October 30, 2009
Contact:
Emerson Brown, NPR


   

NEW CHICAGO CUBS BOARD CHAIR TOM RICKETTS
SHARES IDEAS FOR IMPROVING FRANCHISE
ON NPR NEWS' WEEKEND EDITION, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31


EXCERPTS BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE SATURDAY AT 10AM AT NPR.org

October 30, 2009; Washington, D.C. – In his first national broadcast interview since his family completed their purchase of the Chicago Cubs, the franchise's new board chairman Tom Ricketts tells host Scott Simon on NPR News' Weekend Edition that he plans to retain the team's management, saying of General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Piniella: "Jim has done a good job of kind of bringing the team up to the level that they are at," and "Lou is one of the best managers in baseball." The exclusive interview with Ricketts will air tomorrow, Saturday, October 31 on NPR News' Weekend Edition. Excerpts of the interview are below; the full audio will be available Saturday at 10AM (ET) at NPR.org, where there is a companion story now: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114283287

Though the Ricketts family currently has no plans to shake up management, in the interview with Simon the new chairman shares many ideas about how to improve the franchise, including developing property adjacent to Wrigley Field, how family ownership benefits fans and using the Boston Red Sox as a model for both rehabbing a landmark vintage ballpark and turning a losing club into a winner. Excerpts from the interview follow:

On why he wants Piniella to stay on as manager, Ricketts says: "We think Lou is one of the best managers in baseball. He has an option to return next year, and from what I understand, I think he is planning to."

Asked about the future of Wrigley Field, he states: "First of all, we want this to be the best franchise in baseball, and you can’t be a world-class franchise and have third-class facilities.” He goes on to say that “there is land that is just adjacent to the stadium, along Clark Street, that the team owns and we intend to develop that into a part of the stadium, that will give fans more options on game day, but as importantly free up space inside of the stadium to build in some of the clubhouse functionality that other teams enjoy."

Even if park improvements cause higher ticket prices, Ricketts says one thing fans "should keep in mind is that with family ownership now, we intend to reinvest all the profits that we can get on the team and put that back into preserving Wrigley Field and to putting a better team on the field. So it's not like it's going away to some kind of corporation and never will be seen again."

On how he wants to build the team, Ricketts says: "Undoubtedly the way to build the long-term winner is through player development. You got to draft the right people and you got to have scouts and coaches that are coordinated and working together to turn the right players into real producers at the major league level. Free agency, I think, is something you look at when you got a hole to fill or when you haven't been able to produce a player from your own system. The real key for consistent performance and trying to win the division every single year is developing our own players."

Asked whether any other sports franchise is a model for the Cubs, he responds: "I think obviously what they've done with Fenway is a good thing for us to look at in terms of how to improve the stadium. Because we really do want to preserve and keep improving the special experience that Wrigley Field is. On the field we also wouldn't mind copying the Red Sox. I think it's time for the team to push forward and to win a World Series."

Asked if he'd welcome Steven Bartman back to Wrigley Field, Ricketts says: "I don't have any issue with him. And on top of that, I think one message that we have out for every fan is let bygones be bygones. What's happened in the past is behind us. There is no curse. There is no Billy Goat, there is none of that stuff. Let's move on. We're one of the best teams in baseball. We will be the best team in baseball going forward. And we just have to look forward, not backward."

All excerpts from the transcript must be credited to NPR News' Weekend Edition. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo.

Weekend Edition, NPR's weekend morning newsmagazine, is hosted by Scott Simon and Liane Hansen and reaches 5.3 million listeners weekly. The show offers a mix of hard news and cultural stories with care, accuracy and a wink of humor, courtesy of Simon and Hansen. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations