Now a Staff Writer for Baseball Digest

In addition to covering the Cubs on Prose and Ivy, I will now also be writing about baseball in general for BaseballDigest.com.

While some of the articles will be Cubs-centric, others will not. It will really all depend on what assignments I receive from their assignment editor.
 
I’m excited to have my writing showcased under the Baseball Digest banner. I used to read the print version cover to cover, every new issue that came out when I was growing up. They are the oldest baseball publication in the country and it’s exciting to be a part of their staff.
 
You can read my first article on BaseballDigest.com by clicking here: http://www.baseballdigest.com/2011/03/13/baseball-digest-birthdays-johan-santana/
As part of their popular Baseball Digest Birthdays feature, I was assigned today’s birthday: Mets pitching ace, Johan Santana. Santana turns 32 today.
 
I hope you enjoy it!
On a separate note, I watched the Cubs battle the Dodgers today on WGN. Baseball in Vegas? Make that…Cubs baseball in Vegas??  Sounds AMAZING. Another Cubs item on my absolutely-must-do list!
 
Zambrano looked great and even though the games don’t count, always fun to see the Cubs win. I’m excited Castro looks as strong as he does. Can’t wait to see what this team is capable of this year. Go Cubs Go!

Spring Training: Good Place to Get Your Mind Right, Too

I like that they throw the Cubs Convention every year and I can’t wait to attend one myself one day. Living in New York City makes it rather challenging to do so but when this last one came around, I mentioned it to my wife. She said you should go to it one of the years. Agreed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

One of the things I appreciate about the convention is that it gives the new Cubs an opportunity to taste what the club means to the people of Chicago and across the nation root-root-rooting for the Cubbies. Every baseball out there knows about the drought and they hear about it endlessly beginning with when their name is associated with coming to the team. It doesn’t even wait until they are a Cub. It starts with simply rumors. Still, it’s important for new Cubs to understand it’s a honor to be a Cub and that appreciation needs to be taught to guys like Pena and Garza by guys that have been there ie Ramirez and Silva.

The fact that they haven’t won it all in over a century guarantees that the team who does win it all will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments any team has ever reached on a baseball field. A World Series victory is not a World Series victory. They are not all the same. And when the Cubs break through and end their drought it will be talked about probably for as long as Cubs fans have been waiting for it to happen. Cubs fans will talk about it for at least that long or until they die. Whichever comes first.

I hope that the recent outburst by Silva in the Cubs dugout at Spring Training is simply a result of a pressure to win. Not merely make the rotation as he stated, but a pressure to win. I want the Cubs to realize the pressure they are under but not crumble by it’s intimidation factor, but rise up to the challenge and view it as the opportunity that it is.

Passionate ballplayers are a good thing to have on your baseball team. Quade needs to carale that enthusiasm and passion and make sure it stays focused in the right direction. Harnass that energy and emotion and make them play the game fundamentally sound and going all out, all heart, on each and every pitch.

Silva’s outburst should not be compared to Zambrano’s. Zambrano’s was during a regular season game against our crosstown rivals and the game counted. Heck, the BP Cup was on the line (kidding). Silva experienced only one year of Cubs baseball. Maybe that’s all it took for him to ‘get it’. Zambrano had been here for YEARS. We know he understands the pressure and the situation all Cubs are put in. You’ve heard other Cubs talk about it for years. However, some Cubs handle it better than others. Those guys with level heads need to help Quade keep guys focused, not motivate them to go out of control.

Ramirez was involved in the Silva skirmish and he’s another guy who has been here a while and has felt the pressure of the city and the fans. This game is a great thing. This team is a great home. The city of Chicago is a great place to live and the fans are a great group of people to want to win for.

Have there been incidents where Cubs fans haven’t exactly been put in the best light by their own actions? Absolutely. Does it happen across the country in ballparks with fans of all teams? Of course. Does that make it ok? Of course not. However, with however many bonehead moves any Cubs fans have made over the years to disgrace the rest of us, overall, the loyalty the group has shown this team outweighs any negative remark one could make against us.

