Results tagged ‘ Wrigley Field ’
The Chicago Cubs and Nuveen Investments announced a Legacy Partnership Thursday that extends the long-term relationship between the two organizations. Nuveen, a leading global provider of investment services to institutions and individual investors, has been a partner of the Cubs since 2005.
“Our Legacy Partners have shown a long-term commitment and belief in the Chicago Cubs, and we’re proud to see Nuveen continue their support that traces beyond this newly expanded relationship,” said Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts. “We’re pleased to have Nuveen on board as a vital partner as we embark on the greatest journey in sports.”
As part of the expanded Legacy Partnership, Nuveen continues to hold naming rights to the Nuveen Investments Suite Level, and the company will be featured with signage behind the visitors’ on-deck area, exposure on the new left-field video board and other prominent in-park signage. The partnership also provides Nuveen with opportunities to host clients at Cubs games and other special events at Wrigley Field.
“Nuveen is excited to continue its long-standing support of one of Chicago’s most recognized institutions,” said John Amboian, chairman and CEO of Nuveen Investments. “We look forward to sharing an exciting future with the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and importantly, a loyal fan base unlike any other in sports.”
Nuveen becomes the eighth Legacy Partner of the Chicago Cubs, joining American Airlines, Anheuser-Busch, ATI Physical Therapy, Sloan Valve Company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Under Armour and Wintrust.
The Cubs are just a few days away from kicking off the 2015 season in grand fashion with a nationally televised Opening Night matchup against the division-rival Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The evening will begin with a tribute to late Hall of Famer, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, who passed away at the age of 83 in January and will also include an on-field performance by local rock group Fall Out Boy.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the three-game opening set.
Opening Homestand Recap, April 5-8
Sunday, April 5, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Special tribute: Ernie Banks pregame ceremony, moment of silence and in-game tributes
- Promotions: Commemorative No. 14 pin (all fans); Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Giordano’s (first 30,000 fans)
- Pregame entertainment: Fall Out Boy
- National Anthem: Wayne Messmer; God Bless America: London Lo
- First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: Ernie Banks’ sons, Joey and Jerry Banks
- Broadcast: ESPN2-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, April 7, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Jack Daniel’s (first 30,000 adults age 21-and-older)
- National Anthem: Members of Chicago-based ‘60s band The Buckinghams
- Seventh-inning stretch: Lombard, Illinois-native band Plain White T’s
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, April 8, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:20 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kristian Bush from Sugarland
- Broadcast: WLS-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
- Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball post-game at Union Station
In an expanded deal between Audi, its Chicagoland & NW Indiana Audi Dealers and the Chicago Cubs, Audi has become the new naming rights partner for the Audi Club at Wrigley Field. The multiyear agreement furthers the Audi brand’s presence as the Official Luxury Vehicle of the Chicago Cubs.
The Audi Club, formerly known as the United Club, is a pre- and postgame gathering place located on the south side of Wrigley Field, just west of Gate D, at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue. The club is open for Cubs Season Ticket Holders who have purchased a membership during each home game and will continue to offer a VIP experience while adding special German fare this season. The club offers an array of gourmet a la carte menu items, along with a delicious pregame Chef’s Table featuring specialties from Levy Restaurants. A club membership and ticket to the game are required to enter the Audi Club.
“Audi and our dealers take pride in providing a luxury experience to our customers, so we’re pleased to extend our presence at Wrigley Field in a premier space where members and their guests can feel like VIPs,” said Andrea Santilli, marketing manager for Audi in the Midwest.
The Audi Club naming rights deal expands an existing relationship with the Cubs that had included the former Audi Legends Suite and ongoing presenting partnership of the Season Ticket Holder Lounge at the team’s annual Cubs Convention.
“Our fans and Season Ticket Holders have enjoyed the premier access and experiences provided by Audi throughout our partnership,” said Cubs Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships Allen Hermeling. “We are very pleased to expand that relationship to now include the Audi Club at Wrigley Field.”
Rock group O.A.R. performed during last year’s Extra Innings Show. Fitz & The Tantrums will rock the stage from the Wrigley Field outfield this year. (Photo by Stephen Green)
This season at Wrigley Field, “Weekends Start Here” as the Cubs and Budweiser team up to present new Budweiser Bleacher Fridays on select dates throughout the 2015 season. Budweiser Bleacher Fridays will feature pre- or postgame entertainment, exclusive giveaway items, special food and beverages and more.
