By Mick Gillispie / Smokies Radio Network
Today begins the stretch run for our broadcasts of Cubs baseball on cubs.com, as we’ll have seven games in eight days available for fans. It’s bittersweet knowing this is the final full week of spring training games. Bittersweet because I am looking forward to returning to the South and I’m always excited about the start of the Smokies season. Also bittersweet because I’ve really enjoyed my time out here and I’m not ready to leave the big league atmosphere. You work hard in this business to be at this level, and it’s been fun being around the best players, writers, and broadcasters each day here.
After having the weekend off, it’s nice to be back at HoHoKam Park this morning for today’s game against the Padres. It’s the last split-squad day of camp, and because of that the front office will probably make another round of roster cuts tomorrow or on Wednesday. This will be a busy week for us because we will be in Goodyear tomorrow, back in Mesa Wednesday, Peoria on Thursday, Friday back in Mesa, then I’ll have Saturday off. We’ll have games Sunday and Monday, then that’s it for spring training. I’ll come home following that and then head to Chattanooga for the start of the Smokies season on April 5.
I enjoyed some time off, and went to a couple different places around Arizona. I enjoyed going to Tempe to visit the Arizona State University campus, and had a bit to eat at a cool place called Casey Moore’s Oyster House, which you can see a picture of above.
Another interesting thing about Arizona is how much cactus you see here. Everywhere you look there is a cactus, and people even have different kinds of cacti in their yards. Certainly a change of scenery from what I’m used to in Alabama or Tennessee.
I spent part of Saturday at Fitch Park watching some of the minor league games. It was nice to catch up with former Smokies hitting coach and Cubs hitting coordinator Tom Beyers, and also Cubs pitching coordinator and former longtime Smokies pitching coach Dennis Lewalllyn while at Fitch Park. The lower level Cubs minor league teams were playing, and there were some guys I really wanted so see. I especially wanted a look at Reggie Golden, who was the Cubs first pick in the draft a couple years ago. Chris Volstad was there to get some innings in and he looked sharp. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the starting rotation at some point this season for the Cubs. Overall I was impressed by a lot of players, several of whom I’m sure we’ll see with the Smokies at some point this year.
The buzz about the Smokies roster is that everyone feels like we’ll have a good club in Tennessee. The first half team especially when you consider the mix of talent from last year’s Tennessee team and some of the stars that helped lead Daytona to a Florida State League title in 2011. The Smokies should compete once again for a first half North Division title, and that’s what you want heading into the season.
That’s it for today, but check back all week for posts from Arizona. Check out Roger’s post below to get all the listening information on the Cubs vs. Padres game today where Len and I will have the call.