“Whatever the pace of the particular baseball game we are watching, whatever its outcome, it holds us in its own continuum and mercifully releases us from our own.” – Roger Angell
Though the calendar tells us that we’ve officially transitioned from winter to spring, the disappearance of those leonine March winds and mountainous piles of plowed snow here in the Midwest over the past two weeks is a better indicator, meteorologically speaking. For sports fans, the onset of March Madness, a harbinger of spring if one ever existed, leaves our calendars with but one significant benchmark in reserve: baseball’s Opening Day.
It’s been the longest of winters, one that has lasted a full calendar year in a metaphorical sense, and hope that we’ve put the worst of the pandemic behind us has lessened the ongoing drudgery of mandates and best practices. Though our esteemed governor has yet to distribute vaccines to the general public or relax facemask requirements here in Wisconsin, the weekend was full of talk of 75% capacity by May 1. There’s even the potential that businesses, including entertainment venues, could be at 100% shortly after Independence Day, if not sooner.
When baseball shut down last March, it was the first kick to the midsection that COVID-19 was, in fact, a global disaster that would change everyone’s lives. An initial request of 14 days to flatten the curve took 52-plus weeks instead, and though the number of those still inflicted and succumbing to the viral disease is much higher than it was a year ago, we are trending significantly lower as more people are immunized or have survived infection.
It’s not difficult, therefore, to dream of the salubrious effect of sunshine, like-minded camaraderie, and afternoon baseball in a way we were accustomed to before last season. I’ve circled the week of June 28 on my calendar as the day I hope to reintroduce myself to live baseball. The Cubs will be in Milwaukee for three days to play the Brewers beginning on that date, and I intend to be at each of those games.
The Friendly Confines doesn't sound the same without you. #CubTogether
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 10, 2021
With any luck, I hope to attend a game in Chicago sometime in August, seated comfortably in section 105 (which I feel offers the best vantage for watching a game), decked out in full Cubs regalia, beverage in one hand and a hot dog in the other. The sounds of a ballgame, which seem so foreign to many of us these days, will hail a triumphant return to normalcy, whatever the new version of that may be. Wrigley Field, the “dowager queen” as Dodgers announcer Vin Scully once lovingly described her, will surely be a welcome sight for tired eyes.
“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger, physical stoicism, tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set, repair those losses, and be a blessing to us.” – Walt Whitman
Cubs News & Notes
- Several Cubs, including Craig Kimbrel, Kris Bryant, and David Bote, are trending upward as the team enters its final week of spring training.
- Kimbrel made an adjustment to his delivery and seems to be finding his groove.
- Brandon Workman has also looked good so far and he gives David Ross multiple options depending on game situations. Workman can work long relief, setup Kimbrel, or close games.
- Bote and Jake Marisnick have been the team’s hottest hitters of late.
- Trevor Williams and Shelby Miller have been much better than advertised and as Ross finalizes his roster, he may have to deal with an overabundance of good pitchers.
- Barring any injuries, Miller may be the odd man out, though pitching coach Tommy Hottovy indicated the staff will continue to sort itself out well into the first two weeks of the season.
- The Cubs still don’t know whether Adbert Alzolay will have an option available or not, which puts Miller atop the roster bubble.
- With no DH, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta are leading a friendly hitting competition among their fellow starters.
- Over the past seven seasons, Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 30.2 WAR, which ranks among the top 10 of all major-league position players. Because of that, extending the first baseman should be a priority for Jed Hoyer.
- Anthony Iapoce sees himself as more than just a hitting coach.
Odds & Sods
I’ve never seen a finer specimen in my life, and I’ve been told that Hank Aaron fella was pretty good at baseball, too.
Hank Aaron just styling right here. pic.twitter.com/FB834lM490
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) March 21, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
The Yankees have the most annoying fanbase in all of baseball and rank second overall behind Duke basketball fans in all sports. The Cardinals were 11th and the Cubs 19th.
Bryant looked awfully quick with the bat here, and that’s nice to see.
KB’s 1st of the spring 💥 pic.twitter.com/uQVIR02Y9t
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 20, 2021
Sliding Into Home
I did not attend a game at Wrigley Field in 2019, a first for me, so my last trip to the Friendly Confines was August 25, 2018.
They Said It
- “Even the first week of the season, you’re still trying to feel out those roles. Plenty of guys look great now that may scuffle going into the season. Plenty of guys who are scuffling now, once those bright lights turn on and there’s fans in the stands, it’s a different guy.” – Tommy Hottovy
- “In my first couple outings, numbers-wise, obviously going out, giving up runs and hits, all those kinds of things don’t look good. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was more worried about how I physically felt. How the ball was coming out of my hand and what I could do in my next outing to make it a little bit better each time out. And it’s worked out so far. I didn’t want to get upset about my first couple and then go out there and try to throw as hard as I can. That wouldn’t have been productive.” – Craig Kimbrel
- “I think everybody comes out here wanting to be an All-Star, a superstar. You don’t play baseball to come out here and not make a big impact in the game. So that’s what I’ve been working at. I want to come out and make a big impact.” – Jake Marisnick
- “[Marisnick] is a guy that still has not reached his full potential in his eyes. He’s continued to work toward that. He’s a guy that knows his role. There’s a lot to like about [him].” – David Ross
Monday Walk Up Song
Empty Baseball Park by Whiskeytown – There is nothing more wonderful than the hampered scurry of baseball fans amid the hustle and bustle at the intersection of Clark & Addison on game day. It’s been too long. my dear friend.