James’ Spring Training Journey: Rockies vs. Cubs

Scoreboard at Cubs Park in Mesa, Arizona

Scoreboard at Cubs Park in Mesa, Arizona

Mesa – The Chicago Cubs looked downright awful against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday afternoon in Arizona, but that isn’t what struck me most about the game. In my first dispatch from spring training here in the desert, here are a couple of thoughts that I had about the two teams:

-Luis Valbuena may drive some people crazy with his lackluster production, but he did a couple of things right in this game that really intrigued me. For starters, there was the way he worked the count in his first at-bat of the game, despite his team being down five runs. Instead of trying to cream the first pitch he saw, Valbuena instead patiently worked the count, and ended up coaxing a walk out of Jorge de la Rosa, who up until that point had been virtually mistake-free in the game.

Valbuena also made a nice defensive play at third base in the fourth inning of the game. With left-handed outfielder Corey Dickerson at the plate, Valbuena was positioned well off the third base line. Dickerson ended up hitting a weird slicing ground ball down the line, but Valbuena read it perfectly and made an excellent pick up of the ball before gunning out the runner at first base.

Is Valbuena a perfect player? No. Is he going to potentially force Kris Bryant to play another position? Absolutely not. What he is though is an intriguing place-holder for the Cubs at the position, and he could very well make some noise in the lineup and potentially earn himself some more playing time from Rick Renteria if he can make some plays like he did on Tuesday.

Players try to help Travis Wood figure out the meaning of life in Mesa

Players try to help Travis Wood figure out the meaning of life in Mesa

-Nolan Arenado is one heck of a ballplayer, and he showed off all of his bat skills in this one. The triple he pounded in the third inning that Junior Lake lost in the sun in center field was an absolute rocket, but it was nothing compared to the home run that he deposited onto the berm in left field. Every fan in the stadium knew the ball was gone as soon as he hit it, and it merely reinforced the point that the guy was ridiculously dialed in at the plate this afternoon.

-I wrote about my impressions of Cubs Park in great detail in the Iroquois Times-Republic (even if you don’t live in the coverage area of the paper, you can still get the online edition for a nominal fee if you so desire), but probably the thing that excited me more than all of the shout-outs to Wrigley Field was the fact that you could get gelato in a plastic Cubs helmet.

For those of you not old enough to remember this, Dairy Queen used to allow customers to get ice cream sundaes in little plastic baseball helmets, and I had quite the collection while I was growing up. I usually tried to pick up a new team every time I went (the Phillies were a favorite of mine, since I wore a Phillies cap during my T-ball years), but I naturally had 18 billion Cubs helmets lying around my bedroom at home.

Seeing kids walking around Cubs Park today eating gelato out of those helmets brought me a stupid amount of joy, and really reminded me of just how long it’s been since I fell in love with this game.

Speaking of the game, I will be filing another dispatch from Tempe on Wednesday afternoon, as I will be watching the California Angels (I’m not calling them by their actual, stupid name) take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

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