The fans care. That’s all there is to it. They want the title so bad year in and year out. 103 years and counting and yet still…there the fans are rooting, supporting, praying, hoping, waiting. A great majority of league draws nowhere near what the Cubs do in attendance. Is Wrigley a big reason? Sure, tourists love it. However, many of the people through the turnstiles at Wrigley are die-hard fans who have stayed by the Cubs through thick and thin.

New and old Cubs alike need to appreciate that and play their hearts out. Care when the games don’t count and really care when they do. Only, know when to go ballistic. Know when is the right time and no when to let it go. Spring Training is the perfect time to care about your performance, but not to lose your mind over it.

I appreciate Silva and Ramirez’s passion however it needs to be focused in a positive direction. Still lots of Spring Training games left to clean up the sloppy play and get the mindset right. Quade has a tough challenge ahead of him. His words inspired a players only meeting called by two of the team’s veteran players. Hopefully I’m right in thinking he’s the right guy for the job.

I believe he is.

Go Cubs Go!

Does Quade Really Want to Hurt Them?

You have to love Spring Training. The games don’t count towards anything real except evaluating players, figuring out potential line-ups and planning ahead for potential call-ups. However, many take it very seriously. Today was a great example of Quade taking it just seriously enough.

After Starlin Castro committed the Cubs’ eighth error of the Spring (after just three games, mind you) Dempster said Quade was going to start penalizing the players after future errors that are made. How, you ask? With less playing time? Being pencilled in lower on the depth chart? Making them run sprints?

No.

After every Cubs error, Quade is going to cut off one of the guilty player’s fingers.

Brilliant. Great line by Demp and awesome that Quade found it funny, too.

These games are supposed to be used to get back in the swing of things, no pun intended. To work out the kinks at the plate sure, but also in the field. Get them out of the way now, Quade said, and he’s right. Work out your throws to first. Let the sun win a few battles on pop-ups now instead of later. Get your timing down for double plays. Work it all out now. Besides, an errant throw to first in Spring Training is simply a future potentially autographed souvenir.  No big deal.

Quade is organized as I said yesterday and I believe he has the team headed in the right direction. It’s going to take great leadership but also a great sense of humor to make it through the grueling 162 game season. So far, Quade looks like he’s batting .1000 in both departments.

It’s a lot easier to replace a gatorade cooler than it is our star young player’s fingers. No need to go crazy now. Give them time to realize their crimes.

This video goes out to you Mike Quade, from a most appropriate sponsor:

So happy Cubs baseball is back. Go Cubs Go!

So Far, Quade’s a Hit…But Too Much of a Good Thing?

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Sometimes when people try too hard or try to be too cool, they fail miserably. That’s why Quade has to be careful not to be too much like Kraegen in the above video.

I like that Mike Quade is making this team his own by doing things a little differently, however, he needs to remember to keep the tough love leader as part of his game plan as well considering how well it was received by the team at the end of last season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the Cubs hiring Quade. I like that he’s enthusiastic to see his guys start putting on display what they can bring to the team. I like that he is looking to further evaluate guys he’s familiar with within the Cubs’ system. I even appreciate the fact that he listed lineups three games in advance. I believe it will help players prepare and learn their roles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t have a successful team without everyone knowing and embracing their role.

I think Quade has kicked off Spring Training the right way. Let the veterans know what is expected of them and let the youngsters know they are getting a fair look. That’s all any of them can ask for. But are the Cubs in danger of having too much of a good thing the way Quade has started off camp? Is he in trouble of setting a tone where there is too much of a good thing going here (loss to Oakland aside, that is)? Will the players get too used to feeling like they know what to expect and not ready to easily adapt when need be during the season? Like anything, I suppose it’s simply a matter of opinion. Many of you are still upset that Sandberg isn’t running the show. However, in answering the last question, I believe everything is going to be just fine and anyone who is freaking out over Quade’s system of three days heads-up being too soft needs to relax and enjoy having Cubs baseball back on the air. 

