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February 2014

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What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Written by , Posted in General

by Seymour Butts, correspondent

As most of you are aware, I spent last week in Mesa, AZ at Randy Hundley’s Cub Fantasy Camp. The detail of the camp are not likely to be interesting to you with the exception of the usage, for the first time, of the new Cubs spring training facilities.

The Campers were actually the first individuals to use any of these fields for baseball. In discussing this with Randy Hundley the feeling was that it was a test run so that any issues could be identified before the professional players got on the fields. This was the case. There was an underground sprinkler issue that took most of the week to find and fix. In one of our afternoon games, the sprinklers came on and rotated circuits around that field for about 10 minutes. We were not on the field that was having pipe-leaking issues at the time, so it may have been the valves were mislabeled. The problem was there was no pattern or notice to the circuits changing and I, among others, got a nice shot of water in the back. At least it was about 80 degrees there that day.

There were 2 new coaches this year Bobby Howry and Mike Remlinger. We tend to think we know their personalities from watching on TV, we were wrong. You could not meet two nicer guys than these. Bobby was saddled with a poor team that thinned its ranks due to injury. He ended up as a pinch runner and outfielder due to this by Thursday. Remlinger had a smile that never left his face. And Raker, he drives a Prius. Thank goodness someone cares about the environment.

I’m going to try and show photos of some of the highlights:


This is one of four identical fields located at the west end of the complex. These are the fields we used Monday thru Friday. There is an elevated platform large enough that we had lunch there daily in the middle. It is wired to the hilt with outlets and Ethernet ports about every eight feet all around the periphery.

On Monday between games, we were all given a guided tour of the entire complex by the facility manager. Our first stop was the weight room:


We were told that this is not only the largest, and best equipped, weight room in the minors, but likely bigger than most all Major league facilities. The prior facility at Fitch park was roughly 30 by 40 feet, with less than a tenth of the equipment in this room.

In a rear corner of the weight room is the tub area. Some are hot, some cold, and one in the middle has a treadmill and underwater viewing windows.

Next we have the major league locker room:

And a class room for film review and even English language classes:

On Wednesday morning we had a visit from some of the Cub Minor league players who were already in town:

Among those present were Messer’s Edwards, Black, Johnson, Jokisch, and Vogelbach. Pay attention to the guy in the grey shirt. That is Dan Vogelbach. I saw him when he played for Boise and was fat. He is no longer lard laden, and looked very solid. C J Edwards can’t weigh more than a couple of bats.

Saturday we played against the former Major Leaguers in the first baseball of any kind to take place on the new Cubs Stadium.

There were of course a number of first for the stadium in that game. First Pitcher: Mike Remlinger. First Batter: Randy Hundley.

There were a number of other firsts of course, but the one I will remember is pictured below:


First DP turned: Seymour Butts. It was against the pros’ fastest runner, left handed batter Bobby Howry who uttered an expletive when he hit me a two hopper straight up the middle for a 6-3 dp.

Come to Camp! It’s a blast.

  • Eddie Von White

    Thanks for a really great tour.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    Thanks for posting this. I was down at spring training a few years ago, and had a lot of the fun in spite of the frigid temps (for AZ at that time of year). This experience looks like even more fun based on your access and actually playing on the fields.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    Thanks for posting this. I was down at spring training a few years ago, and had a lot of the fun in spite of the frigid temps (for AZ at that time of year). This experience looks like even more fun based on your access and actually playing on the fields.

  • Doug S.

    Superb. Thanks Seymour. I’m envious as hell.
    Note to self – Get down to Mesa, it’s one crummy plane ride away.

    • PLCB3

      I wish I could too but I need money for that. Flight hotel and rental car for a week would run about 2 grand.

  • Doug S.

    Superb. Thanks Seymour. I’m envious as hell.
    Note to self – Get down to Mesa, it’s one crummy plane ride away.

  • Doc Raker

    Thanks for the write up Seymour, looks great. It is interesting how much the experts think they know about all these prospects, i.e. Vogelbach is fat, but then you see him in his development and you see he is progressing into a hard working pound shedding ballplayer. Here is to hoping all of his hard work and all of the other prospects hard work pays off. The complex looks great and looks like a real upgrade from Fitch. I assume there was a Subway nearby for your supper dinning.

    • Seymour Butts

      Subway about 4 blocks from the Dobson. Dinner Sunday and Tuesday.

    • Noah_I

      Most of the experts have acknowledged that Vogelbach’s weight is down, but still have concerns about the ability to play 1B. He’s on the short end of first basemen at 6′ tall, although the opinions on his ability to stick at the position (or whether he’s a pure DH) vary significantly. Some think he has the ceiling of a league average defensive 1B, some think there’s no chance he’ll play the position adequately at the Majors, and some in between. I have more concerns about the lack of elite power at this point. If he’s more John Olerud or Mark Grace than Prince Fielder, it helps to field like Olerud or Grace. With that said, he’s still quite young, shows a great approach at the plate, and from all indications is a quality young man. Best case scenario: he creates a very tough decision for the Cubs to make between himself and Rizzo in 2016 or 2017.