This year’s schedule is headlined by a postgame Extra Innings Show featuring Fitz & The Tantrums, a modern pop combo known for their chart-topping hits including “Fool’s Gold,” “Out Of My League” and “The Walker.” The band will perform from the field shortly after the Cubs host the White Sox on July 10 at Wrigley Field. The show is open to all game attendees and Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive an Extra Innings Concert koozie.
Other Budweiser Bleacher Friday themes include a Beach Bash (May 29); Country Day (June 12); Red, White and Brew (July 3); a ’90s Day (Aug. 21); and a Singles and Doubles Day (Sept. 18).
Tickets to each Budweiser Bleacher Friday game are available through the Budweiser Bleacher Fridays page at cubs.com. Details about each event follow, with future information to be released leading up to each pertaining homestand.
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays:
Beach Bash, May 29 vs. Kansas City Royals, 3:05 p.m. CDT
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays kick off in true summer style with a Beach Bash on May 29 vs. the Kansas City Royals. Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a pair of summer sunglasses for the game, while enjoying special entertainment, music, concessions and a beach-themed postgame party in Wrigleyville.
Country Day, June 12 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 3:05 p.m. CDT
The Cubs will go country on June 12 vs. the Cincinnati Reds. Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive a country cap, while country music hits will play between innings throughout the game. Budweiser Bleacher guests should arrive hungry for some homestyle cooking and leave room for fun at a postgame party in Wrigleyville.
Red, White and Brew, July 3 vs. Miami Marlins, 1:20 p.m. CDT
Fans can show their patriotism while catching a game during Red, White and Brew vs. the Miami Marlins. Budweiser Bleacher guests can soak up the sun in their new patriotic Cubs tank while enjoying lively summer hits and patriotic music along with classic American fare.
Extra Innings Show, July 10 vs. Chicago White Sox, 3:05 p.m. CDT
Pop band Fitz & The Tantrums will headline an Extra Innings Show on the field following the Cubs vs. White Sox rivalry opener on July 10. The show is open to all game attendees, and Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive an Extra Innings Concert koozie. Members of the band will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch and lead the seventh-inning stretch.
’90s Day, Aug. 21 vs. Atlanta Braves, 3:05 p.m. CDT
The ’90s are coming back for at least one afternoon, as the Cubs host ’90s Day on Aug. 21 vs. the Atlanta Braves. Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive a re-issue neon Cubs hat in its popular pink color. The game will feature sounds of the decade with popular ’90s music playing between innings.
Singles and Doubles Day, Sept. 18 vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:20 p.m. CDT
The final Budweiser Bleacher Friday will help turn singles into doubles as Cubs fans mingle in the Budweiser Bleachers on Sept. 18 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Each guest will receive a three-quarter-length-sleeve top and the afternoon will include fun social media interaction and creative food pairings.
Following the passing of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs have announced plans to pay tribute to the Hall of Famer during Spring Training, Opening Night at Wrigley Field and throughout the 2015 season.
Beginning in Spring Training and continuing throughout 2015, the team will wear a commemorative No. 14 patch on both its home and away jerseys. The Cubs will open their Spring Training schedule by wearing No. 14 hats during both split-squad games on March 5, with additional acknowledgments planned for that day’s opening game at Sloan Park.
Banks will also be honored with a pregame ceremony before Major League Baseball’s Cubs vs. Cardinals Season Opener at Wrigley Field on April 5. Each fan attending that night’s game will receive a commemorative pin in honor of the Cubs’ beloved shortstop. Fans will see many other tributes paying homage to Banks’ remarkable life and career throughout the evening.
A collection of videos, photos and articles have been posted to Cubs.com over the last several weeks, and Vine Line will publish a special feature edition honoring Mr. Cub in March.
Additional tributes will be finalized and incorporated throughout the 2015 season.
“There is no level of recognition that can properly acknowledge how much Ernie Banks meant to this franchise and fan base,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “Collectively, we must ensure Mr. Cub’s legacy rightfully lives on at the Friendly Confines and with future generations of baseball fans.”
Inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977, Banks was a lifelong Cub who played for 19 seasons. He was a 14-time All-Star and back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959. He hit 512 home runs in his career, and his 277 home runs as a shortstop remain a National League record.
Among Cubs players, Banks ranks first in games played (2,528), at-bats (9,421), extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706); second in home runs (512), RBI (1,636) and hits (2,583); third in doubles (407); fifth in runs scored (1,305); seventh in triples (90); and eighth in walks (763).
While still a player in 1967, Banks turned his eye to coaching and served in that role through 1973, becoming the first African-American to manage a major league team on May 8, 1973, when he took over for the ejected Whitey Lockman.
He was the first Cub to have his number retired in 1982, was voted to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team in 1999, and was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Cubs announce legacy partnership with Sloan Valve Co.; Spring Training facility in Mesa now called Sloan Park
The Chicago Cubs and Sloan Valve Company today announced Sloan will become the naming rights partner of Sloan Park—formerly Cubs Park—the team’s Spring Training facility in Mesa, Arizona. Sloan, a global brand based in the Chicago area, joins the team as a Legacy Partner and the official water efficiency partner of the Chicago Cubs.
Sloan has been a leading global manufacturer of water-efficient solutions for 109 years. As a fourth-generation family business, Sloan prides itself on promoting a healthy environment through water conservation and understands what it means to build a legacy. The Cubs will utilize Sloan’s products in the newly-named Sloan Park in Mesa and target integration inside Wrigley Field and its surrounding facilities as part of the 1060 Project construction—helping the organization expand its ongoing sustainability efforts.
In addition to the Spring Training facility naming rights, Sloan will have a branding presence at Wrigley Field, including fixed signage in the visiting team’s bullpen.
“Teaming up with Sloan—another family-owned company based in Chicago with more than a century of history—is an important move for the Cubs as we look to provide clean and sustainable water solutions for our facilities in both Mesa and Chicago,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
Sloan becomes the sixth Legacy Partner of the Chicago Cubs, joining Anheuser-Busch, ATI Physical Therapy, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Under Armour and Wintrust.
“Sloan is passionate about providing intelligent water solutions to the communities we serve,” said Sloan President Jim Allen. “We are excited to have a major presence both in Chicago and Mesa to authentically convey the message of water sustainability.”
(Photo by David Durochik)
Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season is in the books. To celebrate the milestone, the Cubs embarked on an unprecedented and ambitious plan for a yearlong celebration. Now that it’s over, we take a look back at how it all came together. The following can be found in the December issue of Vine Line.
Under the best of circumstances, party planning can be stressful. There’s deciding on the menu, stocking the bar, planning activities to ensure revelers have a good time, figuring out what to wear, and compiling an interesting and appropriate guest list.
Now imagine your party swelled to include some 2.6 million people and lasted for 81 days. Daunting doesn’t even begin to describe it.
When the Cubs set out to throw fans the Party of the Century during the 2014 season to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday, it was a nearly unprecedented task. The only other franchise that had attempted anything near this scale was the Boston Red Sox, who celebrated Fenway Park’s centennial with an amazing one-day blowout on April 20, 2012.
But, unlike their Boston counterparts, the Cubs decided to make their celebration last all season long, thereby embarking on one of the most ambitious and lengthy promotional campaigns ever attempted in professional sports.
Throughout the year, the Cubs tied in most of their activities during 10 different decade-themed homestands to the Wrigley Field 100 theme. They brought in special guests who had a connection with the decade being celebrated, including Pat Brickhouse, the widow of late, great broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, and Lennie Merullo, the last living link to the Cubs’ most recent World Series team in 1945; they wore 10 different throwback uniforms, more than any other team had ever attempted; they created a set of 10 era-specific bobbleheads, from Babe Ruth’s called shot to a Rick Sutcliffe first night game edition with working lights; they offered 10 different historic toys to children on Sundays, like a Cubs Etch A Sketch and a Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby; and they served up historic food and drink options, from a classic Old Fashioned to the famous Vienna Beef Decade Dogs.
This, coupled with an improved team, added up to an increase in attendance over the previous season and some 2.25 billion media impressions—double what the Cubs were expecting—about the Wrigley Field 100 celebration on TV and radio, in print and online, including in nonsporting outlets like The New York Times, The Today Show and Forbes magazine.
So how did it all come together?
* * * *
Though the organization had its collective eye on the centennial for years, the real planning kicked off with an email sent in December 2012, a full 16 months before the key season was set to kick off on April 4, 2014. Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller, who had just joined the Cubs from General Mills in July 2012, gathered her team for a kickoff meeting and brainstorming session about Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. To get everyone in the mood, there were cupcakes, hats and party favors.
“It was an exciting time because you’re sitting around a table throwing ideas around, and you realize the opportunities are almost endless,” said John Morrison, manager of brand activation. “The difficulty was figuring out, oh, there are so many opportunities and so many wonderful things we can do that the players, front office, fans, single-game ticket purchasers and season ticket holders would all love. Let’s really dial this thing in on what are going to be the coolest, most impactful things.”
To generate ideas for the celebration, the Cubs looked for inspiration off the field. Because there were really no other sports teams that had attempted anything like this, the Cubs looked at companies that were adept at celebrating key milestones—first and foremost, Disney.
The Mouse House has always had a keen eye for integrating its promotions throughout the company.
“It’s one thing to have the anniversary, but it’s all in how you integrate it, not only in your advertising, but in your own organization,” Miller said. “Then you’re in meetings, and people are saying, ‘Well, what if we tied it into the 100th, or how can we make this tie into the campaign?’ That’s what I want as a marketing person. If anybody’s thinking of an idea, they’re bringing it back to the campaign.
“Then, as the consumer, you’re seeing a very holistic look from us. You’re seeing anything from the Cubs this year was all tied to Wrigley Field turning 100. Everything from the boxes of tickets that you got, to when you show up at the ballpark, to the giveaways that we did, to the uniforms that we’re wearing, to the food that we served—everything is really synced into one campaign.”
Early on, the brain trust decided the celebration should focus on Wrigley Field, not just the Cubs. That opened up a world of possibilities for the marketing team. Though the Cubs have now played at the ballpark for 98 years, they were not the original tenants. That honor belongs to the Chi-Feds of the old Federal League. And Wrigley has hosted much more than just baseball over the years, including Bears football, boxing, ski jumping, hockey, soccer and concert events.
Once the Cubs settled on the yearlong decades concept, they enlisted Chicago advertising agency Schafer Condon Carter to help them flesh out how they would put the idea into action. The agency came up with the 10 Decades/10 Homestands theme and the Party of the Century tag, and the Cubs were off and running.
The next goal was to get everybody in the organization on board. To make a promotion of this magnitude work, the marketing team needed buy-in from all levels of the organization. This necessitated a number of meetings to get everyone pulling in the same direction, but it also included little things like making sure every team employee received Cubs merchandise with the Wrigley Field 100 logo to wear throughout the season.
“I remember at one of the first meetings, [business president Crane Kenney] was like, ‘Everyone has to get behind the 100th. This is our big initiative,’” Miller said. “That set the tone, but orchestrating that is a lot.
Making sure everyone’s synced up. … That was a little bit more of a challenge, but that’s personally rewarding as well when it all comes together. I think we look back, and it’s like, holy cow, this was a lot that we did. But we pulled it off.”
* * * *
One of the first fan-facing initiatives of the 100th birthday celebration was the Wrigley Field Turns 100 Logo Contest, which allowed people to submit logo designs to be featured on all Cubs promotional items, in the ballpark and on team uniforms throughout the 2014 season. The Cubs received more than 1,200 submissions in February 2013, and fans voted on the designs through April 23, 2013.
The reason this was done so early is because the Cubs needed the lead-time to produce the Wrigley Field 100 merchandise, complete with logo. This included team uniforms, which had to be submitted to the league and manufacturer Majestic Athletic early in the 2013 season. The now-ubiquitous winning logo, designed by Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, was unveiled in August, but by then, the merchandising machine was already in full swing.
The 10 decade-specific throwback uniforms, which made their debut with 1914 Chi-Feds attire at the 100th birthday game, turned out to be one of the more popular promotions the team ran. Following April 23, the Cubs and their visitors each wore historic uniforms on the first home Sunday of each decade celebration.
Throwbacks have been popular throughout the game in recent years, but, according to Majestic, no team had ever attempted something as ambitious as creating 10 uniforms to be worn by both the home team and the visitors.
“[Majestic] kind of looked at us like, ahh, do you know what you’re getting into?” said Lyndsey Wittemann, coordinator of Authentics and licensing, who was in charge of the season’s retro looks.
The goal was to find uniforms that harkened back to significant events at Wrigley Field during each decade of the ballpark’s history. The marketing team put together a committee, which included Cubs board member Todd Ricketts, to help decide which uniforms to use. Wittemann had to coordinate with Major League Baseball, Majestic and the visiting teams to make sure everyone was on board and the uniforms were as historically accurate as possible.
“We obviously looked into the top moments at Wrigley Field to kind of figure out which one from each decade we wanted to celebrate,” she said. “From there, we would go and try to find some historical images of each uniform, and make sure we had one of every angle and of every component. Then we sent over the images and the years we wanted to do to Majestic. They did their own background research on top of ours and compiled everything all into one uniform and sent a sample out to us.”
This was also one of the more interesting promotions because it actually impacted the players, who found new, historic uniforms hanging in their lockers 10 times in 2014.
“The players absolutely loved the uniforms,” Wittemann said. “A lot of the players actually wanted them for themselves. Many players were like, ‘Oh, this is my favorite. I’m keeping this one.’”
By this point, the marketing team was also cranking out ideas and designs for the 10 bobblehead and toy giveaways. Before producing the bobbleheads, the Cubs needed to work with either the individuals or the estates representing the individuals for each idea to get likeness clearances. For the retro toy series, they had to work with the different toy manufacturers. But all parties quickly realized what a unique opportunity it was to feature themselves, their family member or their product at the Wrigley Field 100 celebration.
“This was really an opportunity for us to showcase all the unbelievable events and historic events and milestones that have taken place at Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “There was an opportunity here to showcase things we’ve never before had such an ideal opportunity to showcase—and probably won’t in the near future.”
The real trick, according to the marketing team, was settling on just 10 concepts for each type of giveaway.
“To take 100 years of history and only represent 10 moments or figures is a very difficult thing to do,” Morrison said. “There were concerts at Wrigley Field. There have been ski jumps, boxing matches, basketball games, soccer matches. They’re all so unique and neat, and a lot of fans don’t even know these ever existed. So, yeah, there was tons of discussion. Do we do this boxing match, or do we do the Harlem Globetrotters, or do we do the Chicago Sting? We could have done a 50-bobblehead set. No question.
“You’d be surprised, with all the big issues that come across people’s desks when working for a professional sports team, how much discussion about which 10 moments we should celebrate [there was]. How those can quickly get prioritized to the top of the list. It was comical.”
Once the season drew near, it was time to start scheduling visits from the people who made the Wrigley Field 100 festivities so special. Every year, the Cubs bring in guests to throw out the first pitch and sing the seventh-inning stretch at home games. For 2014, they decided each visitor should tie in to the promotion or decade if possible. They still went for A-list celebrities like Chris Pratt and Charles Barkley when the opportunity arose, but they also tried to bring in former Cubs players from each decade or people who had a special connection to the era.
Over the course of the season, the Cubs welcomed guests like Joe Tinker’s family members; Sue Quigg, the grandniece of former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman; Merullo; and former Bears players Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. Quigg, who passed away during the 2014 season, was on hand for the birthday game, where she tossed a 100-year-old ball her grandmother once threw at a Federals game.
“When you get someone who hasn’t been back here in 30, 40 years, and they step onto the field for that first time, it’s like they’re going back in time,” said Jim Oboikowitch, manager of game and event production. “When [the media] talks to them, it’s just exciting for them, and they’re back in that same spot they were in 30, 40, 50 years ago.”
* * * *
The crown jewel of the Wrigley Field 100 celebration was obviously the 100th birthday blowout on April 23. That was the day the marketing team and the entire Cubs organization breathed a collective sigh of relief that this was actually happening—that they had pulled it off—after more than a year of planning.
Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they breathed that sigh of relief on April 24. On the previous day, much of the Cubs team, including Manager of Broadcast Relations Joe Rios, had been up for more than 24 hours helping coordinate the various photo shoots, newscasts and media requests from outlets around the world. But, ultimately, the day was still all about the fans.
“I think when you really had that ‘ah ha!’ moment that this is a special day was before the pregame festivities even started, when lines started to form around Wrigley Field,” Morrison said. “They were wrapping from under the marquee north down Clark. The lines at Gate K were wrapping east down Waveland, and the fans were lined up north along Sheffield hours before first pitch.
“At that moment, I understood, wow, this is important to all these people. It’s not that the newscasters are here, and these historic figures are here. These are the people of Chicago. These are the people that have come to Wrigley Field over the past 100 years, taking their moment to celebrate and take this all in.”
To make the day worthy of the venue, the team brought in former athletes or their relatives, team representatives and dignitaries who helped shape Wrigley Field; actors and grounds crew members dressed in period costumes; the first 30,000 fans went home with replica 1914 Chi-Feds jerseys; a biplane flyover punctuated the pregame festivities; the Cubs released balloons from behind the left-field wall; the crowd serenaded Wrigley Field with “Happy Birthday” after the fifth inning; and everyone went home with a cupcake thanks to Jewel-Osco.
Feedback from fans and the media was universally positive, and the marketing team was able to finally enjoy the moment later that night at the Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball at the Field Museum. To a person, the only thing the group said they regret is that the Cubs couldn’t bring home a victory to cap the afternoon. The Cubs (dressed as the Federal League’s Chi-Feds) dropped the game 7-5 to the Arizona Diamondbacks (dressed as the Kansas City Packers).
“The 23rd will always stand out because we’re not going to see the 200th birthday,” Oboikowitch said. “You and I are only here for one of these.”
While it’s nearly impossible to explain all the work that went into—and all the people who played a part in—pulling off the Party of the Century at Wrigley Field, it was definitely a labor of love for everyone in the Cubs organization.
“It was certainly daunting to a certain degree,” Morrison said. “But any sense of being overwhelmed is quickly squashed when you step back and realize, as a lifelong Cub fan, I am in a position to evaluate what are all the figures and moments that make up Wrigley Field, and how can we represent those the best to showcase them to people just like me, who grew up fans of the team and of the ballpark.”
NOTE: THE HOLIDAYS THE BEST TIME TO SUBSCRIBE TO VINE LINE. FROM NOW UNTIL JAN. 1, 2015, USE THE PROMO CODE MERRY, AND YOU CAN GET VINE LINE FOR JUST $22/YEAR.
Now things are starting to get fun. Last month when I sat down to write this letter, I was reflecting on the improvements of the past year and the splash the Cubs made by signing free-agent manager Joe Maddon to a five-year contract. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein had recently spoken about how the organization was turning a corner and how he expected the Cubs to contend for the NL Central crown in 2015.
“We’re going to be very involved [in the free-agent market],” Epstein said. “It’s starting to be the right time to add impact talent.”
I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t exaggerating. Christmas came early for Cubs fans when the team landed coveted left-hander Jon Lester, righty Jason Hammel, All-Star catcher Miguel Montero and backup catcher David Ross around December’s Winter Meetings.
Lester, whom the Cubs signed to a six-year deal with an option for a seventh, was the jewel of the offseason pitching market, and several top teams—including the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers—waged a fierce battle over him. Though those teams have been postseason fixtures in recent years, Lester ultimately chose to come to Chicago and reunite with Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, the executives who drafted him back in 2002 with Boston.
For years, people have questioned the front office’s plan for the organization, and many wondered aloud if and when they could get a major free agent to buy into their vision. But the Cubs’ plan all along has been to rebuild the minor league system as quickly as possible and add impact players from outside the organization when the time was right.
These recent moves weren’t a deviation. They were a confirmation.
The Cubs’ pitch to Lester, who turns 31 years old on Jan. 7, centered around the lure of bringing a World Series title to the North Side, the unrivaled young talent filling the system and the restoration of Wrigley Field, which will soon provide players with some of the best facilities in the game.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think [the Cubs] were going to win in 2015,” Lester said. “So that’s how I think. I’m never going to say, ‘Well, we’ll be all right this year, and we’ll get ‘em next year.’ I’m going in with the intention of winning in 2015. And that means the division, that means the World Series, that means everything. Like I said, I don’t like to lose. You can call it arrogant, you can call it cocky, whatever you want. But I like to win, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
The baseball world has long been drooling over the Cubs’ preponderance of young bats, from Javier Baez to Kris Bryant to Addison Russell to Jorge Soler. Add that to an already solid bullpen and proven major league players like Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Hammel, Lester and Montero, and you’ve really got something.
