A few weeks ago, I entered a contest held by 1908 Tees on behalf of my nearly nine-year-old nephew Markus to win a spot at Anthony Rizzo’s ProCamp. The contest entailed submitting a video, a minute or less, and a winner for best video showing their love for the Cubs, baseball, and creativity would be declared. I entered this video featuring Markus jumping into a hot tub in a Cubs jersey accompanied by an original song I stole from a bridge I wrote 20 years ago, plus photos of Markus playing ball and going to Cubs games.
And we won!
So on Monday, August 13, my sister Amy packed up Markus and his sisters and brought them out to The Ballpark at Rosemont for a few hours of baseball drills with Anthony Rizzo and a staff of high school and college coaches.
The press was invited to come to the event at 11:30, about halfway through the camp, which allowed me to follow around Anthony Rizzo and Markus as he drilled hitting. (Video courtesy 1908 Tees)
Pitching (Video courtesy 1908 Tees)
And Fielding. (Video courtesy 1908 Tees)
For three hours, Markus and his squad went from station to station practicing baseball fundamentals while Anthony Rizzo ran around to different teams facing off in quick pick up games. Here is Rizzo, practicing his relief pitching for another shot at bullpen glory. From this video, you can see that Anthony’s ground ball to fly ball ratio is 2-1, but his swing and miss rate is pretty terrible.
According to some baseball insiders who know how to “play the game the right way,” Rizzo was also shown the ultimate in disrespectful baseball behavior when a kid hit a series of dingers off of him and then egregiously bat flipped.
But Rizzo apparently has no problem with bat flips, as he ended the days activities with a clinic on how to get started bat flipping.
Walking around I kept thinking: Man, I wish they had these ProCamps in the 1980s when I was a kid. I could have learned how to dive into the ivy like Andre Dawson or how to bust out of slumps like Mark Grace. What a great opportunity it is for these kids to feel a part of the Cubs baseball team while practicing their skills with one of their heroes. Though, truth be told, Markus’s favorite player is Javier Baez and he jumped into that hot tub in a hand-me-down Ryan Theriot jersey.
The Cubs did have something like this ProCamp at Wrigley Field that I attended once sometime in the 1980s, but we didn’t get to actually play baseball. I just remember walking around the outfield and sitting with a group of kids listening to Keith Moreland and Fergie Jenkins talk. I told Fergie at spring training about that memory and he exclaimed, “Then you remember what I told ya!” I had to admit that I remember very little from my ninth year on earth and had no idea what he said. Fergie then told me again what he had told me that day in the early 80’s, and unsurprisingly, I forgot again.
But Markus and the other boys and girls who attended this camp won’t forget. There are photos and videos which will help embed this in their memory throughout their life. With hundreds of kids at the camp, and hundreds more who attended the Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber camps held earlier in the year, I wouldn’t doubt if there is at least one future MLB player that passed through the Cubs ProCamps this year. There were a couple of kids that I saw playing that certainly passed the eye test when it comes to simply having natural talent at baseball.
It’s not an inexpensive experience by any means. Anthony Rizzo’s camp cost $299. And I can guarantee Markus would have not been allowed to attend at that price. Thanks to the 1908 Tees contest, I was able to give Markus this day to remember as he grows up playing the game we all love, and enjoying Cubs baseball. There were other kids who I believe attended for free because their family serves in the military, and also cancer surviving children who were specially honored as well and seemed to be guests of Anthony Rizzo.
With the success of the ProCamps this year, I’m sure there will be more held next year. If you’re interested in this experience for the kids in your life, check out the ProCamps Website. They throw clinics for numerous sports!
After it was all over, I drove Markus home and asked what he thought of the camp. I could tell he was tired from three straight hours of baseball drills so I couldn’t get much out of him except for that he wishes they played more actual baseball. The game, not the drills. At least Markus has a better chance at remembering it all, because his uncle Danny was walking around taking pictures of everything! Here are some of those pics!
Lastly, I found it hilarious that every session with Anthony ended like this.