One of Tom Ricketts’ first orders of business as Chairman and Owner of the Chicago Cubs was to improve the organization’s ancillary facilities (because the process of improving the primary facilities – i.e, at Wrigley Field – was always going to take much, much longer). He went to work immediately on the Cubs’ Spring Training site in Mesa, and went on a tour of the organization’s minor league affiliates, most recently helping push the city of Boise to improve the long-antiquated home of the Cubs’ low-A affiliate, the Boise Hawks.
But the biggest move Ricketts might have made was to push for a new, expansive, state-of-the-art facility in the Dominican Republic to replace the amateur-hour academy the Cubs currently employ. Envisioned as both a recruitment and training site, Ricketts himself went to the DR to help scout out land for the facility. It was clearly a priority, and undoubtedly, a wise investment.
And it looks like it will be coming soon. Architects are currently finalizing plans, and groundbreaking is now expected in early 2012. Recently-re-upped Farm and International Scouting Director Oneri Fleita is very excited.
“It is going to be something special,” Fleita said. “I hope guys like Starlin Castro, Carlos Marmol, and all our guys can call it home – a place they want to train at in the winter.
“It’ll be a place they can go and tell our young players and players soon to be Cubs down the road where we once were and where they are today – and how proud they should be to be Cubs and be part of everything that Tom and his family are providing,” Fleita continued.
Fleita, naturally, has been heavily-involved in the planning and development of the new facility, so perhaps that’s another reason Ricketts felt like he couldn’t afford to lose Fleita right now.
Though this may seem like a small piece of a very large puzzle, I can’t overemphasize how exciting things like this are. Large market clubs like the Cubs need to use their financial advantage (sorry, small guys) in ways other than simply buying the biggest free agents (which, as the Cubs have demonstrated in recent years, doesn’t always work on its own). If the Cubs can increasingly attract and train top Dominican talent, the benefits pay off far down the road – just like the organization’s investment in the draft this year. Patience will be required to see the merits of this plan, but I’m confident we’ll see it in time.