Results tagged ‘ Tom Ricketts ’
(Photo by Stephen Green)
President Barack Obama today announced Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this great award and to be among such distinguished honorees,” Banks said. “I have spent my life trying to help others enjoy and appreciate the sport I love. I thank President Obama for all his efforts. The Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans everywhere share in this award, as their support makes me proud to continue to work on behalf of America’s greatest game.”
According to the White House, The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“This honor is well deserved for a man who has done so much for the game of baseball,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “His contributions on and off the field have made a monumental impact to society. He is a great American ambassador who continues to spend his time and effort helping others love and appreciate America’s pastime.”
Banks joins a distinguished list of baseball players to receive this prestigious award, including Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Stan Musial (2011), Buck O’Neil (2006), Frank Robinson (2005), Jackie Robinson (1984) and Ted Williams (1991).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will serve as the honorary parade marshal of the 84th Annual Bud Billiken Parade on Sunday, Aug. 10. Ricketts becomes the first honorary marshal from the Cubs organization. The parade has long served as a way to get Chicago students excited about going back to school.
“I am honored to serve as honorary parade marshal in support of our city’s youth and education,” Ricketts said. “The Bud Billiken Parade is one of Chicago’s greatest traditions, and I am happy to join the thousands of talented youth who will be providing an atmosphere of excitement and family fun.”
Both the Cubs Trolley and the Cubs RBI team will also participate in the event.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Wednesday, May 8, was a beautiful afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The game time temperature was 60 degrees, the wind was blowing gently in from right field, and the sun was shining brightly as the division rival Cardinals were in town for a two-game set with the homestanding Cubs.
Though the bullpen would ultimately let a well-pitched game by Carlos Villanueva slip away in the late innings, things were looking good in the bottom of the fourth. After Luis Valbuena walked and Anthony Rizzo singled off starter Jake Westbrook to lead off the inning, Nate Schierholtz cracked a sharp line drive to right field to drive in two. Groundouts by Ryan Sweeney and Dioner Navarro would plate one more to give the Cubs momentum and a 4-2 lead.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, standing just to the fair side of the right-field pole near the entrance to the bleachers, stopped for a minute to catch his breath and cheer on his team. He appreciated the chance to see this momentary offensive outburst because, despite being the team’s owner, he often misses such things.
“Generally, if there’s any great action in a home game about the fourth or fifth inning, I probably don’t see it,” Ricketts said.
That’s because Ricketts does the same thing during the middle innings of every game—something that’s all but unprecedented in the world of fabulously rich, highly inaccessible professional sports owners—he talks to fans.
And he doesn’t summon them to the owner’s suite like a king calling his subjects. Nor is he chaperoned by a phalanx of security guards as he makes his way to the upper deck or the bleachers. He just pulls on his Cubs fleece, slings a bag full of baseballs (each inscribed with that day’s date and opponent) over his shoulder and heads out into the stands like a common fan. Even though he embarks from the owner’s suite, he actually mingles, shakes hands and poses for pictures—even with Cardinals fans. It’s downright strange behavior for a man of his stature.
“As Opening Day was coming up in 2010, my first year with the team, I was like, ‘What am I going to do, just stay up in the box behind the plexiglass?’” Ricketts said. “That just wouldn’t feel right. I decided if I do that, every time I start walking around the concourse, it will be a big deal, and I didn’t want that to be the case. I just want to be part of the scenery. So I basically just built it into the routine to be around.”
In an era in which professional sports owners tend to make news for all the wrong reasons (see: Loria, Jeffrey) or are faceless corporations that acquired their team as an asset in a larger deal (see: Liberty Media), Ricketts is something of a throwback. He has always seemed more like a fan than a high-powered, cold-hearted executive. Perhaps that’s why he relates to Cubs fans so strongly.
The stories of Ricketts’ ties to the team have been repeated ad infinitum since his family acquired the Cubs in 2009 from the Tribune Company for $845 million. By now, most Cubs fans know the Omaha, Neb., native first moved to Chicago at age 18 to attend the University of Chicago—just in time for the Cubs’ 1984 playoff run; that he and his brother Pete lived above the Sports Corner bar across from Wrigley Field; and that he met his wife, Cecelia, in the bleachers.
Though the organization is owned by the Ricketts family and all four siblings sit on the board, Tom is the chairman and the public face of the franchise. Before he and his family acquired the keys to the kingdom, he attended hundreds of games at Wrigley Field, so he understands what it means to be a fan. Of course, it’s one thing to relate to the fan base and share in their collective ups and downs; it’s quite another to be responsible for the fate of the franchise and the happiness of millions of fans worldwide.
