South Bend Cubs Media Day
It was a rain-soaked Wednesday, and all the preseason festivities that were planned at Four Winds Field had to be postponed. Hunkered down in the Visitor’s locker room, Opening Day starter Preston Morrison was surrounded by reporters as he prepared for a local television interview. “It was really exciting being drafted by the Cubs,” Morrison said. The 22-year old, who cited Greg Maddux as his favorite player while growing up in North Carolina, explained that he was a sinkerball pitcher, pitching to contact and using his change-up to put hitters away.
Manager Jimmy Gonzalez, looking relaxed and confident, expressed that he was very impressed with the quality of his pitching staff, and with the potential of his outfield. When asked about what the best part of managing is, Gonzalez said, “It’s very exciting to see a player move up. That and the support from our home fans, it really creates a lot of excitement.” Gonzalez says he tries to make sure all of his players have fun and remember that it is a game, but to also respect the game by running hard and playing hard.
Left-handed pitchers Carson Sands and Justin Steele were ushered in as the last players for the group interviews. The 21-year old Sands said that it will be a big change playing full-season baseball. “You have to learn how to take care of yourself, and learn how to pitch rather than just relying on your stuff,” Sands explained.
The number two man in the rotation, Steele reported that he is fully recovered from a triceps injury that kept him out part of 2015. Coming off of an impressive Spring Training performance, the 20-year old Steele said, “[My] fastball was sitting a little high than it had been, and I have been working on my change.”
The setting then broke up into individual interviews, where Eddy Julio Martinez talked about the bidding war to obtain the services.
“The waiting was the hardest part of the process,” said Martinez through interpreter Dave Rosario. “I just wanted to get onto the field and play.” Among the things noted by Martinez upon coming to the United States was the quality of pitching and that “everything in America seems more rapid.”
The 21-year old says he prefers to play centerfield, but will do “whatever it takes” in order to pursue his Major League dreams. Martinez hoped that his blend of power and speed can benefit the South Bend Cubs.
Over in the South Bend Performance Center, outfielder Eloy Jimenez was asked about his reputation of being a leader. Through interpreter Guillermo Martinez, the native of the Dominican Republic said he “wants to set an example for all the players from his country” by his conduct. Jimenez is often seen working with and giving advice to player with less professional experience. Upon hearing that he is considered the organization’s best power hitting prospect, Jimenez shrugged off the compliment. “It doesn’t affect how I prepare,” said Eloy. “You just look to get a good pitch.”
Outfielder Donnie Dewees sat down for an exclusive one-one-one, and talked about his selection by the Chicago Cubs. “We had a big draft party with food catered in,” said the relaxed 22-year old. “It was an honor to be selected by an organization like the Cubs.” Dewees is very proud of his college achievements, which included leading the nation in hits, slugging percentage, and several other categories. For now, the left-handed hitter reports working on his arm strength in order to stick in center field. He also said that he prefers to bat leadoff.
Endorsed by his manager, P.J. Higgins has taken an unusual route in his baseball path. A college catcher, the 23-year old played in the infield after signing following his selection in the 12th round of the 2015 draft. Now, Higgins is back at catcher, and manager Jimmy Gonzalez is impressed. “He [Higgins] is hungry! He has very strong skills, and looks like he has been doing this all his life,” Gonzalez said. Higgins displayed his intensity in an exclusive interview, saying the he “really enjoys the competition and wanting to do well.”
“The mental part of the game is what I like,” Higgins said. “The pitch calling, setting up hitters, things like that.”
Despite the cold and poor weather, everyone in the locker room was upbeat on positive, and why not? Nothing renews the soul more than the beginning of a new season.