#Cubs spring highlights
Before the Cubs’ regular season begins, a look back at my top five highlights of Spring Training:
1. Dexter Fowler’s return
Practice was stopped on Feb. 25, and all of the players were told to gather around the pitcher’s mound on Field 6. Joe Maddon tried to distract them, saying there would be a special announcement. And then Fowler and Theo Epstein appeared.
“My heart’s here,” said Fowler, who has re-signed with the Cubs.
Said Maddon: “When he walked in, everything felt right. Everything felt good at that point, but then everything felt right. You could see how that last piece just fit in there. There was a place for him and he fit right into it perfectly. He’s got great energy, people feed off of him. I don’t know that we knew how important that piece was until he came back to us.”
2. Black bear cubs
If you want to see grown men suddenly turn into little boys, you should see them around 3-month-old black bear cubs. The baby bears were two of several guests during Spring Training. No one wanted to be late for the morning stretch because you didn’t know what strength coach Tim Buss would be wearing or who would show up. There was a guest D.J., a guitarist, a mime and a motivational speaker who broke a concrete block on Maddon’s chest. Plus, who can forget Munenori Kawasaki’s karaoke?
3. The bees
Jason Heyward is a large man, and you knew something serious was happening when he ran for cover after a swarm of bees arrived in center field in the third inning of the March 27 game in Mesa. Heyward was stung more than 10 times, and fortunately, was not allergic. They didn’t seem to affect his swing. He hit a home run after being stung.
4. Anthony Rizzo’s piano recital
Rizzo, who had been taking lessons all spring from an instructor he found near the Cubs complex in Mesa, was surprised when he saw a piano near the agility field before the morning stretch on March 29.
“They put me on the spot,” Rizzo said. “I wasn’t prepared — totally unprepared. That’s what this camp is about — be ready to do something.”
Rizzo warmed up by playing a “Heart and Soul” duet with teammate Kris Bryant, then played a little of “Hello” by Adele and also “Drops of Jupiter” by Train. His teammates sang along.
5. Joe Maddon’s bike rides
Maddon took advantage of the great weather in Arizona and the space at the Cubs’ complex in Mesa to ride his mountain bike for exercise. I didn’t realize just how serious he was until he sped past me one morning. Whatever you do, don’t get in Joe’s way.
Honorable mention: The Cubs’ Junior RBI team, who got to play and practice with the Cubs for a weekend … Chatting about politics and baseball with President Obama’s former senior advisor David Axelrod, who is a Cubs fan and working on a story about the team for the “New Yorker.” … Having lunch waiting for me, courtesy of the Steve’s Dream folks (many thanks!). … Watching youngsters like Jeimer Candelario, Willson Contreras, John Andreoli, Albert Almora and many others have good camps. … The perfect weather in Arizona.
It’s time to play games that count.
— Carrie Muskat