I had the opportunity to attend the Cubs Caravan event in Peoria last Thursday. Cubs players that were on hand were: Tony Campana, Chris Carpenter, Casey Coleman, Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters. Coaching and front office staff in attendance were: Chris Bosio, Dave McKay, Joe Bohringer, Jamie Quirk and Randy Bush.
I had hoped to speak with a few of these guys during the media session, but the snowy weather delayed their arrival and the media time was trimmed to about 5 minutes right before they started signing autographs for fans. I did have a chance to speak with Matt Szczur for a few minutes and we will release that in the podcast feed during Spring Training as a part of series of interviews.
The Peoria Chiefs do a great job with Cubs Caravan. I am terrible at estimating numbers, but I would guess that there were 300-400 people in attendance. The first hour or so was set aside for autographs. When fans walked in the door, they were given three cards and those identified which players/staff you could get autographs from. Brett Jackson was obviously the hot commodity, as many people were walking around trying to get Brett Jackson cards in trades from unsuspecting kids that didn’t know the difference between Brett Jackson and Dave McKay.
After the autograph session, the players were seated in front of the audience and the panel was open for a Q&A session. The Chiefs sought out kids for the Q&A. Personally, I like this approach because it’s probably the biggest moment of these kids’ lives, and you avoid the uninformed and “hard-hitting” questions from fans that believe they know more about running a baseball team than those up on the stage. The fact that kids were asking the questions kept things light, like “Can I have your autograph?” and “Can I sit on stage with you guys?”. Both answers were “yes”, by the way. One girl that appeared to be around 18 or 20 years old stated that she batted lead-off for 10 years of competitive softball because of her speed and she challenged Tony Campana to a foot-race. The Q&A session was ended with another girl asking Matt Szczur for a kiss. So you can tell, things were pretty light-hearted at this event.
Some of the questions were a little more relevant, though not entirely juicy. These players (all of which spent time with the Chiefs) were pretty humorous. Here are a few of the questions and some of the answers from the 30 minute-long Q&A Session.
Q: When we win the World Series this year, what are you going to do?
Dave McKay – That’s probably one of the reasons I decided to come here. I was borderline retiring and there was only a couple of places I would go. I love Chicago – the atmosphere in that stadium, the way they draw, and the fact they haven’t won in a while. That’s an incentive. I heard the Ricketts family talking about a month before the end of the season, when we came into town. We listened to some of the things that were being said by the Cubs about the direction they were going. I remember talking with Dave Duncan about how these guys are going to get good, and they’re going to get good fast. You can see them starting to put things into place with Theo Epstein and others. I had someone call me about possibly going to the Chicago Cubs and in talking about these guys, there’s some real special players in this organization. There’s a lot of talent and I think they’re going to get good fast, and I’d like to be a part of it. I’d love to see a World Championship Parade in Chicago.
Jamie Quirk – Like Dave said, they brought in Theo and Jed and they won two World Series’ in Boston. Randy (Bush) won two in Minnesota. Dave McKay has won. (Chris) Bosio has been in the major leagues forever. We’re just going to try to pass that along to this group of guys. We’re going to try to create an atmosphere…a winning tradition. We’ll try to win every single game. There’s no re-building. There have been teams that have gone from last to first. It’s happened multiple times. Anything can happen. There’s no such thing as a 3-year, 4-year or 5-year plan.”
Q: What direction are we headed in now?
Brett Jackson – That depends on the snow (laughter). The direction is to win every game. That’s the focus.
Q: Who were your idols/favorite players growing up?
Chris Bosio – Rod Carew
Tony Campana – Ricky Henderson and Kenny Lofton
Dave McKay – Not to be corny here, but my parents.
Casey Coleman – Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux
Matt Szczur – Ken Griffey Jr.
Brett Jackson – Will Clark and Andre Agassi
Josh Vitters – Derek Jeter
Jamie Quirk – Mickey Mantle
Chris Carpenter – Ryne Sandberg
Randy Bush – Mickey Mantle
Q: Who is going to take over for Big Z?
I believe this was Chris Bosio – Big Z didn’t pitch at the end of the year. So…a lot of guys.”
Like I said, this was about a 30-minute Q&A session. If you would like the audio for the entire session, e-mail me – email@example.com