“I feel a ton of pressure,” Ricketts said. “I literally wake up at three in the morning and feel like 15 million fans are standing on my chest. I feel a lot of responsibility. But we know what we’re doing is very important to a lot of people, and we have to get it done right. Any time you’re sitting in that kind of situation, you feel the pressure.”
THE MAN IN CHARGE
When Sam Zell and the Tribune Company announced their intention to sell the Cubs in 2007, Ricketts, whose father founded the investment company TD Ameritrade and is worth upwards of $1 billion, couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
The family officially acquired the team in 2009, just one year removed from an NL-best 97-win season. but the organization’s shaky foundation was beginning to crumble. The old baseball ops department had mortgaged the future in an attempt to “win now,” and Wrigley Field was in need of structural and cosmetic repairs.
In his introductory press conference, the new chairman announced three goals for his family’s stewardship of the franchise: win a World Series, preserve and improve Wrigley Field, and be good neighbors in the Chicago community. Though they have made good progress on the latter objective—in each of the Ricketts family’s three years of ownership, the Cubs have increased charitable donations—the first two have proven complex. But Ricketts is undeterred.
“He’s a very earnest person,” said longtime Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper. “I think there’s a lot of trust in what he’s told people. Everything he’s talked about since the day he bought this team, he’s followed through on. That’s really, really important for not only the public trust but also for morale within the organization.”
Ricketts has spent much of his time in the last year locked in a very public debate with rooftop owners and city politicians over his proposed restoration of Wrigley Field, which would include improved player facilities, a 6,000-square-foot scoreboard in left field, new signage around the park and additional community development. The goal is to bring in more revenue for the team and improve player facilities that are woefully below league standards. Wrigley will turn 100 years old next year—the next-oldest stadium in the NL Central was built in 2001.
“The fact is it doesn’t matter who bought the team three years ago, someone had to solve these problems and fix them,” Ricketts said. “The can has been kicked down the road for 60 years. So it’s time to make sure we address all the structural issues and make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation of fans.”
Though the team might still be far from winning a World Series, Ricketts has accomplished a lot in his short time with the club, from hiring proven baseball men like Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to getting a new Spring Training facility built in Mesa, Ariz. And though things are just starting to develop at the major league level, the minor league system has made great strides. In 2009, ESPN’s organizational expert Keith Law ranked the Cubs farm system 27th out of 30 teams. In 2013, he had the team ranked fifth.
“In general, I think the fans really do understand that what we’re trying to do is build an organization that has a strong foundation and is going to be consistently successful at some point,” Ricketts said. “Hopefully soon, but the point is not to take shortcuts, but to do things the right way.”
When the Cubs are at home, Ricketts has a standard routine for every game. He usually spends his mornings working on the business side of things. That could mean meeting with a sponsor, checking in with the ticket office or doing work in the community. These days, his mornings are generally spent facilitating the Wrigley restoration, which has necessarily pushed him out into the spotlight. But Ricketts, who comes across as every bit the Midwesterner, would rather not be the one generating headlines.
“You want the focus to be on the players, what’s happening on the field,” he said. “I think it’s a function of our circumstances. We have to do a lot to get this organization caught up to where other organizations are, and that means being out in front. Getting a new Spring Training facility, getting down to the Dominican to build a new facility there, doing what we can to get Wrigley where it has to be, I think those things push the owner out a little bit to the forward. Hopefully, over the next couple of years, all those stories are behind us, and we can be much lower profile.”
Sometimes Ricketts will get to the game early to meet special groups—on May 8, it was breast cancer survivors on hand for the Cubs’ “Pink Out” in the bleachers—but he’ll always try to be up in his suite for the first pitch. Once there, he grabs a bite to eat, makes a phone call or two, and watches the beginning of the game.
By about the second inning, he grabs his bag of baseballs and maybe a few extra front-row tickets, and heads out for his daily constitutional.
During the Cardinals game, things started out slowly. As he moved down from the suite level, a few people recognized him and asked to shake his hand. Others, seeing the commotion, tried to figure out who he was. Absent a security detail or any other telltale status giveaways, Ricketts truly could be just another fan.
As he worked his way down through Section 208, heading toward the bleachers, he spotted kids in the stands and handed out baseballs. The kids, just happy to have a ball to play with, had no idea they had just interacted with the Cubs’ owner. The parents invariably whispered conspiratorially and pulled out their cell phones to take a quick photograph.
Eventually, Ricketts got waylaid talking with a young mother of two, Jessica McCall, who was sitting under the grandstand with her two sons, Dylan, 6, and Sawyer, 3. May 8 was one of those chameleonic spring days at Wrigley Field where it feels like it’s 80 degrees in the bleacher sunshine but is relatively chilly high up in the shade. The family, thinking their seats were going to be in the sun, was underdressed in shorts and T-shirts.