I understand that people like to pick at the bone for things to complain about, especially when we’re only one game in to Spring Training. Not a whole lot to get worried about but we’re sports fans and when nothing is there, sometimes we create things. I’m feeling pretty good about Quade’s leadership so far and don’t think you should be expecting or worried about any crazy flying basket locker room meetings out of Quade. He may have his own way of running the show that wasn’t done by Piniella or guys before him, but so far I think he’s taking this team in the right direction and has not discarded the Quade that got him the job late last season.  

It speaks volumes about Quade’s interest in respecting veterans and leaving windows open to surprises coming out of camp. He referenced Colvin the other day as a recent pleasant Spring Training surprise/success story. I’m glad that he is looking to fill in the roster spots around the guarantees with guys who earn the spot and want to play hard. Of course we’re going to see the guys you can wear. If you can buy a jersey with a player’s last name on it, it’s basically a guarantee you will see them play a major role, at least in the first month or so of the season. It’s the bench players that make a team great though. Stars make you ‘really good’. Depth makes you great.

When I was in Vegas for my honeymoon, I bet on the Cubs three times and won two out of three bets. It would be wild to log into a baseball spread site and predict which players made it out of camp. They very well may, I’m not sure. I know the regular season matters so as a fan of course those games are already fascinating. However, I wonder how many people buy the season previews or the annuals or the minor league prospect reports and try to bet on who will come out of camp. If they are then I’m sure these Spring games are taking on a whole new significance and importance to those particular fans. Imagine watching a Spring game and truly caring how long a player stays in the game. I love the fact that Quade left Garza in the game to hit instead of replacing him with a pinch-hitter. Quade’s right, he has to learn to hit sometime. Now is the time to do so.

I wonder what Zambrano had to say about it privately to Garza afterwards. I know it was reported that he didn’t see it but Z is one of the best hitting Cubs pitchers on the team. While Garza is working with Jaramillo to feel comfortable hitting after hardly doing so for the Rays, he must also be talking to the other guys on the staff and who better to ask than Zambrano? Of course, Garza did get shelled in his first appearance as a Cub in spring training including a grand slam to Coco Crisp. But (cue Fred Armisen’s Joy Behar) who cares, so what? It’s Spring Training. I’m sure the guy was nervous and worried about making a good impression. I’m sure it was just one pitch that got away that led to four runs. Do I want to see it during the regular season? No. Does Quade leave him in the game in a situation where he should replace him with a pinch-hitter when the game counts? No. So far Garza has a hit and the ball to place on his mantle. So far, Quade has been a hit with the Cubs and fans alike.

Is posting game lineups three games in advance too coddling? Is giving veterans reasonable expectations and laying all of your cards on the table too much? Is giving young players the feeling like they could possibly leave the minors behind and join the club for Opening Day or very soon into the season the wrong way to handle your business when it comes to prospects? No. No to all three.

I like what I’ve heard from Quade so far this Spring and I don’t think any of these things are a bad thing. This is Quade’s team now. It’s his time to put his stamp on it and run the show the way he thinks it should be run. At the end of last year he essentially had all of his players’ support that he should be hired as manager as well as mine.

I believe while it’s still early, Quade still has that support 100% and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the Spring plays out leading up to Opening Day. Go Cubs Go!

Want To Make Starlin Castro Nervous?

From the folks over at The Beckett Blog, a photo of Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ pride and joy and captain…proudly featured posing in a Cubs uniform.  Hysterical.   Although it certainly would trump the Cardinals announcement that they signed Ryan Theriot to play shortstop for the next 2 years!  (How about that?  Theriot to the Cards.  2011’s Jim Edmonds.  Get ready for a bit of bizarre world Cards fans….and you better hope it’s not more like having Aaron Miles on your side again).  No need for Castro to sweat though.  Just another ‘Fun With Photoshop’ moment for bored baseball fans on the Internet.  Thank goodness for that.

jetercardcubs.jpg

Many people can’t understand why the Jeter talks are taking so long.  Many also forget that baseball is a business.  A huge, huge business.  Like all businesses, it’s all about your return on investment (ROI).  And when you are as old as Jeter is and coming off the career-worst year that Jeter is coming off of, your legacy is the only thing you have going for you in the boardroom.  And like many of the greats before him, that might not be enough for the Yankees to offer what Jeter is looking for.

