|Dear Cubs Fans –An important season in our team’s development plan has drawn to a close, and I want to take a few minutes of your time to thank you for your ongoing support and provide an update on our progress.
The 2013 season was another challenging campaign at the Major League level, with only marginal improvement in our record. After careful deliberation, we made the difficult decision to proceed with a new manager next season to move us closer to fulfilling our ultimate long-term vision for this team. That search is underway, and our focus will be on providing the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the Major League level.
We also have been engaged in a process to save and improve Wrigley Field while reinvesting in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Our efforts to improve the baseball organization and our facilities have resulted in promising advancement toward our family’s organizational goals of winning a World Series, preserving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor in the City of Chicago.
We continue to be optimistic about the future of this franchise and our plan for sustained success. We aspire to become the best organization in baseball and have made strides in this direction. We acquired young, impact talent through trades, the first-year player draft and a weighted investment in this year’s international signing class. No team in Major League Baseball has spent more on combined first-year and international amateur talent than the Cubs over the four years of our family’s ownership. This investment in young talent is a significant driver of our system’s improvement and reflective of our current strategy to focus baseball resources on players who will contribute to the Chicago Cubs over the long term.
As a result, our Minor League system has improved from the bottom quartile to the second best in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus. According to ESPN’s latest rankings, four of baseball’s top 30 prospects reside on our Minor League rosters. We’re proud to employ many of the best scouts and player development staff in the game to help us find, commit and develop these exciting young players, and they’re already helping us win. Three of our five Minor League affiliates advanced to their respective playoffs, including the Florida State League-champion Daytona Cubs.
Because training and player development are critical to our goal of winning a World Series Championship, we must ensure our players have world-class facilities. Our new Spring Training Facility is nearing completion in Mesa, Arizona. This facility will be the best in the league for Major League players to prepare for the season each spring and for young players to train and develop year-round. It will also be a great place to watch Spring Training baseball. When in Mesa, you’ll notice field dimensions and elements reminiscent of Wrigley Field, from the cantilevered upper deck and roof to a replica of the red Wrigley Field Marquee. We hope you will be able to join us next spring for the facility’s grand opening and inaugural season of Spring Training games.
This past spring, the team opened a state-of-the-art baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, spanning 50 acres with baseball fields, training facilities, player housing and an education center, making it the largest academy in the country. Many of the best players in Major League Baseball are from Latin America and this impressive complex gives our ballclub a competitive advantage when recruiting and developing talented young players in this important region.
Finally, the restoration of Wrigley Field remains at the forefront of our efforts in Chicago, and we’re closer than ever to restoring this soon-to-be 100-year-old ballpark. We have made significant progress toward obtaining the city approvals for our $300 million private investment in Wrigley Field, which will include better player facilities, new fan amenities, improved concessions and restrooms, while maintaining what fans love about Wrigley Field. We will be able to offer more events, such as concerts and sporting events, as well as family-friendly activities to enhance the fan experience and quality of life for the neighborhood. Perhaps most importantly, this restoration will provide long-term incremental revenue that will be reinvested into the baseball team.
As we prepare this landmark investment in Chicago, our players, coaches, front office and event staff continue to deliver on our family’s priority of being a good neighbor. The team donated more than $2.3 million, plus thousands of autographed items and tickets, to hundreds of Chicagoland charities from Rogers Park to Englewood. This year, we introduced new Chicago Cubs Charities signature programs: the Cubs Scholars program, the Cubs on the Move Fitness Trolley and our Diamond Project, a community impact program that will provide grants to build and revitalize baseball fields in the Chicago area. If you have ever provided a donation, purchased a 50/50 raffle ticket or attended a Chicago Cubs Charities event, we thank you for supporting increased access to sports, health, wellness and fitness causes through Chicago Cubs Charities.
From top to bottom, our organization has been clear about adopting a long-term approach to becoming a championship-caliber franchise, and the 2013 season played an instrumental role in that transformation. This organization is becoming stronger and healthier. We have added young, impactful talent throughout our system and will provide the facilities and infrastructure required for them to succeed-which means an increasing number of homegrown players joining the Major League roster ready to win while playing The Cubs Way.
We value your continued support as the team continues on this exciting journey. Like you, my family cares deeply about the success of the Cubs and we are doing what we believe is necessary to win a World Series for the greatest fans in sports. Stay tuned for details about next season as we plan to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field all season long.
Once again, thank you and please say “hello” when you see me at the ballpark next year.