The professional: Bobby Scales fights for his place

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The professional: Bobby Scales fights for his place

Sunday, March 13, 2011Posted: 5:25 p.m. Updated: 8:20 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. If things had worked out differently, maybe Bobby Scales would have spent this weekend in Japan, trying to contact concerned friends and family to assure them that he was all right.

The haunting images flashed on a flat-screen TV almost directly above Scales locker on Friday in the Cubs clubhouse. Players, team personnel and reporters silently watched CNNs coverage of the earthquake and tsunami that could push the death toll past 10,000. That morning, Scales received confirmation from Micah Hoffpauir that he was safe.

I dont care who you are, where youre from, what language you speak thats awful, Scales said. What (else) can you say about it?

Every player has a small window to maximize his earning power and support his family. Hoffpauir who appeared in 162 games with the Cubs across the past three seasons is trying to capitalize with the Nippon Ham Fighters. At the age of 33, Scales cant ignore the possibility of playing abroad.

Absolutely, Scales said. If I was given the opportunity, I would love to have gone (to Japan). Their process is very intricate and they do a lot of homework on guys they bring over, so apparently I didnt pass the test.

But Scales isnt the type to wonder what could have been. The Cubs think so highly of him that they would like to hire him for their front office as soon as he retires. Hes not ready to play along with that idea just yet. A utility guy likes to be appreciated, but not taken for granted.

Its a flattering thing to say, Scales said. Its good that people think of you as a good baseball guy and an intelligent person and someone that they would like to work with in the future. (But) Im still a player and I still want to play and I still feel like I can help a team win games. Until that changes, thats my (mindset).

Scales went to the University of Michigan and cant wait to watch ESPNs Fab Five documentary. Its not hard to get him talking college basketball. But he doesnt want to be a Cinderella story.

It took Scales 11 seasons and more than 1,000 games in the minors before he made his big-league debut in 2009.

Hes hitting .438 this spring, and has put on a show for the players brought over from the minor-league complex for a split-squad weekend. In two games, he went 4-for-8 with two RBI and three runs scored. He helped turn five double plays on Sunday as a second baseman.

Its encouraging for the young guys, said Cubs bench coach Pat Listach, who once managed Scales at Triple-A Iowa. (They) see a guy who didnt get to the big leagues until he was over 30 and is still fighting and battling.

These guys have got to take notice of it and say, Hey, we need to work just like that. This guys in his 30s and still doing it.

Jay Jackson, a 23-year-old pitcher, credits Scales for showing him how to manage his time and demonstrating the way you should act in the clubhouse, essentially what it takes to be a professional.

Bobbys kind of taken me under his wing, Jackson said. I couldnt ask for any better teachers than I had last year, with him and Micah Hoffpauir at Triple-A. It was a blast, just picking up little things here and there. If when I do make it, Ill know the proper way to do things.

Cubs executives also notice those leadership traits. Again Scales is working on a minor-league deal. He gets why the media tries to find some deeper meaning to it all. But the way he sees it, he still has a great job and a supportive wife. Why wouldnt he be here?

I know how old I am everybody knows how old I am, Scales said. But Im very fortunate to stay away from injury. Im of the mind that youre as young as you tell yourself you are. Age is nothing but a number. Ive been smart enough to keep myself in shape.

If it doesnt work out here, then hopefully it will work out somewhere else.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."