It would seem wrong to see Jeter play on another team, but it happens.  The athletes that accomplish amazing things, setting them apart as the sport’s elite are few and far between.  How many of those players actually get to play for one team their whole career?  Even fewer.  Jeter wouldn’t look right in another uniform but if the numbers don’t look right to the Yankees front office, then it won’t matter.

I like Castro at short.  I love his upside and potential.  We aren’t simply a Jeter away from winning it all and to bring him on board would be silly in tampering with Castro’s development.  Still, the simple fact that they took the time to photoshop Jeter into all 29 teams uni’s is hilarious.  Perhaps fans of some of those teams who could upgrade at SS, without a true young up-coming talent, who is a Jeter away from winning it all, now have reason to dream the dream: spending the Winter daydreaming over what might be next Fall after landing one of the game’s premiere talents.  Jeter isn’t what he was in the 90’s, but still.  You could do a lot worse.

Too bad he doesn’t play first base.  Now that would be a move where the talent we currently have doesn’t stand a chance in measuring up against Jeter…’90’s or 2011 Jeter for that matter. 

Not much player news on the Cubs front.  Quade and coaching staff locked in and everyone’s looking forward to the upcoming December Winter Meetings.  Jeterless, sure.  Still, can’t wait to see what the roster looks like come Spring Training in February.

Go Cubs Go!

Rami Looks Good In a Tie & Sometimes Championships Are Simply Child’s Play

Cubs tied the Royals today in Spring competition and it was great to see Rami step up to the plate, look healthy and chalk up an RBI to contribute to a 5-5 final score after nine innings. I think the Royals are going to surprise some people so it would’ve been interesting if this game counted and they had gone on until someone finally won. However, in order for the Cubs to surprise anyone this year and return to NL Central dominance, they are going to need an effective, healthy Aramis Ramirez.

In a completely unrelated thought I just had after finishing watching the Bird/Magic documentary on HBO…there is something to be said about a team that knows and owns their roles. There is a large sum of value, completely intangible of course, when every member of your team puts on their uniform in the exactly appropriate mind frame. When all of your teammates are getting ready for competition focused on solely what is expected from them and why they are on the team to begin with, you will experience many more W’s than you will L’s in the long run. And often, as is the case when you compile a great number of W’s, it can often lead to a championship.

I speak from experience in the most amateur level of team sport competition. Now again, this is right after watching the Bird/Magic doc so it is inevitably directly related to basketball, however indirectly related to all team sports, including baseball and for this blog’s purpose, indirectly related to Hendry and Lou’s efforts in making the right decisions in assigning the right guys to the active roster for the start of the season coming just short of two weeks from now.

The experience level from which I speak is what I like to call organized-recreational-pick-up-campground-league basketball. Basically because that is exactly what it was.

One Summer day, in the early to mid 90’s, my younger brother approached me with an idea for a march madness style campground basketball tournament. My family was always camping and were seasonal for years. Every weekend would be spent camping at Moose Meadow campground in CT, playing basketball, playing softball, playing pickup football and then for the guys: trying to meet as many girls as possible. My brother and I were friends with a real tight group of guys who were also mostly seasonal. We would hang out every weekend with basically the exact same agenda each and everyday. And it was a schedule that is responsible for some of my all time favorite moments from childhood.

Around 9am everyday at the campground, we would be awoken by the sound of someone dribbling a basketball. The campground had just put in a full court basketball court…the greatest thing to happen to Summer since S’mores.

The dribbling was always by the same kid.  One of my best friends, Kyle. Kyle and I grew up together, participating in the same activities and often on the same teams from the age of six. Kyle’s family was out at the campground seven days a week during the Summer where as my family came out only on weekends. Kyle was and is a Red Sox fan and also a die hard Celtics and overall basketball fan. If Kyle was awake, he was either shooting hoops or walking around to see who was awake to shoot hoops with him. That often didn’t prove necessary as his dribbling woke most of us as our sites were by the court.

9am, awoken by the sound of Kyle’s dribbling. 9:30am wrap up breakfast and head to the basketball court. Meet up with everyone by 10am (some were slower in getting out than others). 10am-12:00pm, three on three basketball. 12noon lunch. 1:00pm Adult Softball.

Oh man, the adult softball game.

This was supposed to basically be a softball pickup game of campers 18 and over for a serious game of softball without including and letting kids get in the way. It was a simple game, for nothing on the line but bragging rights, yet was always treated like Game 7 of the World Series by those who played in it. The simple fact that you got to participate in the adult softball game was an honor bestowed upon very few people still in their teens. With the frequency that we were at the campground and the close relationships we formed with the regulars who played at the game, we were usually allowed to play as well.

It was a thrill to be a part of and we saw some amazing, dramatic pick up softball games on that field. An old school campground baseball diamond with the dirt entrance/exit road lining the first base line, a giant 45 degree hill lining the third baseline, and forget ivy lining the outfield. From left to right the outfield quickly turned into the outfield wall comprised of forest…trees that felt like brick if you were one of the unfortunate ones to chase a flyball into it like smacking the wall at Wrigley. And if you were in charge of manning right field, your outfield wall mark was made up of a few very thick, very solid, very unsafe waist high giant tree logs. Another obstacle I’m sure if Sam Fuld had been a camper at Moose Meadow, would’ve run head first into time and time again.

Now, come about 3:30/4pm the softball game is over and it’s back to the basketball courts. 4-6pm basketball, 6-6:30pm dinner 6:30-8:30 basketball. We played A LOT of basketball. Anyway, all that time spent on the basketball courts, playing with and against each other proved to be very valuable. The same type of value hopefully this Cubs team is getting out of Spring Training…the knowledge, acceptance and possession of your own and each other’s strengths and ability you bring to the table that is most needed for the overall betterment of the team.

After my brother asked me to help him organize a tournament style basketball competition across the state against other kids at other campgrounds, we had an amazing time. Three years running, four teams participating in round robin style each year. Sometimes the kids and teams playing were repeat competitors, sometimes they were brand new teams and faces. Every year, however, we had basically 90% return rate of the players on our team. Moose Meadow had skills much at the same level as the other teams, but the one thing we had the others didn’t have was an unspoken knowledge of each other’s talents, personality and intangibles brought to the table.

We had Dan, our campground league equivalent to Michael Jordan. He was always the best player on the court and always the go-to guy in crunch time. Tall and athletic, the only one of us who could dunk and the same kind of quiet, confident likability that Jordan possessed. We knew that no matter who was on the floor with Dan, he was the offensive leader. He was to be deferred to in crunch time and the offense ran through him. Knowing his talent was a key ingredient to our team’s success and that it was our’s and not the other team’s was a reason to show up ready to win every game in and of itself. The games were always close for the most part. But when push came to shove, Dan gave us the advantage on paper almost every time.

We had Kyle. The Kevin McHale of our squad. Possibly our second best offensive player, best rebounder and a solid leader by example. A great guy to have in team meetings, timeouts, half times, etc to keep spirits up and the one with the strongest basketball IQ.  He was a student of the game.  Tireless energy and incredible sportsmanship. When the competition got too heated, Kyle was always the one to keep things level headed and appropriate. You respected Kyle as a leader of the team and looked to him to lead by example on the court and off.

We had my brother, Sean. The only guy in competition with Kyle as our second best offensive player. Sean was the best at running his mouth and getting into an opponent’s head. He had good offensive skills and the outgoing personality to keep things fun. One year he shaved his entire head except for the letter M on top for Moose Meadow. A complete showman, he was all about winning, got upset when others made mistakes but never was harder on anyone than he was on himself. People knew they’d get a lot of effort and production out of Sean because you knew underneath the showman shell, you knew he expected only the highest performance out of himself in each and every game. It made you want to play harder and deliver as well.

We had the Corbin boys, Jerry and Heath. Two of the nicest tough guys you’ll ever meet. They were total role players who knew their place in the offense and on defense. Especially defense. They contributed a level of commitment to the team matched only by their love for the game and the team itself. The passion they brought to the court and desire they shared with the rest of us to not be the guy that let’s the rest of the team down made them solid in their role as solid role players…not expected to perform like campground league all-stars, but to contribute consistently as best as they possibly could. They were also the first two people to get in a teammates face if one of their own was getting out of line, which let you know they’d be the first to get in an opponent’s face if they were out of line in the way they were acting when it came to someone on their team. Quality people, with a heart for their teammates and desire to win like only brothers could share.

