Saturday, April 11, 2015
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Saturday, March 8, 2014
The last two days In Cubs Spring Training have really been fun and great learning experience. Yesterday, I took the 100 yard walk from minor league camp to the beautiful new “Wrigleyville West” Spring Training MLB ballpark that seats 15,000 people to see the Cubs vs. Rockies game. My former player at UNC-Chapel Hill, Walt Weiss, is in his second year as the manager of the Rockies. Walt was Rookie of the Year in the American League in 1989 and played for Oakland, the Marlins, Atlanta, and Colorado in his career. I was trying to wait near the dugout to visit with Walt before the game. But, there were three giddy elderly ladies who were perched in the corner trying to yell at every player, coach, and eventually Walt, to get an autograph, that I was going to have to maneuver around. Finally, I kind of yelled over them to a coach in the dugout and the coach looked up and it was Blake Doyle who I have known for 30 years. Blake ask the ladies to let me thru, and as they did one lady ask well who are you, and I just said an old friend of Coach Doyle and Mr. Weiss. Blake and I talked for a few minutes then Walt came into the dugout and we had a great visit. While we were visiting one of the ladies stuck a baseball card in Walt’s face. He was so polite to say “if you will give me a minute I will be happy to sign for you.” His patience and courtesy was incredible. As I was leaving the dugout I bumped into Dan O’Dowd, his wife & youngest son. Dan is the long time GM of the Rockies and a man I have great respect and admiration. Chris, his oldest is in the Rockies organization as a catcher and attended Dartmouth College. I stayed at the game until I saw Chris catch the last couple of innings and hit one time. I was so thrilled to see Chris, who was on my roster in Cotuit in the Cape league but had a shoulder injury and did not play, play in an MLB game. Chris is such a hard worker and has really progressed as a player. Later that day I found out Mike Yastrezmski (Vanderbilt) and Deven Marrero (Arizona State), both played for me on the 2010 Cotuit Kettleers Championship Team, had played against each other in a Spring Training game in Florida. Deven for the Red Sox and Mike for the Orioles. I just really enjoy seeing these wonderful young men begin to reach some of their childhood dreams and goals in their baseball career. Spring Training is one of the most wonderful baseball experiences I have had in my 40+ years teaching/coaching. The coaches have been great to learn from and collaborate with; the athletes are hungry to improve their base running and base stealing skills; and the Cubs leadership team has been so receptive to teaching new techniques. To close today’s blog, my peers found out I have to leave practice twice a week in the late morning to teach my class for Asbury University in “Communication in Sports” via Adobe Connect. Now, my new nickname is “Professor!” Kind of funny for an ole’ baseball coach to be called “Professor!”
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Tues. Feb. 26th, was another fantastic day in Cubs Mini Camp, 2014. The athletes were extremely focused during workouts today; they want to improve; they listen to the coaches who try to point out little things each can tweak in their game to improve. Most importantly, this may be as nice a group of 50 young baseball players that I have ever met. The Cubs management/scouting dept. have done a magnificent job of drafting players who are confident but check their egos at the door. They want to be a TEAM and want the CUBS to be World Champions in the near future.
One of the reasons this has been so much fun for me is I have re-connected with several players who played for me in Cotuit in the Cape Cod Collegiate Summer league and have met many athletes who have played in the Cape league for 1 of the other 9 teams. The stories about the Cape League are always fun to hear because everyone has such a great time and excellent baseball experience.
I met two young men today, who I was throwing batting practice, that played at Brewster and Yarmouth-Dennis. It was enjoyable to hear the stories about their experiences on the cape. Also, one of the coaches I am working alongside played in Orleans, Cape league, thirty years ago. He remembers the ballpark in detail; could name most of his teammates; remembered in detail his first trip to Provincetown; told me about his host parents and his job taking care of their yard and house. Most interesting, he stated the Cape League was one of the best experiences in his baseball career which spans thirty plus years.
I am excited about another day in Cubs Spring Training. I am blessed to be a small part of what the Cubs are building.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Sunday was a great day at Cubs Camp. The minor league instructors are outstanding, very organized, the athletes in Mini-Camp have outstanding attitudes and are striving to improve in each session. I continue to be amazed at how positive and friendly everyone is in “Wrigleyville West.” I was observing the minor league offensive players in the outdoor cages when the new Cubs manager, Rick Renteria, walked into the area. I could not have been more impressed with a gentleman. He spoke to young players, in English and Spanish, and did so in a very engaging manner. He spoke to new people like me and made everyone feel so comfortable. Later in the day, I walked over to Major League Camp to see the outfielders take batting practice. I wanted to watch Brett Jackson, who I coached in Cotuit in the Cape League in 2008, and Ryan Kalish, who I got to know at Athletes’ Performance Institute Training Center in Phoenix when Ryan played for the Red Sox. I was standing down the left field line along the fence row when Mr. Renteria was coming onto the field and he immediately said you are welcome to come up to the batting cage to watch. Again, he was just so nice. I could tell in just a few minutes why the leadership of the Cubs hired this gentleman and outstanding baseball man. In closing, I can’t wait to return to Mini-Camp early Monday morning. Every day is a blessing to be with all the great people at Cubs Spring Training.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Training Camp today was another 1st class and positive experience. “Mini-Camp” for about 50 of the minor leagues top prospects is fun to observe and participate. There are numerous potential MLB players moving around the Cubs minor league work-outs. Baseball America stated this week the Cubs have (7) of the top (100) prospects in all the minor leagues. That number is right with the Astros in number of top prospects.
I walked over to the major league work-outs and enjoyed watching Coach Jones hit infield plays. He has tremendous enthusiasm and seems to love to teach. Coach set up this work period with imaginary runners on base and the defense had to decide whether to take the ball home, turn a double play or go to 1st base. These guys have such great instincts and ability they made almost every ball hit look easy in respect to decision making, fielding, and their accurate throws to the correct base. I embrace a saying the Cubs are using in this spring training which is: “Let’s do it again” if a player does not execute on that pitch or play. This tells the athlete that the organization is willing to take extra time in all training sessions to help them learn to execute correctly. Finally, while I was observing practice at MLB camp, I visited with Justin Grimm, former Cotuit Kettleers pitcher in 2009 playing for me and also Brett Jackson former Kettleers outfielder in 2008. These young man were so talented when they played in Cotuit, were so nice to everyone at Lowell Park and their house parents, and both of them are still just great people. It was so much fun to see them being very successful on and off the field. I will report on some other Kettleers players that are in camp in the next day or so.
Friday, February 21, 2014
What a pleasure it is to be a very small part of the Chicago Cubs player development program in Spring Training 2014 as a consultant. The leadership continues to amaze me in their ability to build such a positive culture; an incredibly friendly place to come to work; and believing profoundly that we are each part of “Something Special” being built in the Cubs player development system.
After three days of familiarizing myself with the administrative staff, coaching staff, and support staff I continue to be even more impressed with each person’s desire to work together. The Cubs organization is a “Team” and I am very happy to be a part of this outstanding group of people.
Mini Camp started today for approximately 24 offensive players in the Cubs minor league system and about the same number of pitchers. I watched the players begin to execute some base running, throwing, defense, and hitting. Was just a fun and productive day in Wrigleyville West.