Cubs share vision with season-ticket holders
Epstein, Kenney present video of Renteria, prospects, spring facility and Wrigley plans
CHICAGO -- Cubs season-ticket holders got a sneak peek at new manager Rick Renteria on Friday.
Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, and Crane Kenney, president of business operations, met with season-ticket holders at the downtown Bank of America Theater and presented a video interview with Renteria, who was named manager on Thursday. The presentation also included video of some of the Cubs' top prospects, a look at the new Spring Training facility, and at renovations planned for Wrigley Field.
During the invitation-only event, an enthusiastic Renteria talked about how excited he was to take over the team. He was unable to come to Chicago for his formal introduction because he is unable to travel after undergoing hip replacement surgery.
"I feel we can win with young players," Renteria said in the video, "because, quite frankly, the difference between an experienced Major League Baseball club with veteran players is simply that [veterans] have the confidence level that's been borne over time and experience. I think what we're trying to do is advance that confidence level as quickly as we can."
Epstein said one of the reasons Dale Sveum was dismissed as manager after the season is because the Cubs did not have that environment to develop young players.
"Frankly, that's an area that I haven't done a great job at, providing a Major League environment that's supportive and allows our young players to continue to develop," Epstein said. "That was really one of the major reasons for the managerial change, and one of the most important things we were looking for in a new manager. We wanted a new manager who had leadership experience and leadership traits. We wanted a new manager who had already impacted players positively at the Major League level, and impacted the Major League team."
Epstein emphasized to the fans the need to develop homegrown players rather than rely on free agents. Of the 50 players on the active rosters for the World Series, 35 of them were either drafted and signed originally by their respective teams or were acquired using homegrown players.
Fans watched videos of the Cubs' top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and C.J. Edwards.
"The most fundamental reason we're focused on young players is simple," Epstein said. "It's just about talent, and cramming as much talent as we can onto our roster."
He said from 2002-11, the Cubs ranked last among the 30 teams in Major League production from the First-Year Player Draft, and that the baseball operations department has focused on correcting that. Now, the Cubs' Minor League system ranks among the top five in baseball.
During Friday's presentation, fans viewed a video detailing the changes proposed for Wrigley Field, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. Those renovations have stalled while the team tries to reach an agreement with rooftop owners, who are opposed to new signage at the ballpark.
Wrigley's birthday will be celebrated all year long in 2014, Kenney said.
"It's definitely going to be the party of the century," he said.
In December, a commemorative book about Wrigley Field's history will be released. The Cubs also plan on launching a website in January with more videos and photographs detailing the ballpark's history.
Home uniforms will have a commemorative "Wrigley 100" patch on the sleeve and the side of the cap. The road uniforms will be gray and have "Cubs" across the chest, similar to the uniforms worn by players in the 1920s.
There will be 10 straight homestands dedicated to 10 different decades at the ballpark, beginning with the 1910s. On Fridays of every homestand, the team will give a unique bobblehead honoring an individual or event from that decade. On throwback Sundays, the Cubs and the opposing team will wear uniforms from that celebrated decade. Concessions also will present decade-themed food.
On April 23, which is Wrigley's birthday, the first 30,000 fans will receive a replica Chicago Federals jersey. The Federals were the first team to play at the ballpark at Clark and Addison streets.
A friend told Epstein when he took over the Cubs in October 2011 that "it takes great courage to be patient." After two seasons in which the Cubs have lost 90-plus games, Epstein said the fans are the courageous ones, and that their passion motivates the team and front office.
"We're not going to stop until the arrival of your playoff tickets in the mail every September is as much an annual indication that fall is here as the leaves of the ivy turning colors," Epstein said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.