to 17-year-old international prospects whose professional careers are just getting started.

For those who can’t wait to see the organization’s top young players, this may be the perfect year to head out to Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, because the team is opening Cubs Park, a state-of-the-art training facility that rivals the best in the game. In this issue, we take a look at the new facility and what it means for the organization’s player development team.

Spring Training will also offer fans their first opportunity to hear the team’s new radio voice, analyst Ron Coomer, a former Cubs infielder who has spent the last nine years broadcasting for the Twins. The 47-year-old Chicago native grew up rooting for the North Siders, so he understands the team’s unique history and what it means to be a part of its rich broadcasting tradition.

“Probably the only place I would go to leave Minnesota would be the Chicago Cubs,” Coomer said. “My situation with family and everything [in Minnesota] is phenomenal. But it’s the Cubs job. It’s been a dream of mine since before I knew I could hit a baseball.”

Finally, in our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we chronicle the ballpark’s beginnings. This dates back to when the stadium seated only 14,000 people in a single deck; back to when it was called Weeghman Park; back to when it was known as the home of the Federal League’s Chi-Feds, not the Cubs. It’s an interesting tale not many people know, and it set the foundation for the last century of events at the Friendly Confines.

Cubs past, present and future. That’s our mission, and we cover all the bases this month. Subscribe to Vine Line at and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Cubs announce 2014 Spring Training broadcast schedule


(Photo by Jon Antonoff)

The Cubs unveiled their Spring Training broadcast schedule Monday afternoon, and 33 of 36 games will be available for Cubs fans via some medium. Ten games will be televised by Cubs broadcast partners WGN and Comcast, four more than last season. Also, eight games can be heard via WGN Cubs radio, and 23 will be broadcast on

WGN TV will broadcast Chicago’s first game from its new Spring Training home, Cubs Park, on Thursday, Feb. 27, against Arizona (tickets are available at WGN Radio will have its first broadcast the next day versus the Angels, with new commentator Ron Coomer making his debut. Comcast SportsNet’s first game will be Sunday, March 16, against Cleveland.

Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Chicago’s Double-A Tennessee affiliate, for most of the internet radio broadcasts.

All games start at 1:05 Arizona time unless otherwise noted. Chicago is one hour ahead of Arizona through Saturday, March 8. before moving to two hours ahead on Sunday, March 9.

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Cubs invite 24 non-roster players to big league camp


(Photo by Charlie Vascellaro)

The Cubs have invited 24 non-roster players to major league camp, including top prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora.

Spring Training kicks off Thursday, Feb. 13, when pitchers and catchers are invited to report in advance of their first formal workout on Friday, Feb. 14, at brand new Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz. The team’s first full-squad workout will be on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

The following nine pitchers have been invited to major league camp: right-handed pitchers Marcus Hatley, Kyle Hendricks, Carlos Pimentel, Armando Rivero and Brian Schlitter, as well as left-handed pitchers Tommy Hottovy, Eric Jokisch, Jonathan Sanchez and Tsuyoshi Wada.

Five infielders have been invited to major league camp: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Ryan Roberts, Chris Valaika and Jeudy Valdez.

Seven outfielders have been invited to major league camp: Albert Almora, Chris Coghlan, Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Kalish, Mitch Maier, Darnell McDonald and Casper Wells.

Three catchers have been invited to big league camp: John Baker, Rafael Lopez and Eli Whiteside. Additionally, minor league catchers Luis Flores and Will Remillard will assist.

Cubs Spring Training tickets on sale Saturday

Hunt Chicago Cubs Baseball Training Complex 12-2-13 (19)

They say it’s best to think about being somewhere warm when it’s cold outside. How does Mesa, Ariz., sound?

Spring baseball is just around the corner, and single-game Cubs Spring Training tickets will be available this weekend. Starting Saturday, Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST, fans can purchase tickets by phone at 1-800-THE-CUBS or at Fans already in Mesa can get tickets at the new Cubs Park box office at that same time and can also get a sneak peak of the ballpark between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The first game at Cubs Park will take place on Thursday, Feb. 27, against the Diamondbacks. The complete 2014 schedule can be found at

“We’re excited about our inaugural season at Cubs Park,” said Justin Piper, general manager of Spring Training business operations. “This new facility is going to be a popular attraction for Cubs and baseball fans all season long. Anyone planning to visit us for games this year will want to purchase tickets early.”

Fans with questions can email

Cubs announce Spring Training schedule

The Cubs unveiled their new Spring Training calendar Monday afternoon with 16 games to be played at Cubs Park, the organization’s new Spring Training facility. The season will kick off on Feb. 27 against the Diamondbacks and will wrap up on March 29 vs. the D-backs. The club will play a total of 36 games (16 home games, 16 road games, two games in Las Vegas, two games vs. Arizona at Chase Field).

Individual game tickets for the Cubs go on sale on Jan. 11 at 11 a.m. CST and are available at the Cubs Park ticket office, at or by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS. All games begin at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless otherwise noted. Split squad games are noted with an (ss).


Cubs face off against former division foe


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Spring Training is finally coming to a close. The Cubs wrap up 2013 preseason baseball with a two-game set in Houston this weekend to take on the newly minted AL West Astros. And in more ways than one, it’s fitting the Cubs would wrap up the spring with their old NL Central rival.

Both organizations struggled at the major league level in 2012, finishing with the two worst records in baseball. But with massive overhauls taking place in Chicago and Houston, they are definitely two of the most interesting franchises around.

Both Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow asked their fans for patience, as they entered their respective organizations after the 2011 season. And both ushered in a philosophical overhaul that could pay dividends in the not too distant future.

