Forget ‘Rent’. Let’s Own. Maddon’s here…let’s do this!

Another piece to get excited about looking ahead to 2015!

WELCOME TO CHICAGO, JOE MADDON!

2013: OPENING DAY – The Astros are gone, but we still have Pittsburgh

Attention Pittsburgh Pirates: time to come back down to Earth. It’s 2013 nearly Opening Day and it would be great if you could kick things off with a loss to the Cubs. And I don’t just mean a loss of Game One. I mean lose the entire series.

Nothing makes your 101 losses look good like a team that loses 107. Unfortunately, that team has up and left for the American League and while we’re working on being able to take care of making ourselves look good in the future, we aren’t there yet and could use some help. No Astros around to count on and you’ve been so reliable for so many years, naturally I come to you first.

A second set of hands in moving (to Rosemont?), a ride to the airport, an allowed opening series sweep to my beloved Chicago Cubs? I wouldn’t even think to ask those stingy Cardinals, those stubborn Brewers or those selfish Reds. The Cardinals are never going to help us do anything. The Brewers? Maybe Aramis, but that’s about it. And the Reds are so far up their own with all the hype and expectations people are throwing around for them this season there’s almost no talking to them as far as I can tell in 2013.

The Cardinals will try as they always do to ruin the party only this year it will be the Reds’ party they’ll look to wreck. The two of them will standout among us all in the Central and the Cubs will likely continue improving, yet in a stealth-in-the-standings, back in the shadows type of way. We’ll have a shortshop who will likely finish top 10 in the NL in hitting, an ‘ace’ of a starting pitcher in J-Sam (just a result of tired from typing fingers), a young bright future coming to fruition at first base and a number of older veterans who could be here today, gone tomorrow throughout all of 2013 and a stable of young talent billed as the future with little to no hope of breaking through and making the future come quicker than 2014/2015. Sometime early on in the year with the team atop the standings would be fantastic but very unlikely. We’ll do our thing and continue to look to build the franchise into a winner again through the ‘this-is-how-we-play-Cubs-baseball- minor league system and being wise when it comes to free agency.

Eventually, we’ll have quite a few dollars cleared up after Soriano is no longer in town although I look forward to having him on the team for as long as possible in 2013. I like Soriano. He could have been a special Cub in my opinion in the likes of Banks, Santo, Sandberg, Fergie, Maddox…only it would have taken a championship to do so because unfairly for him, he happened to be paid a ton more than they ever were or would be so the expectations were that much higher. If we hadn’t been swept in the playoffs for two seasons straight, and if the Cubs had been able to work the miracle we’re all waiting for, Soriano would have been a hero. Instead, he’s simply a talented player on the backside of his career who is somehow plugging along and contributing numbers that no one thought was possible. I’m going to continue watching him do what he can while he’s with us and enjoy the stories of how he is looking to help develop the young talent this ballclub has and give them any insight he can on what he’s seen that it takes to be great.

Sveum has his hands full once again this season with realistic-to-high expectations, although the expectations are more realistic and the hope is as always with Cubs fans, frustratingly high. No matter what we feel a realistic finish will be, as long as the games count, there is always that nagging hope that if the expectations are low, that we end up being wrong…in a good way.

Hardly a third baseman to be found and talent that is either too old or too green, we’re working our way to where we want to be. I believe in the process the front office is taking and I’m looking forward to 2013 being another solid rung in the ladder we’re climbing in getting to the top.

I am expecting frustration and our fair share of fun renditions of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and on a personal level, continuing to teach my son that you root root not for the home team, but the ‘Cubbies’ and to plan our trip to Wrigley next year for Wrigley’s 100th birthday. Man, my kid sure does love to sing happy birthday and I can’t think of a better inanimate object to sing it to. However, we are in the middle of building something great here. And not rebuilding mind you because to rebuild something, you had to have something to begin with. We haven’t had something in a long time and we are building the organization up to get there. Enough talk about what to do with Wrigley Field and how to get a deal done for stadium improvements and settling up with city officials and rooftop owners. We’ve had all off-season to talk about these things but right now, come Monday, it’s time again to focus on what is happening on the field and how its going to get us where we want to be. I’m look forward to seeing how Rizzo, Castro, Samardzija, Soriano, Castillo and Edwin Jackson  do this year and I hope we figure out 3rd base as soon as possible. I’m not making plans to attend a parade in October, but I am looking forward to how 2013 fits into the big picture of potentially doing so one day for the Cubs.

We kick things off with Pittsburgh this Monday and it won’t be all uphill or downhill from there at all. It is going to be one heck of a bumpy ride.

I’ve been sitting in the car waiting to go since last Fall when the final game of 2012 wrapped up. My seat belt is on and I’m ready to go. Bumps and all. 2013, here we come. Beat those Pirates…..and Go Cubs Go!

Prosecard from Cubs Nation – 2013 – Anthony Huether

One of my favorite features of Prose and Ivy is the Prosecard from Cubs Nation interview. It’s great to get to know fellow Cubs fans. Today’s Prosecard features Anthony Huether, who believes in Theo Epstein and Co. and would like the restrooms at Wrigley taken care of ASAP. Take it away, Anthony:

AJ

Name: Anthony Huether

How long have you been a Cubs fan and who do you have to blame/thank?  I have been a Cubs fan from the moment I saw them on WGN Superstation and I thank my dad.  Though, he is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, without him turning on WGN Superstation so we could watch baseball, I fear I might have been a fan of a different team.

A lot of the off-season news and even the Cubs Convention has been focused on the changes that are going to be made to Wrigley Field. Do you view these plans as improvements or would you rather them simply patch up the ‘ol place and leave it in better shape, yet looking the same?  Upgrading is fine with me.  But my thing is, don’t take the nostalgia out of Wrigley Field.  Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are stadiums that provide a link between baseball of yester-year to the modern day.  I love that.  I don’t want that gone.  Go ahead and make the stadium more modern but don’t lose the old fashion feel.  But please, please update bathrooms.

When you attend a game, do you have a favorite hangout spot around the neighborhood before or afterwards? What’s your typical game day routine as a fan like?  Before the game I have to go to Bacci’s Pizza.  So good and they have great prices.  Routine?  Chill with fans.  Going to Wrigley and watching the game is great, but when you fully interact with other loyal Cubbies, it makes everything better.

First thoughts when you hear the following words: Cardinals. Braun. Castro. Pennant. Spring Training. Opening Day. 1908. Curse. Theo.

Cardinals – We win, you lose.

Braun – You have some explaining to do.

Castro – Baez is breathing down your neck.

Pennant – 2015

Spring Training – Optimism and the bunting tournament

Opening Day – Clean slate

1908 – Far too long

Curse – Goat

Theo – The man with the plan

Looking back at the Matt Garza trade today, how do you feel about the prospects the team had to give up at the time in order to land him?

The two prospects that really come to mind are Sam Fuld and Chris Archer, who was originally part of the Mark DeRosa deal.

Sam Fuld – A guy like Tony Campana.  Everyone loved him.  Even I did.  But he wasn’t going to see playing time with the Cubs and Tampa was looking for a ready MLB player.  So it fit.  Tough to see him go, but at least he got playing time and making the SportsCenter’s Top Plays, weekly.

Chris Archer – I was a bit upset getting rid of.  He was the top pitching prospect the Cubs had.  He could be in the rotation, right now for the Cubs.  But for a team, like Tampa, they wanted a young, cheap, high potential arm.  And he fit that mold.  Tough to see him go, but for a potential ace like Garza and whatever was going on in Jim Hendry’s mind, it had to be done.

On the flip side, besides Garza, keep an eye on Zachary Rosscup.  I have seen this guy pitch.  He is a bit short, by certain standards, but he is lefty and he has a very good fastball, which he controls very well.  An interesting player, I am very interested to see if the Cubs decide to keep him or maybe a he could be a player in package deal.  I hope they keep him.

Do you have any favorite Cubs podcasts, blogs, news sources you use as go-to’s that other fans may not know about but should check out on a regular basis? World Series Dreaming.  They are always updating their Twitter and Facebook pages.  They want Cub fans to interact.  They don’t hold back.  They are a must to check out.

How do you feel about the Cubs organization as a whole? On the right track? If not, what would you like to seem them do differently?

I really do like what Theo, Jed and the rest of the organization is doing.  It is nice to see the farm system being flooded with talent. It is looking like the Cubs are willing to have more homegrown players.  Not having a payroll going to almost $180 million dollars, because the Cubs spent on big time free agents is very nice.

I liked the idea of not having Peoria as the Single-A affiliate and making it KaneCounty.  Keeping younger players closer to Chicago, that is nice.

It will be interesting to see what kind of new television deal the Cubs get, very soon.  The WGN deal expires after this season.  Seeing what the Los Angeles Dodgers got, the Cubs could be looking, more than likely, in deal similar.  And if they get that, it will be very interesting to see how the Cubs deal with the extra income.

Which Cubs season of recent years has been your favorite and why? The easy answer would 2008 but the favorite was 2007.  They started that season so poor, than the Barrett/Zambrano fight and let’s not forget about Will Ohman and him bouncing the ball to the plate.  Did you think the Cubs would come back and win the NL Central?  Probably not.  But they did and what a ride that season was.  Aramis Ramirez walk-off against the Brewers, that was the kick start to start the comeback.  That win didn’t even put the Cubs back to .500.  But it was a start.  And it was great to see Kerry Wood pitching, out of the bullpen, again.

What are you most looking forward to seeing this Spring Training?  The bunting tournament.  Dale Sveum added some excitement to a generally boring start to Spring Training.  Other than that, I want to see how Javier Baez and Jorge Soler react to there first experience with the Cubs.

You are asked to select the next former Cub to have their own statue in front of Wrigley. Who would you select and why?
Ryne Sandberg.  Hall of Famer, best second baseman in Cubs history and the most important thing… he played, pretty much, his whole career with the Chicago Cubs.  He did play 13 games with the Phillies in 1981.

What are your expectations of the 2013 season?

To put it very simply, the Cubs will win 75 games.  Not if, it will happen.  Now, if the Cubs could catch a break here and there they could win 85 games.

In your opinion, how soon do you feel the Cubs will be in their best position to finally win another World Series title?

2015 is the year the Cubs could win the World Series.  The devolvement of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Anthony Rizzo are key.  Drafting, with high picks, is huge.  A college standout, like Mark Apple, could help, right away.

Rumors out already that TampaBay is very high on the Cubs’ farm system, knowing that David Price will be traded in December of this year, 2013.  Wouldn’t that be nice to see a true ace in the Cubs rotation?

The Cubs win the World Series. How do you celebrate?

I think we all have an idea of how we would celebrate.  If in Chicago, I will be partying outside of Wrigley Field.  If not in Chicago, I got to be with my Cub friends and there will be a lot of Old Style’s going around.

Any final words to include here for Cubs fans that may be reading this? To fans of other teams that may be reading?

To Cub fans – Two things come to mind, recently.  One… Stop overreacting.  We know Matt Garza got hurt and it blew up on twitter.  Take a deep breath and relax.  He is human, he does get hurt.  Luckily, his injured occurred during the first week of Spring Training.  If he does miss the first moth of the season, he misses about five starts.  It is okay.

Two… We are trying to win a World Series.  And we will win a World Series.  And this is also a business.  Some business decisions are not favored by fans.  Example, Tony Campana.  As an organization, you must do what is best for the team.  Yes, Campana was/is loved by Cubbies, I love him too, and he will always be loved by Cubbies.  But the Cubs felt that Scott Hairston brings more to the table, and he probably will, so Campana had to move on.  We, as fans, can’t build a team around individual players we solely love.  It can’t work.  We want to win and sacrifices must be made.

To the other 31 teams:  Don’t take the Cubs lightly.  We are not going anywhere.

Thank you to Anthony for taking the time to be the first Prosecard of 2013! If you are interested in being featured in a Prosecard from Cubs Nation interview, email me and I will send you the questions right away! Go Cubs Go!

What are you waiting for?

No, no. Don’t get up.

This isn’t about you doing something. I don’t mean so much that you are sitting around doing nothing as much as literally, what are YOU waiting for? Not what are you WAITING for? What are YOU waiting for? What are we all WAITING for?

Going into a brand new season of Cubs baseball with high hopes and yet an even higher level of realistic expectations…it’s all happening again. Yet this time, it feels different. Maybe it’s because there was no big name signing over the winter to encourage delusional expectations. Maybe it’s because of the 100+ losses last season. Maybe it’s because we’ve barely started Spring Training and already you’re hearing about key injuries. (Wow, Garza, that sure was fast).

What are you waiting for? Are you waiting because you think it will all be worth it?

What are you waiting for? Are you waiting to see a new addition to the roster deliver on the promise we’ve been hearing about? Are you waiting to see if this batch of up-and-comers can do what no batch of veterans has been able to in the past?

What are you waiting for? Have you bought your tickets yet? Have you watched even one inning of Cubs baseball yet this Spring?

What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for some type of proof that this is the group of players that can end the streak? The Streak that would even take The Undertaker aback?

What are you waiting for? Are you feeling a bit of fatigue from the years and years of losing? Are you waiting to see what all the waiting was all about? Are you still waiting because you still care or are you waiting simply because you’ve been waiting so long, what would be the point of stopping now?

I could say yes and no throughout this rambling of a start to the 2013 and my answers leave me conflicted with every question I look at listed above. What am I waiting for? Maybe it’s sports. Maybe it’s the Cubs. Maybe it’s baseball. All I know is I’m tired of the waiting. I’m losing patience. I’m looking forward to the season starting but trying to not look ahead to the regular season and ignore the pre-season. Spring Training has it’s value, I need to remember that. But man, when it’s been months since meaningful Cubs baseball, the Spring sure is hard to wait through.

I think it’s even harder to wait through it as a Cubs fan. You want to see them get on the winning side of the standings again and earn more Ws than Ls as soon as possible, especially after last year…yet….with all the focus on the young talent that could fill the holes in the lineup in the future, now is the time to take advantage of the showcase. I find myself waiting for them to get here so they can contribute and make a difference in the Cubs’ drive to winning a World Series, yet I’m tired of watching the journey. Destination, please. I’m all about the journey. I understand what the journey brings to the table and what it is compared to the destination, but man, this has been one long journey.

It’s the perfect conflict and challenge I believe we all face as Cubs fans. The reboot that took place when Theo and Co. took over changed the game. The rules are the same and the obstacles remain the same, yet we’re supposed put aside the fact that we’ve already been in the game for what seems like forever despite the fact that there is a promise that the new guys off-the-field are finally the guys to get us the right guys to make it happen on-the-field. Patience is something I want to have and something I believe is worth having, especially with the stakes staying the same yet the strategy updated to potentially make more sense. The reboot has taken place but what about all the years the program was running beforehand. Something has to be said about that. That was a whole lot of waiting.

It’s hard to hang in there isn’t it? Maybe that’s what makes it all worth it? The chance to say that you hung in there through the whole journey and all the waiting?

Or maybe it’s the destination that makes it all worth it, in this case. When you go to the doctor’s office and you wait in the waiting room forever…..and then they bring you into the smaller waiting room….and to them, it’s like a reboot. Now you’re in a different situation, the wait restarts in here now…but to you…what about all the waiting you just did? And that destination is simply an uncomfortable exchange to try and decipher what’s wrong with you.

In this Cubs scenario, we’ve all waited in the big waiting room forever (unless you were alive in 1908). Now, we’ve been called into the smaller waiting room with new magazines, new statistics on the wall to read, the promise that you’re getting closer to where you need to be, just need to wait a little more time. Perhaps the journey becomes something you can look back on in a more favorable light once you reach the destination. I’m sure that’s what it is. ‘We’ll look back at this and laugh’. That sort of thing.

Where do you stand in your devotion to the Cubs? What are you waiting for? And do feel it’s more of a ‘What are YOU waiting for?’ in a postive way, or when you reflect on your time supporting this team in their quest to win a World Series, do you look at your journey and time waiting in more of a negative light? More of a ‘What are you WAITING for?’

To officially answer for myself, I’m waiting to see this crop of players prove themselves as the guys that give us the best chance to win and I’m waiting for the destination of a World Series championship to arrive so I can look back fondly at the journey, at the wait.

Ironically, I’m waiting to wait again.

Now, that’s something worth waiting for. Go Cubs Go!

Extreme-Lee Good Timing

Chicago Cubs: 2012 First Half Highlights

The Cubs are currently 15 games out of first place and only a half game away from becoming roommates with the Houston Astros in the basement of the NL Central. Looking up at everyone in the division except the Pittsburgh Pirates who head into the break as the penthouse resident of the Central, it would be easy to cast the first half of the 2012 season aside and claim there were as many bright spots for the Cubs in the first half as there were home runs for Robinson Cano in the home run derby. Zero.