And then, we had me.  It feels weird to really try to describe myself as a player except to say that I was proud to wear the Moose Meadow jersey (Kyle would go on to tell me, after reading this, that he saw me as the Bruce Bowen of the squad). I understood everyone’s role on the team, even the bench players that I haven’t mentioned here. Even at that young age, I could tell that having everyone proud of what they bring to the table was the one intangible that separated us from the rest. We weren’t ball hogs.  We weren’t all trying to be the star of the afternoon. It made us special and it deliver three straight campground league tournament championships with an overall record of 14-1 for the three years we participated. People knew their roles, the chemistry was great and everyone kept the energy, positivity and level of performance high in every game for not ourselves, but for each other because no one wanted to let any of our teammates down.

And BELIEVE ME, I realize this all sounds ridiculous because it was only a bunch of individual five on five pickup games, organized into a tournament of kids from different campgrounds played in the woods in front of crowds of tens (ok, maybe 10). I realize that completely. But I don’t care what level of organized sports one may talk about. A complete team of teammates understanding their roles, respecting the breakdown of every single player’s role on the team and carrying an understanding, devotion and level of commitment to not let down the guy standing next to you is an equation that equals winning.

Hopefully this is something this year’s Cubs team takes away from their experience in Arizona in this year’s Spring Training. If it is, it could make all the difference come October as to what kind of story they’re able to tell when their run with the organization has finally come to an end.

UPDATED 6/8/11: This link started getting a bunch of views again today. Dan and Kyle came across it and started sharing it on Facebook. Since it was brought to my attention again after writing it a year ago, I have read it about five times now today. Always fun to look back, whether it’s in this blog or in life in general. Give me a time machine and I’d go back and spend another summer with those guys in a heartbeat. Good times. (Also, this idea might be necessary if any of us are to actually live long enough to see the Cubs win a championship).

Go Cubs Go!

One City, Two Teams, Three Home Runs

One City.  New York City.  The city that never sleeps.  

I can attest that while the city never sleeps, I for one am again looking forward to doing so this evening.  The new job is seriously a TON of stuff to learn: procedures, issues, tactics, strategies, training staff, outreach in the freezing cold, planning meetings and on and on.  It’s one of the most fascinating ways to spend 60 hours a week though I must say.  I really do feel like I’m making a difference and doing something that truly matters, which is a cool feeling.  I’d love to be in front of the computer all day to watch Cubs games on-line, or listening to games on the radio.  A lot of these Spring Training games are obviously during the day so I’ve been checking out box scores, watching highlights and reading up on all the latest news and updates.  I can’t wait for the city to warm up and regular season games to back again.  I already have it marked down when the Cubs come to town to play the Mets at Citi Field and am hoping to check out an exhibition game at the new Yankee Stadium when the Cubs are in town as well.  That would be awesome.

Within this massive city however, depending on where you live, hang out, frequent, the baseball population is strongly divided between the Yankees and Mets.  It’s rare to find a fan who roots for both teams as it is extremely looked down upon and hardly anyone takes you seriously if you claim to do so.  Much like trying to sell someone in Chicago that you are both a White Sox and Cubs fan.  Yeah, right.

Now every now and then you come across a Red Sox fan.  Many have joined the bandwagon for sure since their recent success starting in 2004 but considering we’re on the East coast, it’s really not surprising.  People move (like a lot of the transplanted fans with blogs in this community), people rebel against family, friends and ex’s to be different, people get attached to players that lead them to root for certain teams regardless of their zip code and again others simply climb aboard the band wagon.  A lot Sox fans populate New York as well and it’s hard to tell who the Yankee fans hate more.  I’m guessing it’s the Sox, but a crosstown rivalry is exactly that and there’s a lot to be said for it.  Considering the Sox have the upper-hand as of late though, you don’t hear a lot of trash talking (or as much anyway) between Yankee fans and Sox fans, although they still enjoy picking on Mets fans.  Calling them the JV team, saying their old stadium was a dumpster or simply enjoying watching their fans get amped up over projected success just to see their hopes crushed with two consecutive seasons of late season meltdown.  This is essentially the baseball landscape in New York.  A few Sox fans scattered throughout…but mainly a hard, loyal divide between Yankee fans and Mets fans.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that those two teams get the most attention considering they both play here, but still, between the two of them I don’t really envy either.  The ones I look at with a bit of green under the collar and for no reason related to my new job, are the Red Sox fans.