So far, it appears the Cubs are a little farther along than their former division rivals. Not only did they win more games last season, they also have more big league talent in place. In addition, they signed major league talent at positions where they were previously lacking—most notably with the pitching staff. Also, in order to shore up a farm system short on high-impact talent, the North Siders traded expiring contracts for some top-level prospects and had a 2012 draft many consider a success on paper.

That’s not to short Houston, however. While they might not have gotten much better at the major league level—and trading one of their best players in Jed Lowrie won’t help this year—the minor league system is improving in a hurry. With the first overall pick in the draft last season, they took a high-upside shortstop in Carlos Correa, who is already impressing. In all, Houston has five prospects in Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects list, including four in top 50.

Though each organization has seen new ownership over the last few seasons, historically, the franchises have had little trouble spending the money it takes to win. The Cubs have traditionally been near the top of the list in annual team payroll, and the Astros were in the top 10 as recently as 2009. The key will be when each respective management group feels it is truly ready to compete.

The two organizations still might struggle in 2013, but they’re a pair of clubs that should draw a lot of interest from baseball fans and executives over the next few years. With two savvy front offices, the teams could be heading toward the front of the standings shortly. And there’s a good chance they’ll both stay there for a while.

First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:05 CST. Edwin Jackson will get the start for the Cubs, opposite Alex White. Saturday’s game will start at 1:05 CST and then the team will head to Pittsburgh to open the season Monday.

Alcantara in the lineup for Cubs


At this point in Spring Training, the lineup card starts to get a little repetitive. David DeJesus, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano—in some variation—will be in the lineup. So whenever a new name enters the fray, it’s cause for excitement. With Starlin Castro out, as his girlfriend gives birth to their first child, top prospect Arismendy Alcantara will get the nod Thursday.

While Castro will undoubtedly be the Cubs Opening Day shortstop (he’s expected to rejoin the team in Houston), this gives the management group another opportunity to evaluate the 21-year-old minor league infielder. In Vine Line‘s February prospectus issue, we broke down more than 60 Cubs prospects, and Alcantara was among the group. Here’s what we said about him:

Ht/Wt: 5-10/160    •    B/T: S/R
Born: 10/29/91 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Acquired: 2008 NDFA

Alcantara popped onto the radar last season at just 20 years old with a hit tool that played up in the Florida State League. He has a lot of strengths, including a line-drive bat from both sides of the plate, a middle-of-the-field profile and good speed. Though he’s not big, he has sneaky strength and some surprising power. Alcantara has good range, and his arm rates at least plus, but his footwork (the cause of many of his throwing errors) was a focus during fall instructs. Overall, it’s an exciting package—watch for him in a loaded middle infield at Double-A Tennessee.

Alcantara hit .302/.339/.447 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with seven home runs, 51 RBI and 25 stolen bases in High-A Daytona last season.

He’ll be batting ninth as the Cubs bid farewell to HoHoKam Stadium Thursday, before heading east to Houston to finish out the spring. Carlos Villanueva will start for the North Siders, opposite Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma. The game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet or fans can go to to listen live. Here’s the lineup the Cubs will be sending out Thursday:

CF David DeJesus
2B Darwin Barney
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Dioner Navarro
3B Luis Valbuena
DH Scott Hairston
SS Arismendy Alcantara

The Cubs bid farewell to HoHoKam


When the Cubs play their final home game of the 2013 spring slate on Thursday, it will mark the end of an era for the North Siders and their fans at HoHoKam Stadium. The organization is constructing a new, state-of-the-art Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., that will be ready for the first pitch of Spring Training 2014, so this will be the last game Cubs personnel will spend in the HoHoKam home dugout.

In the last 35 years, many people associated with the Cubs have made personal connections with HoHoKam Stadium. Here are a few memories they wanted to share.

Mark Gallo, HoHoKam Stadium Manager
“My very first year at the ballpark, I was going out to my truck to leave around 7 p.m. when a car drove up with a Cubs sticker on the window. Inside were a husband and wife who had driven over from California and wanted to see the ballpark. So in we went. I spent the next hour showing Lionel Kipnis and his wife, Evalynn, the field. … Lionel is by far the biggest Cubs fan I know. During the next few days, we became friends, and Lionel discussed with me how much he admired Ron Santo and that he had even named his son after Ron. Lionel told me how much he loved reading about ‘his’ Cubs in Vine Line and how he has saved every edition. Knowing what a fan Lionel was, I surprised him a few days later by having him throw out the first pitch before a packed Spring Training game. Seeing the look on his face when he threw that pitch to Casey Coleman was priceless and a memory that will be etched in my mind forever!”

Michelle Streeter, Visit Mesa
“Sitting in the berm and soaking up Arizona’s desert sunshine.”

Len Kasper, Cubs broadcaster
“My favorite call there is one I still hear about from people who laugh about how excited I got. DJ LeMahieu hit a game-winning home run. I think it was a grand slam, in fact. And I called it like it was a big homer. For DJ, who at the time was a minor leaguer, it was a big deal to hit that home run, especially on WGN. My friends joke with me that my excitement was at least partially due to the fact that the homer helped us avoid Spring Training extra innings, but I was genuinely excited for DJ.”

Tim Sheridan, HoHoKam Stadium PA announcer
“I actually got married at HoHoKam in November 2005. My wife and I got married up on the patio on the third-base line. In the upper tier, there’s a large area where they throw big parties, and we had the ceremony there. Then on the first-base line, they have a similar situation. We had the reception over there. A lot of people said, ‘You’re getting married at a ballpark?’ Kind of scratching their heads. But by the time the wedding was over, we heard, ‘This is the best wedding I’ve ever been to.’”


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