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Theo Epstein: New Cubs facility means no excuses

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Updated: March 14, 2014 8:51AM

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs president Theo Epstein already had been working full-time at the sparkling new spring-training facility for several days by the time he stood at a podium before local dignitaries and media Wednesday for the official unveiling.

“You’ve given us the best single-team spring-training facility,” Epstein said to the assembled officials responsible for forcing through the plan that led to $99 million of public money to build the newest jewel of the Cactus League.

Then he shared conversations he and team officials had in recent days about their “special” new digs:

“One [thing said] is, no more excuses. This place is as good as it gets. And the second is related to that: If we can’t get better here, we can’t get better anywhere.”

The players the Cubs eventually put on the big-league roster will have more to say about that. But there’s no mistaking the massive upgrades for the Cubs’ spring and year-round rehab/training facilities in Arizona on a 146-acre site that also includes a pond and planned commercial development.

The most immediate advantage over the Cubs’ previous spring facilities farther east in Mesa is that camp will no longer be split between Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium, about a mile apart. In past years, the big-league players trained at Fitch until games started, and minor-leaguers reported to Fitch soon after the big-leaguers moved up the road to HoHoKam.

“This new ballpark and player-development facility will allow our players to better train and compete,” chairman Tom Ricketts said during the ceremony. “To achieve our goal of winning a world championship, we must be able to provide our players with the world-class facilities they deserve.”

The ballpark has the largest seating capacity in the Cactus League (15,000) and includes some Wrigley Field-like character, such as a brick wall behind home plate, a green scoreboard and a retro-style clock in the outfield.

A replica of the Wrigley Field marquee also is located on the main concourse, where fans can pose for photos and have their names displayed on the sign.

The Athletics plan to move to the Cubs’ old facility next year after renovations are made.

The first game at the Cubs’ new ballpark is Feb. 27 against the Diamondbacks.

NOTE: The Cubs lost two pitchers to waiver claims on the eve of camp. Left-hander Brooks Raley (claimed by the Twins) and right-hander Brett Marshall (Reds). By waiving Raley and Marshall, the Cubs cleared roster space for starting pitchers Jason Hammel and James McDonald.

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