Saying Goodbye: Reed Johnson

This is the second time I’ve had to dedicate a Saying Goodbye post to Reed Johnson. It really isn’t fair.

I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before, at one point or another. Just this:

Reed Johnson is awesome. He makes the sweetest catches, gets hit by pitches like a boss, does amusing things, and is an extremely likeable human being. Oh, and I am going to miss him. Lots.

Thanks for lending your services to the Cubs, Mr. Johnson, not once, but twice. Thanks for being the kind of player that everyone could get behind. And best wishes in Atlanta!

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Photo of the [Day? Week? Month? Year???]

Ryan Dempster was traded to the Atlanta Braves yesterday, only he wasn’t really. It was a fun adventure. And a false alarm for the ages.

I’m sitting on a few goodbye posts, but in the meanwhile I thought that as much of the world at large as possible needed to see the following picture, which I may or may not have filched off of Paul Sullivan’s Facebook page (a hint: I did).

Ordinarily the whole costume thing is just a hazing ritual for the rookies, but apparently this year the entire team decided to get in on it, donning the raiment of their favorite super-heroes. Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker cleverly decided to dress as Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, respectively.

There’s a reason why I love these guys.

“You know how curious all dreams are…”

It has been rather quiet ’round here lately. A responsible individual, a good and honest writer, would shoulder the blame. I choose to point my finger. It’s the Cubs’ fault. One hundred percent. If they played better, I could produce dozens of gushy posts about how great they are and how much fun I have watching them. What’s a girl supposed to do with a 12 game losing streak, though? I’m sure not gonna sit around here and complain about what a dreadful team we have, and how painful they are to look at. Even if it’s true. The FBB is a cheerful place; I’ll have none of this doom and gloom nonsense. Even if it means all I end up producing are posts as irrelevant and innocuous as this one.
If you happen to be into super insipid baseball writing, you are in luck today! If not, just remember, like I said, it’s totally the Cubs’ fault.

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I have tons of weird dreams, some of which I remember and some of which I do not. The thing I dream the most is that I can’t see, or that my vision is at least severely impaired (more-so than it is in reality). It is most unpleasant. Baseball is the thing I dream about second most, though, which is usually much more awesome, and often  amusing.
Here, for your perusal, are an assortment of some of my baseball dreams. I’d love to hear anyone else’s, too. So do share in the comment section, should you feel inclined.
Years ago, I dreamt that I was at a Cubs game and caught a foul ball hit by Michael Barrett (who was my favorite player on the team, at the time). This is a actually one of the worst dreams I’ve ever had. Not because it was bad in and of itself, but because I was so excited in the dream and had thoroughly convinced myself that it was real. Waking up was the most disappointing thing ever.
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I don’t know if anyone else has these, but I frequently dream that I’m stuck in some massive, decrepit old house (full of creaking floors, cobwebs, etc.,) and have to try to find my way out through a labyrinth of rooms that never really end. Usually these are bad, bad dreams. But one time, I was blessed with company in the form of my lovely cousin Melinda along with ex-Cub Cliff Floyd. It seems an odd combination, but the three of us got along quite famously and actually had a really good time going through that creepy house together.
                                                                       *
Remember Ryan Freel? He was a Cub for about 5 minutes several years ago. A few weeks after the Cubbies discarded him, I had a dream that he was still on the team. He struck out or something and got really, really angry. One of the other players (I forget who, but it was someone nice who I liked… either Sam Fuld or Micah Hoffpauir, I think) attempted to console him in a kind way. This only made Ryan Freel even angrier, for some reason, and before anyone knew what was happening, he started viciously attacking aforementioned kind teammate with his bat. And I remember thinking, Golly! Who knew Ryan Freel was such a monster?
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I once dreamed that I was seeing the Cubs with my sister. We were sitting in the front row in the outfield of some non-descript park and were both suffering violently from colds. Our coughing, sneezing, and blowing of noses caught the attention of Reed Johnson, who was manning his defensive position quite close to where we were. He looked up at us with concern and asked if we were OK. Though really we were not at all OK, we were so excited that Reed Johnson had inquired after our health that we immediately responded that we were just fine.
                                                                *
I don’t remember how this one started, but somehow I was being driven around in a mini-van with Joe Mauer.  I’m not sure who was driving, but Joe was seated in the middle seat and I was all the way in back. He was wearing glasses. He informed me that he was going to be running for president, and wondered if I had any advice as to what sort of policies he should have, etc., Unfortunately, I was too tongue-tied to give him the solicited advice.
                                                                      *
My favorite dream that I’ve ever had “starred” Ted Lilly. Only he wasn’t Ted Lilly the left-handed pitcher. He was Ted Lilly the escaped convict in what appeared to be the 1970’s.
It started with Ted and a fellow escapee holed up in a dingy motel. They went out and split up, intending to meet up again later. As what I’m guessing was some part of their plan, Ted then proceeded to wave down a commuter bus and hijack it. He had no weapons of any kind. If it were anyone else, one might wonder how he managed to hijack a bus full of people unarmed. But since Ted Lilly is pretty much the Chuck Norris of baseball players, I don’t feel an explanation is necessary.
The bus was bright green in color, and its driver was a young Julie Andrews. When Ted communicated his intentions, Julie was incensed. She fearlessly demanded that he let all the passengers off the bus before he took off with it. Ted agreed. Once the people had disembarked, Miss Andrews then insisted that he also personally reimburse each one for the cost of his or her bus fare. Ted assented to this also, with utmost politeness. He explained that he didn’t have any money at the moment, but if the passengers would write down their names and addresses, he would be happy to mail it to them at a later date.
Julie must have been impressed by all this courtesy, because she then proceeded to inform Ted that, if he wanted it, there was a gun in a hidden compartment on board the bus. He stared at her with what I can only describe as the Lilliest of looks, and said, “Why would you tell me that?”
After that, Ted took off in the bus. He eventually ended up being chased by a fleet of police cars, but the dream ended around that point. I woke up laughing.

Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part Three

Grab your kazoos and party hats! Cue the confetti cannon and fireworks! Prepare your happy dances!

Opening Day has, at last, arrived.

Although, if you’re a Mariners, Athletics, Marlins, or Cardinals fan you’ve had your moment already. This celebration isn’t for you. Go away.

For the rest of us, let’s let the good times roll.

And what better way to kick off this glorious day than with the conclusion of Rhyme-o-rama 2012?

My remaining and increasingly un-predictiony “spoems” follow. I hope you’ll enjoy.

~

Let’s hope our hearts shall oft be cheered
By the presence of Blake DeWitt and his beard.

Rafael Dolis is as cute as can be
He’ll set up, which is fine with me.

Starlin Castro is here to stay-
We get to watch him every day. (Yay!)

Kerry Wood is my favorite, you see,
So instead of two lines
I am giving him three.

Don’t try to hit ’em where Reed Johnson ain’t,
He is everywhere, see, an outfielding saint.

Geo Soto I’ll shower with flattery,
He’s always a positive end of the battery.

Lendy Castillo and Shawn Camp have somehow made it this far,
I literally have no idea who they are.

Darwin Barney plays second base
By bubblegum power he activates.

Tony Campana, Campana Tony.
His speed is anything but phoney.

Luis Valbuena was acquired last minute,
If there was a prize for most infielders, the Cubs now would win it.

~

Thanks to you all for joining me on this strange, rhyming journey. Enjoy Opening Day, and Go Cubs!

Recapping Cubs Con: Day Three

If you visit The FBB often, you will know that I have a great love for our up-and-coming minor league boys and it won’t be much of a surprise to learn that I looked forward to Sunday’s “Down on the Farm” forum with much anticipation. The line-up was a solid one: Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur, Jeff Beliveau and newcomer Anthony Rizzo appeared along with Jason McCleod, Tim Wilken, and Oneri Fleita. The latter three did most ofh the talking, while the players mostly sat in silence, or fidgeted with their drinking glasses and pens. Brett Jackson (prospecto numero uno in the Cubs system) was the exception. He took the reins on the majority of questions leveled at the players, speaking well and with a good sense of humor. Anthony Rizzo also spoke a bit (on the challenges of being traded, among other things) and smiled more than the rest. 