This is simply not true. The following players have provided opportunity for fans to cheer this Cubs squad in 2012:

1. Starlin Castro: Coming off of a 2011 season where he made the All-Star team as the youngest Cubs player to do so and had a collection of 200+ hits, Castro had a lot to live up to in 2012. While his sporadically distracted play in the field continues to be something to work on for the young shortstop, his performance in the batter’s box provided big shoes to fill and thus far he hasn’t disappointed. Castro (along with Bryan LaHair) will be representing the team in the All-Star game tonight and has been the Cubs’ best hitter with 344 at bats, a .291 average and 100 hits to go along with 16 stolen bases. Castro continues to be the brightest spot for the future of the club and is in great position to reach 200 hits once again this year.

2. Bryan LaHair/Anthony Rizzo: LaHair will be in Kansas City tonight representing the ballclub at the All-Star Game – an honor the young outfielder did not expect when he was chosen by Cubs’ brass to be the team’s starting first baseman this season. With Carlos Pena out, the team needed someone to step up and provide numbers, preferably someone young enough to count on not only now, but looking to the next 5-10 years, too. LaHair delivered and has become so valuable, that even when Rizzo was called up after dominating AAA ball, Sveum found a way to keep his bat in the lineup by moving him to right field. So far this year, LaHair is batting .286 with 14 home runs and an OPS of .883. Always a great All-Star break when your team is represented by 2 or more players as opposed to the pity All-Star rep in a year where you only get the bare minimum on the field representing the club. Rizzo hasn’t been in the bigs as long but arguably has made a greater impact on the club in a shorter amount of time. Born on 8/8/89, the one year anniversary of the lights coming on at Wrigley, Rizzo made his way through the minor league system and made his 2012 debut with the Cubs on June 26th. In the 12 games he has played in, the Cubs are 8-4 and trying to find away to climb the standings in the Central. Any movement towards the top will do a lot for Cubs’ fans’ hopes of the future and Rizzo will surely be a big part of any movement the club can make in the second half. The 22-year-old Rizzo is currently batting .354 in 48 at-bats, 4 HR’s and a 1.055 OPS. The right side of the field is shaping up for the long haul at Wrigley thanks to Rizzo and LaHair (whether they stick around or team brass decides to trade them in for additional pieces in building towards future success).

3. Ryan Dempster: Dempster could very likely be pitching his final game for the Cubs very soon (if not on this coming Saturday) as he remains one of the most coveted pitchers by contending teams in MLB. Along with Garza and Samardjiza’s strike out rate, he has kept the Cubs in the position of most respectable starting rotation for a last place team in baseball (for what that’s worth). Dempster has been held back in the win column by poor run support (as have the rest of the starting rotation) however, contenders must be attracted to his veteran leadership, work ethic and his quality start totals along with his 1.99 ERA, 70 strike outs and 86.1 innings pitched (Dempster is coming off of four straight durable 200 innings pitched seasons). Dempster has been a quality guy on and off the field for the Cubs. His first half of 2012 has been one of his better stretches and it will be both disappointing and interesting to see where he ends up around the trade deadline as Theo & Co. build towards the future.

Congratulations to Starlin and LaHair for making the 2012 All-Star Game. Looking forward to having more reasons to believe the future is bright with this ballclub while watching the second half of the season.

Go Cubs Go!

Today: Taking Rhys to his first Cubs game

Today was amazing. I brought my son, Rhys, to his first professional baseball game to see our favorite team in person and I could not have asked for a better time. I have wanted to take him to a Cubs game since he was born and I can’t wait to do it again soon.

My son is about 20 months old so there is no way his experience was going to be affected by a win or a loss. Despite the fact that the Cubs lost today, I wouldn’t even list a victory as something that would have made it better. While I personally always enjoy seeing the Cubs win (of course), today wasn’t about the end result whatsoever. It was about introducing my son, my first born, to the game I love and the team I love as something I want to share with him for a long time to come.

The Cubs are on the road this weekend, facing the New York Mets at Citi Field. The stadium is about 45 minutes from where we live so it was a must-do for this weekend with the Cubs in town. A 4pm start is perfect for a little guy like Rhys. Lunch and a nap, a quick car ride. Dinner and a game at 4pm, home by 8p for bed. He was in the mood, not tired and excited to see baseball. I told him that we were going to go to a baseball game and asked him if he wanted to go. He said ‘yes’ this morning and immediately started saying ‘ball, ball ball’ around the house. We stopped at a picnic on our way out there and Rhys made sure to where his Cubs hat in the car ride there. He was either wearing his hat or mine all day and couldn’t wait to get to the stadium. Here we are just out of the car as we arrived in the third inning (which I highly recommend with a kid under 2. Sacrifice the first couple innings and stay the rest of the game!!):

We hit up the ticket booth and made sure to get seats in the shade, with access to a Club with air conditioning since it was supposed to be 100 degrees today in New York. I have been to Shea/Citi more times than I count in my lifetime so I knew right where we needed to go for both. We hit up the ticket booth for tickets on the third base side, infield (third base side just like I sit when I go to Wrigley) with access to the Promenade Club. The shade was an amazing decision as we hardly needed the AC and did great in our seats. Immediately once inside the stadium, we hit up the gift shop and bought Rhys a souvenir baseball. I think I’ll get him a ball at every stadium we visit together going forward. It was also Mini-bat Day at Citi Field today so we got bats as well. When you put a bat in Rhys’ hand, it doesn’t even look like a mini-bat, it just looks like a bat with all the proportions. Here we are at the ticket booth getting our tickets:

Once inside, Rhys was taking it all in as we looked at the baseball field. I showed him where the Cubs dugout was along the third base side and pointed out guys like Rizzo and Castro and Soriano.

We made our way up to our seats, but before we got there, we immediately got two helmets filled with ice cream and rainbow sprinkles. This sooner than expected or desired became a helmet full of soupy vanilla juice and melted colored goo. Didn’t matter. We just ate faster. Well, I did. Rhys was having a blast with his Cubs hat on and his Mets helmet of ice cream in his lap melting away. Every lift of the spoon resulted in a hansel and gretel style drip trail of melted ice cream from his lap up to his mouth. He was loving it.

He’d dance when the walk up music played, cheered on his Cubs when I cheered/clapped and was actually sitting in his seat watching the game. He wasn’t complaining, he didn’t want to get up and walk around or play with any toys we brought, just in case. He was thrilled to be with his parents, eating ice cream on a Summer day and watching Cubs baseball. It was the best day of the Summer for sure and one of my all-time favorites.

Here is a video of Rhys at his first baseball game today. The Cubs desperately needed to shut down Kirk Niewenhuis in this spot and we were doing all we could to make it happen from the stands. That’s me in the Cubs tee next to Rhys:

I was rooting for Clevenger to do some damage in the bottom of the ninth and help tie the game and send it into extra innings. However, when the final pitch was thrown and the game was over, I was just thrilled to have spent the afternoon introducing Rhys to baseball. It was so much fun to go with him and my wife. Today wasn’t about keeping score and looking back at a single in this inning or a double play in that inning. Looking back at this day as I’m sure I will many times and will keep the ticket as a keepsake – when I look back at today’s game it will be more about that inning that Rhys smiled with ice cream dripping down his face, that inning when Rhys danced in his seat over and over again and every time he clapped and cheered taking the entire experience of his first baseball game in with his Mom and I.

It was an amazing, amazing day. One I’ll never forget and will definitely talk about with Rhys at future Cubs game as he gets older. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Summer day. Amazing. Just simply an amazing, amazing Summer day.

Go Cubs Go!

Home Opener at Dodd Stadium, Tonight!

After two months of training on the box office system, writing articles for the game day program, fielding phone calls for tickets for the 2012 season, working high school and college tournaments – finally – tonight is Opening Day for the team I work for, the Detroit Tigers’ Class-A affiliate, the Connecticut Tigers!

I’ve attended many, many opening days over the years, however never from a behind the scenes standpoint. The red, white and blue bunting, the on-field presentations and the excitement of taking my seat at the first game of the season has always been part of the excitement, year in and year out. This year, however, I won’t be sitting in a seat. I’ve been organizing who will be sitting where in which seats through our 6,000 seat stadium.

It is seven hours before game time and the staff is working hard, wrapping up the last bit of things that need to be done before Tigers fans show up to the ballpark. The team is returning from the road having split the two games Monday and Tuesday night at Lowell (the Spinners, the Red Sox A affiliate). Tonight Lowell returns the favor of playing ‘opponent’ for the Tigers at Dodd and there should be a great amount of Red Sox fans who reside in Connecticut not quite sure of which team to pull for. The stadium should be packed as it’s Opening Night and we have fireworks immediately following the game.

Here are a few photos from the past couple months of working here that I can share with you:

This one is of my office, the box office. All ticket sales magic goes on in here. The place is filled with ticket stock, printers, schedules, rosters, pocket schedules, team news, will call ‘to pick up’ tickets, old mascot heads and other goodies. I jump out of here whenever I can to grab a hot dog or nachos and catch some of the action but a lot of the time I’m at my desk running the money side of things or writing future articles. I’ve had a chance to conduct interviews with players and write about the New York-Penn League. The game programs arrived this morning and they look great! Here is one of my articles included inside:

When I toured the stadium in my first meeting with the ballclub, this view below, was one of my favorite. The time between the locker – the getting ready point – and the field – the time to perform part – must be one of the best in sports. Last minute inside jokes exchanged with teammates. Getting your head right for the big game. Settling your nerves before you step in front of thousands. This stretch is the last opportunity to get your head right before heading out to the field and playing for the fans. This shot here is of the tunnel from the visitor’s clubhouse to the visiting team’s dugout. Gotta love the sound of cleats walking through a tunnel, no?

The home fans that have their season tickets and their ticket plans and those that have been keeping the box office phone ringing off the hook yesterday, Tuesday and today are really excited for the season to start. You think it’s hard waiting for your team to start up again in April? Try waiting for the team to start up again in June. I’ve been receiving emails from dedicated Connecticut Tigers fans with ‘Go Tigers’ messages and the place is excited about the opener and fireworks for this evening.

Since our players are mostly draft picks out of college, from nowhere near Norwich, CT, they need places to stay. Some of the CT Tigers’ more devoted fans have stepped up and offered to serve as host families for the season. Some of them are taking one player, some more than one and all of them will be doing our team and players a huge favor by doing so! (Yes, they are compensated with season tickets, but still…a huge help to our team and players!) Here is a shot from our host family/season ticket holder BBQ the other night where everyone got a chance to say hello before the season kicked off:

When the players aren’t staying at their host families’ homes, they are going to be at Dodd Stadium or on the road representing Detroit’s A-ball farm team. Playing at Dodd Stadium is a treat for these guys as the stadium was actually built in 1995 for a AA team, a couple levels ahead of where our short-season A-ball club is on the road to the Show. So the stadium is bigger, the amenities are nicer and overall, the experience playing here is greater compared to a lot of the teams they will be facing this season. Here is a shot of the home clubhouse. When I saw it for the first time my first thought was ‘Moneyball’ and that the set dressers on that film did an amazing job. I could picture Brad Pitt taking a bat and making a statement in the middle of the locker room as it looked just like the type depicted on film.

It was very cool to meet the players. They are here on their first step to becoming major league ballplayers. The front office had a chance to meet the players a couple days ago in the clubhouse. The players were assigned jersey numbers and lockers that day so they were all sitting around the clubhouse in front of their lockers with Detroit Tigers work out gear on and Connecticut Tigers hats on, ready to go. Their jerseys were hung in the lockers, the cleats placed on top of the lockers and the manager, Andrew Graham and the rest of the staff were around to introduce them to our General Manager, myself and the rest of the front office. These kids are here to make a statement and stay in short-season A-ball for as little time as possible and then – on to the next one. They mostly all serve a complete season in short season A-ball and then if the organization feels they are ready, on to full-season A-ball. If not, they stay here for another year. Almost no one moves up during the season as they are very young talent and need to develop and get used to playing pro ball here first. Here is a shot I took of the home clubhouse this morning while getting ready for Opening Day:

In about an hour from now the team will take batting practice and get ready to play their first professional home game. The stadium looks great, the box office is rocking and I’m excited to have a few thousand fans here tonight enjoying a night of Connecticut Tigers baseball (and of course reading my writing in the Game Day program, while watching the game).

Game time is in four and a half hours and then fireworks afterwards. It’s been a fun two months leading up to the season but tonight it really gets fun. The home team is finally here and we could be watching future major leaguers. Fire up the MLB.TV for my Cubs please. The CT Tigers will be playing on the big field here at the stadium, but my Cubs will be playing on the little screen here in the box office.

Go Cubs Go!