Red Sox fans walk among Yankee fans and Mets fans, nowadays, with their heads held high.  Between years of AL East beatings and Buckner, both sides had something to say to them to give them a hard time if spotted walking down the street displaying their team loyalty be it a cap or jacket, t-shirt, etc.  This is no longer a problem for them.  Now, they basically walk around and get the same response as Cubs fans.

There aren’t a whole lot of us in comparison to the Yankee and Mets fans understandably.  However, there are more than you’d expect.  I’d say on average, at least once a day I see someone walking around with a Cubs hat on.  Like Jeep drivers are known for honking at a fellow Jeep driver on the road to salute the car they have in common, so do Cubs fans acknowledge each other as we pass on the streets of New York.  We have to.  We’re all in this together and in a foreign land at that.  I’ve walked down the street wearing my Cubs gear and constantly here it from construction workers who want to talk about last night’s game.  From kids who love the Cubs and shout out “Go Cubs” as their parent proudly smiles and waves as they go by.  From baseball fans at gatherings (bars, ESPN sports zone, etc) with just the utmost respect for the dedication we show as Cubs fans, or the most absolute confusion that we’ve hung in there for so long.  Some laugh at the belief that every year is THE year and others completely respect it as they know there’s no other reason to be a ‘fan’. From the word fanatic, as a fanatic, you have to belief, simply by definition if for no other reason.

And it’s that respect that Cubs fans are shown in New York City.  Abracadabra, a loyal reader of this blog asked me what it was like being a Cubs fan in New York recently and I decided I would post about it.  This is pretty much what it’s like.  Surrounded in one of the biggest cities in the world by millions who root for one of two other teams, with the occasional yet more frequent than expected encounter of a fellow Cubs fan with similar, friendly, Cubs logo-bearing fan gear who also can’t wait to see how the Cubs do this year, believe this is the year and tune in however we can (on-line mostly, or the occasional ESPN game) to follow every moment of the season.  I recently joined a Cubs meetup group in the city and I can’t wait to experience ’09 with the Cubs fans I’ll meet as a result.  Always fun to meet fellow Cubs fans and enjoy the season together, especially when we’re all in this together.  And we might as well be together, we’re outnumbered for sure…and one day, when the sign reads AC000000, the disbelief and rare teasing will cease to exist from New York baseball fans.  They will all look at us with the respect that a championship ballclub’s fans deserve, the same way they now look at Red Sox fans.  Aside from being in Chicago, I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the country experiencing Cubs baseball and enjoying the baseball community as diverse, fun, exciting, humiliating, frustrating and fascinating as it is in New York.  Not sure if that was detailed enough, but that’s basically what it’s like being a Cubs fan in New York.  In a word?  I’d say it’s actually pretty ‘awesome’.

Today’s game was amazing.  Three home runs by the Cubs…Soriano, Fox, and Ramirez going deep.  Always great to see the bats warming up during the Spring, getting ready for the pitches to count come Opening Day.  Marshall had a great day with three perfect innings and Gregg looked great too.  Piniella says Marmol pitching in the WBC won’t effect the closer competition.  I hope he’s right.  Gregg was great and I’d love him in the set up role, but I’m still a big fan of having Marmol as our closer.  Time will tell, but it was great checking the box score and seeing the three of them going yard and having Marshall and Gregg step up with outstanding performances.

Hope everyone in New York, Chicago, Boston and really everywhere else is enjoying the excitement of Spring Training.  I know I am…I just can’t wait for these games to count for real!  Go Cubs Go!