I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that up until the midpoint of this session, I was completely unaware Junior Lake is Latino. I should know that sort of thing, I really should. In any case, Oneri Fleita translated a question for Junior, who rattled off an answer in his native tongue. Dave Otto, who was officiating, jokingly turned to Mr. Jackson for an interpretation. Brett’s response: “He said that Brett Jackson was the best player he’s ever seen… that I’m his best friend, and that my Spanish is above average.” Brett also playfully turned an audience inquiry about how closely the minor leaguers follow the Cubs over on Junior…

Brett: “Junior, did you watch the Cubs at the end of the year?”

Junior: *Confused, non-commital look*

Brett:  “Just say ‘yes.'”

On the whole, “Down On The Farm” lived up to my expectations, although it seemed to go by really fast. We finished off our Cubs Convention experience by collecting a few more autographs, all from fellows who had appeared in this session (Matt Szczur, Jeff Beliveau, and Josh Vitters.) It can’t hurt to collect before these guys hit the big-time, can it?

Here are a few more random notes to wrap up my recap… they didn’t really fit anywhere else:

-I am extremely sad to inform everyone that my little friend Theo 2 was lost somewhere in Chicago. Jed Jr. is all alone now. Let us observe a moment of silence in his memory…

Their last photo together, taken shortly before the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

-Darwin Barney cited chewing gum as one of his superstitions…. Bubblegum Power Activate!!!

-Reed Johnson is a Redskins fan (haha) and he uses Canadian imported birch bats.

-During the Cubs Caravan (which took place the day or so before the convention) some of the younger minor league guys dared Tony Campana to eat a large number of some Fruit-By-The-Foot-like product in 10 minutes (or some such minuscule amount of time.) Apparently, he didn’t quite make it. And I’m guessing it will be a long time before he voluntarily eats any Fruit-By-The-Foot again.

-Josh Vitters as some really sparkling eyes. Usually, I would not make a point of sharing such an observation, but it’s really true.

Well guys, this is all I’ve got for now. I’m heading to California tomorrow, but when I get home I hope to put up a few more pictures (better ones. I hope.) Until then, thank you for putting up with my inefficiencies.

Peace out.

Recapping Cubs Con: Day Two

Saturday morning kicked off with a Theo Epstein Q&A hosted by Len Kasper. (Warning: This is where my lousy note-taking skills are going to start rearing their ugly heads.) Theo cited the devoted fan base as a major factor in bringing him to the Cubs. “You don’t find this kind of passion a lot of places,” he said, adding that, “I’ll never forget that Kerry Wood moment for the rest of my life.” He said that he didn’t think he had done anything yet to deserve having his name chanted, but that he hoped it might be more warranted down the road. When asked what kind of changes would be made to Wrigley Field, Theo responded with, “I think that the ‘W’ flag should be raised more.” He’s clever, eh? The session as a whole was quite interesting. There is something captivating about this guy because, even though he didn’t say anything that I did not expect to hear, I was thoroughly enthralled for the entire hour.

“There aren’t a lot of Albert Pujolses around, and I’m glad the one there is isn’t in our division anymore.”

We followed up the Theo event with an hour’s fruitless wait in a Darwin Barney autograph line (oh well) after which we headed to the “Kids Only” Press Conference. It featured a line-up of Tony Campana, Darwin Barney, Reed Johnson, Todd Walker, and David DeJesus. Only youngsters were permitted to ask questions, and it was a scream. Where else would you learn Todd Walker’s dog’s name (which is Mr. Caboodle Snorkleson, or something close to that)? Or hear such a query as, “What would happen if you fainted on base”? Or learn that Tony Campana recently got carded at the movies? Or that if not a ballplayer, he would have liked to have been an astronaut? Tony was definitely a popular guy in this session, and Reed Johnson had us all in stitches.

Just a few gems from this highly entertaining hour:

Q (to Tony): How did it feel when you hit your inside the park home run?

Tony: I was tired.

Q.: What would you do if you were in a pickle?

Reed (confusedly): A pickle jar?

Reed: Is the reason every question is for Tony Campana because he’s the same size as you guys?

Q.: What do you do after a loss?

Reed: Cry. [Short Pause] A lot.

Q.: If Ernie Banks was still on the Cubs, what would he do?

Darwin: He’d wanna play a double header.

Q (to Tony): Are you gonna hit a real home run this year?

Q.: If you could change into any animal, what would it be?

Reed: A cheetah, so I could be just like Tony.

And I am sure the whole world will want to know that Reed Johnson’s favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip, while Tony’s is cookies & cream, Darwin’s and David’s is strawberry, and Todd Walker’s is vanilla (with stuff on it.) I know that this is some pretty hard hitting stuff…. I hope you folks can handle it.

Almost immediately following the Kids Only conference was a session called “Outside The Foul Lines”, with Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto, Randy Wells and Tony Campana (again.) It was, unsurprisingly, another winner. I won’t rehash all the contents of this panel as it was, I believe, broadcast on WGN radio and should be available for download sometime soon. It is worth a listen, for sure.

To round off the afternoon, we waited in a few more lines and procured autographs from Travis Wood (sorry you’ve not gotten a ‘Welcome To Chicago” post yet, Travis) and Todd Walker (I’m still a fan. Can’t help it.)

Doesn’t he look like somebody? I can’t figure out who. Help me out, people.

Before heading back to the ‘burbs for the night, we happened to witness Randy Wells in a hallway with a lady friend. He was taking her picture with a life-sized cardboard figure of himself and urging her to “kiss it”… I don’t think she did.

Saying Goodbye: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs

“I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.”

I know that the average Cubs fan was relieved when the 2011 season finally ended last week, and probably doesn’t think there was much worth remembering fondly from it. I believe that there is always something worth remembering from every year. This year, by some miracle, I have come up with not one or two but TEN positive things to either take from the 2011 Cubs, to look forward to in 2012, or (in a few cases) both.

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10. Sean Marshall… the man who deserved better than the Chicago Cubs. Sean recorded 34 holds and a 2.26 ERA and all that, but I don’t need to recite his stats. We all know how good he is.

9. Jeff Baker & Reed Johnson. Is it just me? Maybe. These may not be marquis-type players, but I have determined that they are genuinely likable human beings and I enjoy watching them play very much.

8. Carlos Pena’s smirk. I’m glad Carlos got to spend a year on the North side. I’ve always been a fan, and I will miss his smile next year.

7. Matt Garza. It obviously isn’t reflected in his won-loss record, but Matt had a very good year for us. And what stands out even more than his solid pitching performances is his enthusiasm. If it was so unflappable in a stinky year like this, I would love to be able to see how psyched up he’d be for a good year of Cubs baseball.

6. Kerry Wood. If seeing Kerry back home again didn’t warm your heart, you might not have one.

5. Throwback uniform days. We got not one, but TWO vintage uni days in 2011, a rare treat. Throwbacks will never fail to thrill me.

The socks… oh! The beautiful socks!

4. Ron Santo-ness.

3. Darwin Barney. I know that a lot of Cubs fans have long since turned their noses up at Darwin, proclaiming him unworthy of whatever acclaim he may have received this year. I know he isn’t Robinson Cano or anything, but Darney certainly exceeded my expectations of him (in the first half, particularly) and that is enough for me to count him among the high points of this year.

2. Tony Campanarama’s mad wheels. I know that some of the same noses turned up against Darwin Barney are likewise against Tony. He may not possess a lethal bat, but honestly… find me someone more fun to watch on the basepaths. You won’t, because there isn’t anyone. This is more than enough to earn our little speed-demon a spot on this list.

1. STARLIN CASTRO. Enough said.

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