      • Doc Raker

        Experts have been wrong many times because it is hard to project someone’s development when profound strength, growth and agility changes are made. Sure you can see where the ballplayer is at but to project ceilings before all these changes are made is just a guess, nothing more.

  • Doc Raker

    Thanks for the write up Seymour, looks great. It is interesting how much the experts think they know about all these prospects, i.e. Vogelbach is fat, but then you see him in his development and you see he is progressing into a hard working pound shedding ballplayer. Here is to hoping all of his hard work and all of the other prospects hard work pays off. The complex looks great and looks like a real upgrade from Fitch. I assume there was a Subway nearby for your supper dinning.

    • Seymour Butts

      Subway about 4 blocks from the Dobson. Dinner Sunday and Tuesday.

    • Noah_I

      Most of the experts have acknowledged that Vogelbach’s weight is down, but still have concerns about the ability to play 1B. He’s on the short end of first basemen at 6′ tall, although the opinions on his ability to stick at the position (or whether he’s a pure DH) vary significantly. Some think he has the ceiling of a league average defensive 1B, some think there’s no chance he’ll play the position adequately at the Majors, and some in between. I have more concerns about the lack of elite power at this point. If he’s more John Olerud or Mark Grace than Prince Fielder, it helps to field like Olerud or Grace. With that said, he’s still quite young, shows a great approach at the plate, and from all indications is a quality young man. Best case scenario: he creates a very tough decision for the Cubs to make between himself and Rizzo in 2016 or 2017.

      • Doc Raker

        Experts have been wrong many times because it is hard to project someone’s development when profound strength, growth and agility changes are made. Sure you can see where the ballplayer is at but to project ceilings before all these changes are made is just a guess, nothing more.

  • cap’n Obvious

    the dentists and actuaries looked to be in better shape this year, as well. Maybe Jared was on to something with the Sub sangwich diet…

  • cap’n Obvious

    the dentists and actuaries looked to be in better shape this year, as well. Maybe Jared was on to something with the Sub sangwich diet…

  • PLCB3

    Wow, incredible photos. Those look much nicer than Wrigley Field. I’ve taken the tour of Wrigley, you get to see the home and visitors clubhouses, they are very small.

  • Noah_I

    Great stuff Seymour. I am curious to what extent the camp goers are guys that played ball to a certain point, or do you have skill levels among the campers all over the place?

    • The pitching machine played some low-A ball.

    • Seymour Butts

      Campers skills do run the gambit. Every team of 11-13 will have 1 or 2 who have no skills whatsoever. It is not rare to see an occasional thrown baseball missing it’s target by 60 degrees and an individual not being able to reliably throw from the pitchers mound to first base.
      There is a core of 30 to 40 who comeback year after year most of whom are pretty good ball players for their age group. The hitting is better than you would think, it’s the fielding that can be an issue. BABIP is relatively high. OBP is probably 100 points higher than a true average due to poor fielding. None likely missed their calling, but there is good baseball played on a portion of the diamond in every game, just not at regular speed. The slow throws from the hole are competitive with the slowish base runners down the line however, so the game can be competitive. The campers must be at least 30, and most are in their 40’s and above. The new guys every year are a crap shoot, being young probably means you can run, but it does not mean you can play ball.

      • Doc Raker

        How did Smitty do? Did he want to hang himself after he flew out with a man in scoring position?

      • Seymour Butts

        He did ok in the 2 games I played against him. He was, as you will remember, always the last player to take his position on the field.

      • Doc Raker

        I do recall. I recall him not be ready to catch a simple fly ball and then getting all bent out of shape because the pitcher didn’t wait for him. Once at the Melee he got a single and then stood in the middle of the baseline admiring his hit. The opposition threw the ball into first base and picked him off while he was standing there preening. He got all pissed off at started muttering how bush league it is to pick someone off. The opposing dugout starts riding him, “You get to stand in the baseline all day in Chicago? Is that how you guys play in Chicago?” Comical for sure.

      • Doc Raker

        How did Smitty do? Did he want to hang himself after he flew out with a man in scoring position?

      • Seymour Butts

        He did ok in the 2 games I played against him. He was, as you will remember, always the last player to take his position on the field.

      • Doc Raker

        I do recall. I recall him not be ready to catch a simple fly ball and then getting all bent out of shape because the pitcher didn’t wait for him. Once at the Melee he got a single and then stood in the middle of the baseline admiring his hit. The opposition threw the ball into first base and picked him off while he was standing there preening. He got all pissed off at started muttering how bush league it is to pick someone off. The opposing dugout starts riding him, “You get to stand in the baseline all day in Chicago? Is that how you guys play in Chicago?” Comical for sure.

  • Good stuff Butts. I’ll get there before too long.