“Hold on,” Ricketts said, as he moved quickly away to talk to a Wrigley Ambassador down in the outfield club boxes. “I need to move these kids into the sun. They’re freezing up there.”
Soon, he made his way back up to McCall and asked the family if they wanted to move down, which, of course, they did. The joke was, McCall’s husband, Rick, had gone into the concourse to get food for the family, so Ricketts and the group moved down by the tunnel to intercept him when he came back up.
“My 6-year-old asked if we could go move in the sun, so we were standing in the sun for a while,” McCall said. “[What Ricketts did] was really awesome. I was so shocked. It’s funny because I’m so clueless, and Rick is a huge Cubs fan. I called him and said, ‘Some guy named Tom is trying to move our seats.’”
As Ricketts patiently waited with McCall in plain view of the Wrigley faithful, he began to get swarmed—individual fans, families, even a high school group on a senior trip all stopped by to take pictures, shake his hand and ask him to sign something. Finally Rick arrived, said a sheepish hello, and the whole group moved en masse down to their new (infinitely better) seats.
What’s surprising, especially given the recent media scrutiny of the Wrigley restoration, is how overwhelmingly positive the reactions to the owner are. Of course, there’s a snide remark here and there (“Down in front, Ricketts, I paid good money for these seats”), but those are drowned out by a sea of “God bless you’s” and “I really appreciate what you’re doing around here’s.”
“I think we’re getting stuff done,” Ricketts said. “I feel really good about the direction of the team. We’ve accomplished a lot in a few years, and we’re really kind of taking all the issues head-on. I’m looking forward to getting through this part of our discussions on what happens at the park, but I think we’re really building the foundation for a great future here.”
Ricketts, for his part, is patient, talkative and genuinely seems to enjoy interacting with fans. He often remembers the names of regulars and can tell you where specific die-hards sit. He’s game to sign autographs (no body parts, please), pose with large groups or simply talk Cubs baseball.
“Getting out and talking to people just reminds me what it means to be a Cubs fan,” Ricketts said. “Honestly, in three years of walking around almost every single home game, I’ve only met great people. There have been only a couple of instances where I think anyone has said anything inappropriate. Everyone generally is supportive and engaged as a fan.
“There are days where it’s cold and wet and I’m sitting up there in the box, and I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be a great day to just turn on the space heaters and watch the game.’ But I don’t do it because once you get out and start talking to people, that’s the good part of the day for me. It’s fun.”
But what Ricketts and his family are trying to do is about more than fun. He’s trying to revitalize a franchise and do something no Cubs owner has done in more than a century. When asked what he wants his legacy with the team to be, he doesn’t miss a beat.
“First and foremost, it comes down to winning,” Ricketts said. “I think that’s what this organization needs more than anything else. There are a lot of great things you can do, like the Wrigleys—P.K. and William—they made this park beautiful with a lot of the changes they put in in the ’20s and ’30s. That’s a nice legacy, and that’s something I think is great. But, in the end, it will come down to were we able to do it on the field. And that’s still No. 1.”
In an era in which professional sports owners tend to make news for all the wrong reasons (see: Loria, Jeffrey) or are faceless corporations that acquired their team as an asset in a larger deal (see: Liberty Media), Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is something of a throwback. He has always seemed more like a fan than a high-powered, cold-hearted executive. Perhaps that’s why he relates to Cubs fans so strongly. For the June issue of Vine Line, we spent a few days following Ricketts around the Friendly Confines to get a sense of what it’s like to be the Cubs owner for a day.
What would you do if you owned the Chicago Cubs?
Think about that for a second. The Cubs are yours. Wrigley Field is yours. You even own part of Comcast SportsNet, one of the networks that broadcasts the games. So what would you do with all that power?
Would you fade into the woodwork and quietly spend your money like Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, or would you be a Mark Cuban/George Steinbrenner-type boss, who fancies himself part of the team and is constantly making waves?
On its face, it sounds like a dream job. Obviously, you’d be fabulously wealthy, enormously powerful, and could stage a fully televised, 3 a.m. Wiffle Ball tournament with all your friends at the Friendly Confines if you felt like it.
I recently got close enough to sniff what it might really be like to own the team for a day. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to reveal the unspeakable horrors of owning a professional ballclub. But it’s one thing to be a fan, love the team and offer a snarky Twitter suggestion every once in awhile about what the Cubs should do with Carlos Marmol. It’s entirely another to be responsible for the fate of the franchise and the happiness of millions of fans around the globe.
