What’s your style when you meet a professional athlete, Chicago?
Do you approach immediately and ask for a selfie? (Also, does anyone ask for autographs any more?) Or, do you play it cool and keep some distance?
That was the decision facing my 8-year-old son and me during the Super Bowl. We were staying in the Phoenix area but didn’t attend the big game. We chose instead to visit the spring training homes of our favorite baseball teams — the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs. Nothing was happening at Peoria Sports Complex, the ballpark that hosts the Padres, so we headed to Sloan Park.
We were the only customers inside the team store when Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki walked in with friends. I recognized Suzuki immediately but didn’t want to bug him. So, I tried to ignore the Japanese star was doing the same thing that we were doing — shopping for the latest Cubs gear.
[ Spring training travel: A guide to what’s new in Arizona for Cubs and White Sox fans ]
I wondered, however, if my son might be disappointed if I didn’t capture the moment. So, I awkwardly asked Suzuki if he would take a photo with him. He nodded and I snapped the photo.
And that’s the best part about spring training, in my opinion — the casual access to players. Though our trip to Arizona was too early to catch practice or an exhibition game, we came home with a small souvenir. That alone is enough to satisfy until opening day, which is 35 days away.
This marks the 25th year the Cubs and White Sox have both gathered in Arizona for spring training, but there have been a variety of fascinating stories throughout the decades and laundry list of locations that have hosted the teams. I’ve highlighted a few below, but my favorite one includes some noisy crickets. 🙂
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Thanks for reading!
— Kori Rumore, visual reporter
Chicago history | More newsletters | Puzzles & Games | Today’s eNewspaper edition
Look back at how both teams have warmed up for the baseball season through the decades. See more photos.
The event is shrouded in mystery. Many baseball historians and most fans are unaware that the tryout, if it could even be called that, ever occurred. Read more.
The White Sox and Cubs have conducted spring training in many exotic places, but perhaps none so surprising — or with a more tantalizing name — than French Lick, Ind. Read more.
Jose Cardenal, a bushy-haired Cubs outfielder in the 1970s, had a difficult time sleeping one night at Cubs camp in Scottsdale because a cricket in his hotel room had kept him awake. Read more.
Vintage Chicago Tribune
The Vintage Tribune newsletter is a deep dive into the Chicago Tribune’s archives featuring photos and stories about the people, places and events that shape the city’s past, present and future.
After the 1986 season, the free-agent outfielder thought he had to escape Montreal at all costs because Olympic Stadium’s concrete-hard artificial surface had wreaked havoc on his knees during his 11 seasons playing for the Expos. Even if that meant offering the Cubs a blank-contract proposal and asking them to fill in his salary. Read more.
Sox general manager Ron Schueler called him a “million-to-one shot,” but Jordan told the media: “I’m not afraid to fail.” Read more.
- From 2020: Michael Jordan bid goodbye to the White Sox — and baseball — to return to the Bulls and NBA glory
- Michael Jordan timeline: Top moments and stats in the life and career of the Chicago Bulls and NBA legend
On opening day of his first spring training with the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., Cubs manager Lou Piniella casually mentioned Wood sustained a rib injury falling “in his hot spa.” Piniella then asked the media not to make “a big deal out of it.” Read more.
Complaints mounted about the team’s new spring training ballpark in Arizona 25 years ago — there wasn’t enough parking; the ballpark was in one of the bleakest parts of town and there wasn’t much to do. Yet, volunteers were plentiful. ” … visitors can expect to find the sort of people who will happily explain more than you ever wanted to know … Docents have all the answers.” Read more.
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