Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Break - Cubs v Rangers

The last stop on the spring break trip was a visit to HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona, the Spring Training Home of the Chicago Cubs. Since the 1950s the Cubs have called Mesa home, and pending a vote in the fall, will continue to do so with improved facilities.

The Cubs are the most popular MLB team in the Cactus League. We attended the March 16 Cubs - Rangers game where the Cubs won 4-1 in front of 13,157 fans, the fourth most attended game in the history of HoHoKam. Newly acquired pitcher Carlos Silva allowed two hits, struck out three in four scoreless innings. Silva came to Chicago from Seattle in exchange for Milton Bradley. Many Cub fans are excited to have Silva no matter the record, just as long as Bradley is no longer wearing the Cub pinstripes.

Among the advantages of attending spring training games is the proximity fans have to players and Cub icons. Radio voice of the Chicago Cubs, Pat Hughes was making his way from the press box to field level. Along the way he stopped for autographs and photo opportunities.

The umpires meet with coaches of each team prior to the game to exchange lineup cards. The only starter not in the line up for Chicago was Derek Lee.

Another new addition to the Cub roster is free agent Xavier Nady. Overcoming shoulder surgery, Nady has been spending time in the lineup as the DH. Once 100 percent he will platoon in the outfield.

A favorite of the Engelbert household is Ryan Theriot. Last November a student at Colin's elementary won a Sports Illustrated for Kids contest having their favorite MLB player attend their school. Theriot showed up at Wickham, and Colin sported his Cubs shirt.

Former Iowa Cub manager, Michael Quade has been the third base coach since Lou Pinella began managing Chicago. Quade spends a few minutes with Ranger manager Ron Washington between innings. This was the day before news broke of Washington testing positive for cocaine.

There are many good seats at HoHoKam and it was standing room only. The advantage of spring training games to the regular season is the proximity the fan has to the field.

Game time temperature was 75 degrees, and as the PA announcer reminded us, it was 54 in Chicago.

Chicago Cub Manager, Lou Pinella spends time outside the dugout watching the action. In the forefront is Mike Maddux, pitching coach for the Rangers and brother to future Hall of Famer and former Cub pitcher, Greg Maddux. Greg is with the Cubs in an advisory role to General Manager Jim Hendry.

Starlin Castro is the hottest prospect in the Cubs organization. Lou has announced the shortstop will start the season in Des Moines for the triple A Iowa Cubs. The middle infield has been a hot topic for the Cubs during the spring. Currently Theriot and 2B Mike Fontenot have solidified their jobs, but Castro has performed well making the media and fans wonder when he will be elevated to the major leagues.

The Cubs win 4-1.

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