Anthony Rizzo is comfortable as Cubs’ ‘face’
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2013 10:11PM
METS AT CUBS
The facts: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The starters: Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.44 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-5, 6.02).
The rest of the series
Saturday: 12:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM. Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.61) vs. Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.53).
Sunday: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.13) vs. Travis Wood (4-2, 2.03).
Updated: May 16, 2013 10:18PM
Raising his batting average nearly 70 points in three weeks and cutting his strikeout rate to essentially nothing? That’s the easy part of this face-of-the-franchise gig Anthony Rizzo got with his big contract this week.
The face time, community time, leadership responsibility?
“I think it’s awesome,” said the power-hitting first baseman. “That’s what I want to be.
“Like I told the coaches, I want to be the guy up in the big situation, where everyone in this clubhouse, everyone in the stadium wants me up. And all the things that come along with playing here — also giving back and doing things off the field, as well.”
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been there, done that. He was the same age and had barely the same service time when he got his face-of-the-franchise deal from the Rockies five years ago.
“It’s a learning process,” he said of the burden of those expectations. “The biggest thing you can do is just watch and learn from some of the veterans on your team.”
That only goes so far when it comes to the bright lights, big marketing of the Cubs in the constantly swirling reality of modern, voyeuristic citizen media.
“The market in Denver’s a little bit different than Chicago, so he’ll probably be faced with some problems that I’ve never experienced,” Tulowitzki said. “But you don’t sign a guy that early if you don’t believe in his ability to not only be a good player but to be able to handle the outside media and someone what’s going to continue to make good decisions for your organization.”
That’s the attribute the front office is most certain it has in Rizzo — a kid the club’s top three baseball executives have known since drafting him in Boston in 2007 and staying by his side during his battle to beat lymphoma in 2008.
“You represent the Ricketts family,” Rizzo said of the responsibility. “They made a big investment in me. And they represent first class with everything we do. [It’s about] giving back to them ultimately, and for everyone else [making that commitment]. And it’s a unique opportunity to help out kids and even older people — inspiring people. And have fun with it.”
And a spotlight that often was too bright for past Cub icons such as Ryne Sandberg?
“It doesn’t bother me,” Rizzo said. “I don’t mind speaking in front of thousands of people. I don’t mind anything. You roll with it.”
He adds, “I know what I have to do. If I don’t perform and come to work every day and do the things that I need to do, the spotlight won’t be there. It all works full-circle together.”