Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 11:41 a.m. Updated 10:18 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. The next voice of summer knows it will be strange to hear someone else calling the action from the press box high atop Wrigley Field.
Nobodys going to replace Ron Santo, Keith Moreland said. All I can do is keep the seat warm.
The Cubs and WGN Radio announced Wednesday that Moreland will follow the legendary broadcaster, who died in December and left a city and generations of fans in mourning.
The team will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. A collage of Santo photos will be the 2011 media guide cover. In August, his statue will be unveiled outside the stadium.
There is no comparing Moreland to a franchise icon, but hes well-prepared for this high-profile job. Moreland played six seasons for the Cubs (1982-87) and has extensive experience as an analyst at the University of Texas, where hes worked football and baseball games for 25 seasons combined.
Im just going to be me I can probably butcher the English language with the best of them, Moreland said. I do understand the game. I feel very confident (talking strategy). My (style) might be a little bit more analysis than you did with Ron, but Im also a guy that likes to have fun.
The 56-year-old Moreland receives a three-year deal to team with Pat Hughes, who balanced out Santo and gave a touching eulogy at his funeral.
Chemistry is something that needs to be nurtured, Hughes said. Im going to try to tap into (Morelands) knowledge. No matter how long youve been around the game, (there) are certain things that a guy who never played in the big leagues just cannot know as well as an ex-player what its like to try to hit a 95 mph fastball.
Like Moreland, Dave Otto had filled in for Santo over the years and emerged as another finalist for the job. WGN sports director Dave Eanet praised Ottos work, but said he does not have a specific role lined up for this season.
Texas and ESPN are set to launch a new 24-hour television network in September. Moreland, who earned his degree in Austin, said he will not be involved: I am 100 percent totally committed to the Chicago Cubs and WGN Radio.
Santo meant so much to all kinds of people, for the way he played the game, his 21 seasons on the radio airwaves and the millions of dollars he raised for diabetes research.
Moreland completely understands Santos legacy. His reception could depend on whether or not the Cubs are turning Wrigleyville into a huge block party again, or slogging through another disappointing season.
I hope we have a good Cubs team to cover, Hughes said. That would make all the difference in the world, because the audience always thinks youre doing a better job when you have a winning team. They are happy with the information you are delivering every day.
If Hughes and Moreland need to fill air time, or get through a rain delay, they can talk about Albert Pujols. Right or wrong, everyone else in baseball will be linking the Cubs with the games best player.
It came into sharper focus as Wednesdays deadline to negotiate a contract extension imposed by Pujols expired without the 31-year-old slugger and the St. Louis Cardinals reaching an agreement.
Roughly nine months before Pujols could potentially become a 300 million free agent, manager Mike Quade didnt want to be drawn into the conversation.
Thats their deal, Quade said. I cant be preoccupied. You hear: Is that going to affect this or that? Look, theyre going to be a good team. He isnt going anywhere. Thats for damn sure right now. Hes going to be somebody we have to get out and somebody we have to beat. I dont care what happens contract-wise with him.
Im looking forward to seeing Carlos Pena knock the daylights out of the ball. Thats all that really matters to me right now.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.