2006 Spring Training – Small Ball, Heroes and Legends

Game One – An Amazing Day

Cubs 8 – A’s 7

Spring Training is different from the regular season. The players are more relaxed, the fans are more relaxed and there is more access to the team. The players will interact with the fans, talk to you, sign autographs and even pose for pictures. HoHoKam is a great park to watch a game; it feels like “Little Wrigley” to me….all of that history.

The Cubs played a good game on Thursday and I would like to think this is a preview of things to come. Small ball was definitely the theme for the first Spring Training game of the year. At the end of this article there is the CCO Photo Gallery from Day One….now to the game….

Carlos Zambrano pitched well, a one, two, three first inning….striking out two. It has been reported he has lost 20-30 pounds and from what I saw first hand on Thursday….I can believe it. The Cubs went with the following lineup and here is the Box Score from Cubs.com:

Pierre – CF
Hairston, Jr. – DH
Lee – 1B
Ramirez – 3B
Walker – 2B
Barrett – C
Jones – RF
Murton – LF
Cedeno – SS

The Cubs took pitches; yes they did not swing at the first offering from the opposing pitcher. Although Pierre made an out in his first at bat as a Cub, he made Danny Haren work. Pierre took the first 3 pitches and then laid down a bunt and was thrown out. After his single, Jerry Hairston went from first to third on a single by DLee and scored on an infield single by Ramirez.

Todd Walker’s defense has come under fire this off-season, but on Thursday he looked very good at second base. Walker made three put outs and only one was routine. On the other two put outs, Walker ranged to his left and right and made good strong throws. He really played well. And speaking of defense, Derrek Lee actually dove for a ball in the second inning….who says these guys don’t care about these games?

The other new Cub, Jacque Jones did well. He went 1 for 1 with a walk. He showed good patience at the plate choosing not to swing at pitches that were very close to being strikes. Jones scored a run in the third on a single to right by Ronny Cedeno. Both Cedeno and Murton singled and scored in the 2nd inning.

Ryan Dempster looked good in his one inning of work, three up and three down. The Cubs were up 5-0 in the top of the 5th. Dusty put in Bryan Corey (#99) and the wheels came off. Corey gave up a solo shot to right to Bobby Kielty and I am embarrassed to say I could not make the catch. The home run ball went in one hand and out the other, at least it was the A’s because I would have had to thrown it back anyway. Corey then loaded the bases and gave up a Grand Slam to Mark Ellis. Before Dusty could get Will Ohman in the ballgame, Corey had lost the lead and gave up 7 runs on 6 hits, all earned.

Dusty did start substituting in the 5th. Brian Dopirak took over at first, Neifi took over at second, Felix Pie went to center and Marquis Grissom took over for Hairston in the DH spot. Geovany Soto replaced Barrett behind the plate in the fourth.

The substituting continued in the 6th. Ryan Theriot went to second, Neifi to short, Michael Restovich went to right after pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 5th and Adam Greenberg took over in left. Roberto Novoa became the 5th Cubs pitcher of the game. Novoa looked good and I was able to catch him warming up in the bullpen. He really throws a heavy ball….he got the right field crowd going.

Dusty continued to make substitutions throughout the game. Before it was all done we got to see Jose Reyes, Casey McGehee, Bobby Howry and Michael Wuertz. Wuertz was credited with the win.

The headliners played really well. The plate discipline for the entire team showed improvement on Thursday. If the Cubs are to win at the Small Ball game they have to finish what they started on Thursday.

Jerome Williams was asked on Thursday about how he liked pitching in the Major Leagues and his response was, “The easiest part is to get there, the hardest part is to stay, guys want your spot.” When I heard that I thought it was very fitting and worth passing along.

Attendance – 7,718

Friday – Cubs vs. Mariners from Peoria, Arizona
Game Two – Glendon Rusch vs. Jamie Moyer

I will be visiting Peoria on Friday, check back for highlights and pictures.

On a personal note….I was fortunate to meet one of my favorite All-Time Cubs, Shawon Dunston. He took the time to speak with me and take a couple of pictures….don’t worry I took the one with me out of the photo gallery. I also spoke with Pat Hughes briefly….what a nice man. Several Cubs took the time to stop and allow me to photograph them. Those shots are in the photo gallery and include Ronny Cedeno, Sean Marshall, Jae Kuk Ryu, Jerome Williams, Pat Hughes and Len Kasper.

But I would have to say the highlight of my day was meeting the great Ron Santo. Anyone that is a regular visitor to the CCO knows what I think of Ron Santo. He said he was wearing his ‘gamer’. It was unbelievable to get to briefly speak with him and get his autograph….I felt like I was 10 (pardon the pun).

Oh by the way, Derrek Lee is still wearing his ‘Believe’ bracelet, so I’m not the only one.

Enjoy the CCO Photo Gallery from Day One and until tomorrow….

The Game Winning Run

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein