On Monday, July 19, 2010, Tom Ricketts, the board chairman of the Chicago Cubs, sat down with the Smokies media department to discuss his visit to Smokies Park, the Cubs’ organization and insight of being an owner of one of baseball most storied franchises.
By Adam Kline
October 27, 2009 will be a day that the Ricketts family will always remember. On that Tuesday morning, with the approval of MLB commissioner Bud Selig and other MLB owners, the Ricketts family, with Tom Ricketts as board chairman, officially became the majority owners of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. “It was literally a dream come true,” said Ricketts.
Ricketts grew up in Omaha, Nebraska watching the Omaha Royal and also George Brett and the Kansas City Royals. In 1984, he moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago and became attached to the Chicago Cubs watching Cub greats Jody Davis, Bob Dernier and former Smokies’ manager Ryne Sandberg. “My family and I are Cubs fans,’’ Ricketts states.
When asked if he ever saw himself as the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Ricketts reminisced about the first time he asked himself that question.
“Well its funny, the answer’s typically no. But I was digging through some old papers in my office about four months ago and came across my essay from business school in 1990. And that was the year I was living across the street from Wrigley Field. So the question that was asked in the essay was; what’s your dream job? And I wrote all about being a major league owner,” he says. At the time, he was living with his older brother, Pete, above the “Sports Corner” Bar at the corner of Sheffield and Addison. “So it is literally truly a dream come true.”
Living right across the street from Wrigley Field, Mr. Ricketts was able attend many Cubs’ games. “One difference (between watching the game as a fan and an owner) is that I don’t get to watch much of the game. It’s a lot of talking with folks and listening to what they do and don’t like about the team or the field,” he says. Tom likes to mingle throughout Wrigley Field during games. “I walk around most of the game, up at Wrigley Field. I have a dozen baseballs everyday that I hand out with the date printed on them for little kids. I’ve signed a lot of baseballs this year, but it’s nice. We just want to be close to the fans. We’re a family, we want to get that family vibe going at Wrigley and kind of unwind those years of corporate ownership.”
Some people might ask why would the owner of the Chicago Cubs visit Smokies Park?
“Well, one of the things we’re doing is we’re getting out and just seeing the whole system. You know, I’ve got a lot to learn, I have a lot of people to meet. We’ve had a very nice day here; spending a couple hours with the coaches, talking with the players and then spending a few hours with the management and the ownership here. It’s been great, it really a first-class organization.”
As of July 21, the Smokies, along with all of the Cubs’ minor league affiliates are contending for first place in their respective leagues. “It’s very, very encouraging,” Ricketts reflects. “Obviously our win-loss record up at the major league team has been disappointing for us this year. But some of the exciting things we are seeing are the younger players that are coming up. Obviously some of the guys that were here at the beginning of the season, the Castros, the Cashners and obviously Tyler Colvin who was here last year. We’re very excited. A couple of guys on the field right now have a chance to be major league players.”
After arriving at Smokies Park, Ricketts and Vice President of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita, took a tour of the facilities. “One of the main things that I wanted to see today was the players’ facilities,” says Ricketts. “We are very happy with what the players have here, as far as their clubhouse, workout facility and playing field.”