Cubs fans and former players are at Fitch Field in Mesa this week for Randy Hundley’s Cubs Fantasy Baseball Camp. Here’s what they had to say about the deal this week to keep the team in the Cactus League: Click for slideshow
Cubs fans and former players are at Fitch Field in Mesa this week for Randy Hundley's Cubs Fantasy Baseball Camp.
The fantasy camp has been a Mesa tradition for the last 29 years and brings fans up close and personal with ex-Cubs players.
Many of the former players and campers shared their thoughts with the Tribune about the deal this week to keep the team a fixture in the Cactus League, as it has been for the last 57 years.
Here's what they had to say (Click for slideshow):
Cubs third baseman, 1960-1973
WGN Radio Cubs color commentator since 1990
"Why would we want to move?" asked Santo, a 10-year winter resident of the East Valley. "Arizona is a wonderful place. The traveling here for the teams is wonderful. I trained in Florida with the Chicago White Sox for one year, and that traveling between facilities for hours at a time takes a lot out of you.
"Everything is so close here. The Cubs have a great base of fans out here and the Hohokams, who organize a lot of activities and events at Hohokam Stadium, have been very good to us. I've got to believe Arizona is the best place for the Cubs. Mesa is a wonderful place and the weather is great."
Member of Baseball Hall of Fame
Cubs pitcher, 1966-1973, 1982-1983
Cubs coach, 1995-1996
"I think the Cubs would've made a mistake if they would have gone to Florida," said Jenkins, who has had a presence in Arizona since the mid-1960s and has lived in Anthem for eight years. "Mesa is the ideal place for the Cubs to be, and Arizona has always been a great spring training area. The Cubs always get 8,000 to 12,000 fans a game here. I've trained in Port Charlotte, Fla., and in Winter Haven, but I don't think the weather is as enhanced there. Here, the weather is pretty even and players can get in pretty good shape. If the Cubs would've left, the city would've lost the profit, and the Valley would've lost a team that's a value for spring training."
Cubs relief pitcher, 1980-1987
Roving minor league pitching instructor for the San Francisco Giants
"It doesn't make a difference to me one way or the other where the Cubs go," Smith said. "The Cubs have fans all over the world, and they'll draw wherever they go. Going to Florida wouldn't have hurt them."
Cubs catcher, 1966-1973, 1976-1977
President of Randy Hundley Cubs Fantasy Camp
"I'm happy Mesa has worked something out so the Cubs could stay here," Hundley said. "I'm glad it's Arizona and not Florida. The weather is a lot better here and more predictable. I trained in Florida for one year, and it rained about every day. The weather there is so touchy. I was happy to hear that the Cubs are staying here, but if they would've moved to Naples, I would've had to have moved the camp with them."
Cubs second baseman, 1965-1973
"I like it (in the Valley), but I think a change would've been good for the Cubs," said Beckert, who lives in Englewood, Fla., 60 miles north of Naples. "I know the people in Mesa won't like to hear that, but Florida produces a lot of world champions, and the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 and haven't been in a World Series since 1945. The fishing down there is great, too. I and my old roommate Ron Santo are closing in on 70, and we would like to go out knowing the Cubs at least made it to the World Series."
Cubs shortstop, 1964-1975
"I loved training in Arizona, love the area and I'm happy to hear that the Cubs will stay here," Kessinger said. "I hope Mesa and the state make the Cubs happy. The Cubs have been here forever. I really prefer Arizona to Florida for spring training. Teams don't have to travel too far out here, and there's half of the major league teams out here now. I think the Cubs wanted to stay here, and I hope it all works."
Cubs pitcher, 1972-1981, 1983-1984
"I want to see them stay in Mesa," Reuschel said. "I'm happy to hear they're working something out."
Cubs first baseman/outfielder, 1972-1976
"How could they not want the Cubs in Mesa?" LaCock asked. "They'd be stupid not to. I would hope they'd accept them with open arms. I think spring training in Arizona is best. Florida is terrible. When I played with the Kansas City Royals and we trained in Fort Myers, I remember traveling for as long as seven hours when we played other teams there. The travel is better here, and the weather is more predictable. You don't see a lot of rain here. Mesa working something out for the Cubs to stay here is good news." e_SClB
Cubs third baseman, 1971-1974
"I think Mesa is a beautiful city, and I'm happy to hear they are staying here," Fanzone said. "The Cubs are comfortable here with their surroundings, but I know it's all about money. Spring training has become a big business. I hope they wind up staying. The Cubs in Mesa are a good fit."
FANS AND FANTASY CAMPERS
John McDonald, 75, Rockford, Ill.: "I'd be heartbroken if they left," said McDonald, 75, who has been coming to spring training for 25 years and has had a winter home here for six years. "I wouldn't go down to Florida."
Sam Eatman, 66, Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium groundskeeper: "I'm glad the Cubs stayed here," said Eatman, who is in his 11th year as a groundskeeper. "I'd have to look for another job. A lot of teams are moving out here from Florida, especially for brand new facilities. Arizona is a good place for baseball."
David Fishman, 65, physician in Chicago: "I'm all in favor of the Cubs staying in Mesa," said Fishman, whose wife is negotiating to buy a condo in Scottsdale this week. "The Cubs are the backbone of the Cactus League. We have a finer and more consistent climate than Florida to plan physical activity, and people here are more congenial than the people in Florida. If the Cubs aren't about tradition, nobody should be."
Mark Smith, 50, Cleveland, Tenn.: "It was a deal that had to get done," said Smith, whose father lives in Naples. "The Cubs are a staple in Mesa, and they sell out here wherever they go. I think the city would've done anything to make a deal work for the economy. I think Naples was a very serious threat, but this is where the Cubs belong."