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The accompanying article can be found in the November issue of Vine Line.
There’s no denying it—the Cubs saw marked improvement in 2014. The team is still not where it needs to be, but there were clear signs of an organization on the rise, including a 41-40 home record. When we sat down with skipper Rick Renteria before the last home game of the season, he was already thinking about next year and areas where the Cubs needed to improve. We talked to him about the team’s growth, areas he wants to work on next year and making a personal connection with the fans.
Few people had a better summer than Chris Pratt, who is currently preparing to host Saturday Night Live‘s season premiere tomorrow night. The affable actor seamlessly made the transition from television star on Parks and Recreation to silver screen action hero with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. He also has a history with baseball (well, baseball acting), having played former Athletics infielder Scott Hatteberg in the movie Moneyball. We caught up with the 35-year-old at Wrigley Field in early September when he was in town shooting an episode of his sitcom.
The major league season can be a grind. After 162 games, 26 road series, and the inevitable ups and downs of a professional schedule, you could forgive a manager for being a little drained. But when we sat down with Cubs skipper Rick Renteria early in September, he was energized by his team’s recent run of good play. We talked with him about developing the organization’s young talent, managing the expectations placed on top prospects and learning on the job as a first-year big league manager.
Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West All-Stars, who claimed the U.S. Little League title and played in the Little League World Series against South Korea, joined the Cubs for Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Little League team enjoyed a day at Wrigley Field with teammates, coaches and their families. Before the game, Cubs players celebrated JRW’s accomplishments by wearing the Little League team’s home jerseys and ball caps during pregame routines.
JRW had a meet-and-greet with Cubs players, toured the clubhouse, was recognized in the pregame ceremony—which included the team’s coach, Darold Butler, throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch—and led the crowd in “Take me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
The Cubs-worn JRW jerseys and ball caps, along with two jerseys signed by the entire JRW team, will be up for auction through Cubs Charities at www.Cubs.com/auction. Bids for jerseys will start at $100, and hats will start at $45. All proceeds will benefit Jackie Robinson West Little League.
Jake Arrieta has been in this position before. Call it being the ace of the pitching staff. Call it being the Opening Day starter. Call it being the team leader. He was all that a couple of years ago with the Baltimore Orioles. And he’s all that again now with the Chicago Cubs.
A lot has happened in the intervening time, of course, including a trade from Baltimore to Chicago and some time in the minor leagues, as Arrieta attempted to add a little more polish and command to his outstanding pure stuff. It’s all led to a dramatic career renaissance that once again has Arrieta acting as the No. 1 starter on a big league pitching staff.
We sat down with Arrieta to talk about his career path and what’s changed this season. Pick up the September issue of Vine Line for the full cover story on Arrieta’s development.
Things should get interesting for the Cubs as the season draws to a close, especially with some heralded prospects from the farm system getting late-season call-ups. When we sat down with manager Rick Renteria the day before the trade deadline, the Cubs were already getting strong performances from rookies Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks. We talked to the skipper about the team’s youth movement, dealing with the deadline doldrums and squaring off against newly minted Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Despite hailing from the Boston area, Lennie Merullo is a Cub through and through. The spry, 97-year-old former shortstop is the last surviving link to the team’s most recent World Series appearance in 1945 and is the oldest living Cub. After his seven-year playing career ended, Merullo remained with the organization for decades as a scout and said he truly bleeds Cubbie blue. He still watches every game, and his house is filled with memorabilia from his years on the North Side.
Vine Line caught up with Merullo when was honored at the park in early June. To read the complete interview, pick up the August issue.
The heart of the Cubs order will be on hand for Tuesday night’s 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis, as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will represent the North Siders in the Midsummer Classic.
Despite just being 24 years old, Castro is already participating in his third All-Star Game. After struggling for much of 2013, the shortstop has bounced back this season, hitting .276/.326/.440 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 11 home runs and 52 RBI.
Joining Castro in the NL dugout is first baseman Rizzo, who is making his first All-Star appearance. The National League’s Final Vote winner has hit 20 home runs (third in the NL) to go along with his .275/.381/.499 line and is quickly earning comparisons to some of the game’s top first basemen.
Castro and Rizzo spoke to Vine Line this week about what it means to be selected to the All-Star Game.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria is all about forward momentum. He doesn’t waste time worrying about trade rumors or other distractions. Instead, he’s focused on creating a positive learning environment and developing the team’s young major league talent. When we sat down with the skipper during a three-game sweep of the Mets in mid-June, things seemed to be heading in the right direction. We talked to Renteria about the team’s learning curve, Anthony Rizzo’s development as a hitter and the bullpen’s burgeoning youth movement.
To read the full interview, pick up the July issue at the ballpark or at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.