This month, we only touch on the recent signings, which hit the Chicago area like a tsunami moments before we went to press. Next month, we’ll take a deep dive into all the moves (along with providing our annual minor league prospectus).
It’s funny how fast things change. Last I checked, the Cubs were at 12-1 odds to win the World Series at online sports book Bovada. Like I said, things are starting to get fun.
Speaking of fun, in this month’s issue, we get the backstory on three decades of the Cubs Convention, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary from Jan. 16-18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. We also shed some light on the charitable work the team performed in the last year as part of its 100 Gifts of Service, the club’s most ambitious philanthropic initiative ever. Finally, we get our first chance to talk to new hitting coach John Mallee about his philosophy and what he hopes to achieve on the North Side. With a talented crop of young players now under his tutelage, it’s safe to say the Chicago native is eager to get started.
Here’s the good news: We’re just one month away from pitchers (Lester, Hammel) and catchers (Montero, Ross) reporting to Spring Training. As always, look for us at the convention, where we’ll be renewing subscriptions, meeting fans, and possibly hosting a player or two. See you there.
(Photo by David Durochik)
Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment per day.
The Cubs celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday—April 23
Reaching 100 years old deserves a little fanfare, and the Cubs pulled out all the stops to properly celebrate Wrigley Field’s big day on April 23.
A number of dignitaries were on hand for the special pregame ceremony, including Cubs alums like Andre Dawson and Ryan Dempster; Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, who called Wrigley Field home until the 1971 NFL season; then-Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig; and representatives of past Cubs ownership groups.
The Cubs took the field wearing 1914 Chi-Feds uniforms as part of the team’s yearlong throwback celebration. The visiting Arizona D-backs sported Kansas City Packers uniforms to re-create the Federal League matchup that took place 100 years ago when the stadium first opened its doors.
Fans dressed up in period costumes, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” during the fifth inning as balloons flew from behind the left-field wall, and Dutchie Caray, widow of beloved broadcaster Harry Caray, led a group of Wrigley alumni in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Though the Cubs/Chi-Feds ultimately dropped the game 7-5, it was certainly a day to remember for fans and alums alike.
The Chicago Cubs and Wintrust Financial Corporation Wednesday announced their Legacy Partnership introducing Wintrust as the exclusive official banking partner of the Cubs, Hickory Street Capital LLC and Cubs Charities.
Starting in 2015, the Wintrust sign will be prominently displayed throughout Wrigley Field. The most recognizable position will be atop the left field video board that will be constructed this offseason. The partnership will expand over time and include:
- Primary signage rights above the new left field video board.
- Exclusive ATM provider rights. Fans will be able to use Wintrust ATMs at multiple locations within Wrigley Field.
- Logo placement on the team’s media backdrop.
- Eventual naming rights of the ballpark’s Gate D on the corner of Addison and Sheffield avenues. Gate D will be named “The Wintrust Gate” once its renovation is complete.
- Rotational signage behind home plate.
- A video board feature between innings at every Cubs home game.
- A presenting sponsorship of a game each season, including a special promotional giveaway item for fans.
- A presence at the team’s Spring Training home, Cubs Park, in Mesa, Arizona, with signage in the outfield and behind home plate, promotional space at the ballpark and a promotional date each season.
- A retail lease in the future entertainment plaza and hotel development adjacent to Wrigley Field, through a separate agreement with the Ricketts family’s Hickory Street Capital LLC.
“It was important for us to find a strong local player for our Financial Legacy Partner,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “This Legacy Partnership pairs these two Chicago institutions for years to come, and we know our fans will support Wintrust’s role as a critical partner in helping the team achieve its goals of winning a World Series, saving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor. Wintrust is a perfect fit for us.”
The Wintrust Legacy Partnership agreement was secured by the Cubs’ agency, W Partners, which was launched in February 2013.
“This is more than a sports sponsorship,” said Ed Wehmer, Wintrust CEO and founder. “This is two Chicago institutions partnering to meet two lofty goals—one to win the World Series for the first time in more than a century and the other to become Chicago’s bank in an increasingly fragmented and competitive market. You can see a lot of parallels in our two organizations.”
Wintrust becomes the fifth Legacy Partner of the Cubs, joining Anheuser-Busch, ATI Physical Therapy, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Under Armour.