“I feel a ton of pressure,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “I literally wake up at three in the morning and feel like 15 million fans are standing on my chest. I feel a lot of responsibility. But we know what we’re doing is very important to a lot of people, and we have to get it done right.”
Almost every Cubs fan has an opinion about the Ricketts family and how they have managed the team since they took over in 2009. And we all know the three stated goals for their stewardship: bring a World Series championship to the organization, restore Wrigley Field, and be a good neighbor in the Wrigleyville community. But most people can’t really conceptualize what it would be like to walk in Tom Ricketts’ shoes.
For the June issue of Vine Line, I got the opportunity to hang out with the Cubs’ owner for a few days during the St. Louis series in mid-May. Now, this may surprise you, but I don’t get to hobnob with baseball owners all that often. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience.
In the interest of full disclosure, Vine Line is owned by the Cubs (and it therefore behooves me not to anger the man who signs the checks), but I still came away from my time with Ricketts impressed. He’s surprisingly relatable and a pretty fun guy to watch a game with (and that’s not just because we could go anywhere in Wrigley Field we wanted).
While Ricketts doesn’t exactly relish the attention he receives—“hopefully, once we get through the restorations, the stories have nothing to do with the owners,” he said—he does take time during every home game to walk the stadium and talk with the fans. What other owner does that, in any sport?
This month, we try to give you a sense of what it’s like to be the Cubs’ chairman for a day, and look at some of the things Ricketts has accomplished—and is still working to accomplish—with the Cubs.
One thing he has done is facilitate the hiring of an energetic new coaching staff that is committed to bringing a winner to the North Side sooner rather than later. We sat down with Cubs hitting coach James Rowson to talk about the team’s early offensive struggles and what he’s trying to do to help the hitters improve in his second year on staff.
We also look at versatile, new Cubs swingman Carlos Villanueva and what he brings to the team. In a profession in which ego often runs unchecked and hyperbole is the norm, the right-handed pitcher is disarmingly honest about his abilities and what he can—and can’t—do on a baseball field.
If you want to learn more about every aspect of the Cubs, from the rookie leagues to the owner’s suite, subscribe to Vine Line and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.
And, for the record, the owner’s suite is quite comfortable.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts talks to the media Monday. (Photo by Vine Line)
The Cubs and the city of Chicago reached an agreement on a renovation plan for Wrigley Field Sunday night which will give the historic landmark and the surrounding area a $500 million facelift. The plan calls for all the money to come from the baseball organization, with no public dollars needed. After unveiling the Cubs’ proposed alterations early Monday, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke to the media on the concourse level of the stadium.
“This massive investment will help us generate the resources we need for our baseball operation to develop championship-caliber players,” Ricketts said. “If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city.”
Ricketts estimated that the renovation will add 1,300 permanent jobs to the area. Much of the Q&A session was spent discussing two major topics: the proposed digital scoreboard and the leniency towards more night games.
The proposal calls for 40 night games, 10 more than the current 30 games. Should MLB or its national television contracts require them to play more than five home night games, it will not count towards the total. While there will be no proposed Saturday or Sunday games (except for national TV games), they hope to get upwards to six 3:05 Friday start times. Wrigley Field will also host up to four concerts a year.
The Cubs also proposed a 6,000 square foot digital scoreboard to be placed in left field.
“We spent a lot of time talking to our fans, about how they feel about a video board at the park,” Ricketts said. “…I like Wrigley Field, I’m very traditional, but the fact is that when you look at what the fans are asking for, to improve their game day experience, and you add to that the economic value of a video board, it becomes obvious that it’s the best step for us.”
In addition, an advertisement similar to the Toyota sign will be constructed in right field. Ricketts said he is trying to be considerate of the nearby rooftop owners and will even cantilever the scoreboard over the street to minimize blocked views.
The renovations will take an estimated five offseasons to complete. The deal is still pending final community and city approval. Other highlights to the proposal include plans to add 1,000 free remote parking spots, new public safety and traffic management plans, closing of Waveland Avenue from Sheffield to Clark before, during and after games, constructing a new two-story Captain Morgan Club for an additional merchandise store and more space in the visitors’ clubhouse, more flexible space in the left and right field corners as well as a hotel next to the stadium.
(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.
The Cubs kicked off the holiday season in fine fashion on Friday with the second annual lighting of the holiday tree and the grand opening of the Rink at Wrigley. Hundreds of fans were on hand to watch Tom and Todd Ricketts, David and Kim DeJesus, Fergie Jenkins, Congressman Mike Quigley and many others light the 30-foot tree, which is located in front of the famous Wrigley Field marquee. Chicago Cubs Charities and WGN also kicked off a toy drive at Wrigley. All presents will be donated to Jennifer Hudson’s Julian D. King Gift Foundation.
The MVP awards were handed out Thursday night, signifying the official end of the the 2012 baseball season. But just because Spring Training is still months away doesn’t mean Cubs fans can’t get their baseball fix.
From Jan. 18-20, Cubs faithful will have an opportunity to meet more than 50 current and former players, coaches and front office associates at the 28th annual Cubs Convention. For the first time in the event’s history, it will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St., and it promises to deliver all the fun and excitement of previous years.
Some of the headliners expected to attend this year include Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams; current stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Jeff Samardzija; and front office personnel like Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Individual weekend passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and there are still some available. Each pass is $60 plus convenience fees. To purchase your pass, visit cubs.com or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.
Guests can also still book rooms at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers by calling the hotel at 800-233-4100. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate of $179/night plus tax. Guests who book a two-night stay will receive a limited edition, authenticated, autographed photo of Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.
The convention will run from 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit cubs.com.
Photo by Scott McDaniel / BoiseHawks.com
It was a mistake-filled postseason opener for the Boise Hawks, who dropped Game 1 of their best-of-three divisional series to the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks). The Hawks committed four errors (SS Marco Hernandez, 2B Gioskar Amaya, 3B Jeimer Calendario and LF Trey Martin) and had a run-scoring passed ball by catcher Willson Contreras, who was needed behind the plate after Carlos Escobar sprained his ankle a week ago.
Albert Almora, the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single, and advanced to third thanks to a stolen base and a one-out wild pitch. But he was stranded there by Contreras and Martin.
Scoring Recap: Yakima took a 1-0 lead in the first on shortstop Hernandez’s throwing error, which allowed a run to score from second. The Hawks came back with a roar in the fourth inning, when Hernandez hit a leadoff triple, Dan Vogelbach and Calendario drew walks, and Rock Shoulders made it count with a grand slam. Yakima scored three to tie it in the sixth inning thanks to an RBI double, a hit by pitch, two walks (one with the bases loaded) and a run-scoring passed ball. In the ninth, Yakima’s Danny Poma legged out a disputed infield single, was moved over with a bunt and then scored on a liner (and Martin’s missed throw to the cutoff man) to put the Bears up for good.
Top Performers: Starting pitcher Pierce Johnson gave up just one unearned run in three innings of work, his longest appearance of the year. He allowed two hits and a walk while striking out two. Unfortunately, the Boise video feed was unavailable while he was on the mound.
After Jose Arias struggled with his control in the middle innings, tall left-hander Nathan Dorris (17th round, 2012) closed things out with three innings of one-run ball. Dorris used a fastball-cutter-curve-change combination and induced a number of easy ground balls with his change against right-handed batters.
Though he struck out three times on the night, Shoulders pulled a 3-2 hanging slider over the right field fence for his third grand slam of the year. He was the Cubs’ 25th-round pick in the 2011 draft and hit for a .250/.342/.447 line in 63 games with Boise.
Tonight’s Starting Pitchers: Taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, right-hander Tayler Scott takes the hill for the Hawks. When scouting director Tim Wilken (now a special assistant to the GM) selected the pitcher last summer, he noted Scott’s exceptionally quick arm, athleticism and coordinated delivery. Those attributes could play a big part in his development as he fills out his growing 6-foot-3 frame. Scott was born in South Africa, where he was a promising soccer player. Though he didn’t start pitching until high school, he isn’t as raw as you might expect. He competed well against older guys in the fall instructional league last October, posting a 2.52 ERA in 71.1 innings of work.
He keeps the ball on the ground thanks to a low-to-mid-90s fastball that has some sink. His curveball is developing quickly—he snapped some great ones with Boise this year and has shown good feel for the pitch—and rounds out his arsenal with a change-up.
Yakima’s Daniel Watts was Arizona’s 32nd-round pick in the 2012 draft. The left-hander has a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts this year.
Listen Live: Yakima doesn’t have a video feed, but you can listen to Boise’s Mike Safford on MiLB.com.
Watchful Eyes: If you want an idea of how important these youngsters are to the future of the Chicago Cubs, you don’t have to look much further than the crowd. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, SVP of Player Development and Scouting Jason McLeod and Chairman Tom Ricketts were all in attendance.
In an interview with the Idaho Statesman’s Chris Langrill, Ricketts emphasized that there’s daily excitement for this Hawks team.
“I read the scouting reports every morning,” he said. “We’re very excited. There’s a lot of guys from this year’s draft and last year’s draft and international players that have all stepped up.”