South Bend Cubs Performance Center a world class facility
The South Bend Cubs are the gold standard of Minor League Baseball, but that was no accident. There was a master plan in place to convince the Chicago Cubs to take a chance on South Bend.
The transition from Silver Hawks to Cubs had to start somewhere. A meeting, an artist's rendering and a promise by team owner Andrew Berlin was all it took.
"At the time, this was nothing but parking lot and I'll never forget, Jed Hoyer made the comment 'well this is great, looks great on paper.' And Andrew looked at him and said, 'Jed, I promise ya, if it's not done, I will write you a check for a $1 million for the charity of your choice.' Andrew essentially put his money where his mouth is," Joe Hart, President of the South Bend Cubs, said.
That promise worked- and in September of 2014 South Bend became the low-A affiliate for the Chicago Cubs.
"Obviously, we love that our attendance is what it is, we love that we have great food but for them it's all about the player facilities. Andrew and I sat down and figured out how can we build a facility that we can present to them that they will absolutely love? At the end of the day, this is what it turned out to be," Hart said.
Berlin and Hart created a state of the art training facility modeled after the Cubs spring training performance center in Arizona.
"We looked at it from two perspectives. Obviously we wanted to create a fan friendly ball park. And from the players side; we needed the best facilities for the best players so providing not only the equipment but also the space where the players can really focus on their training activities," said Justin Piper, Cubs Spring Training General Manager of Business Operations.
"Total space here in this, we have 17,000 square foot in this building. 6 indoor cages, it has a nice weight room. It gives them the ability to do a lot of things that they can't do anywhere else with any other minor league team," Hart said.
Typically, minor league stadiums may have just two batting cages and a weight room with 3 pieces of equipment.
"This is such a unique building, there is not another team in Minor League Baseball that has a facility like this and when you see some of these players walk in, they are just blown away," Hart said.
"It kind of makes you feel like we're really privileged. It's kind of like playing in the big leagues. I would imagine what it would be like. We can come down here, it's a hundred yards from our locker room, so we can just come down here and it gives us a chance to just get better every day," Taylor Payne, South Bend Cubs pitcher said.
That's what it's all about for the world champion Chicago Cubs - player development.
"This facility is unbelievable. All the stuff we have in here compared to other places I've been where we don't have anything, it's all a mobile gym as I like to call it. Here we have all these machines, all this space. It's everything we need to keep these guys healthy and strong through a whole long season," said Ryan Nordtvedt-Strength and Conditioning Coach.
"For these minor league guys, while the games are important, so much of their development starts with the early work. It's the hitting, it's the stuff afterwards, BP and stuff. So, on a rainy day they lose that. Well, not here in South Bend. They push the cages back and they can do anything they need to do," said Hart.
But South Bend is even drawing in players from the major league side--former Cubs center fielder--Dexter Fowler rehabbed here last season.
"He was just blown away between this, the locker room. So, when he went back to Chicago, all he did was rave about how great the facility was So, for us, one we take great pride in that and that's exciting for us but that helps facilitate, if a player does get hurt and they need to rehab. That player will be more inclined to come to South Bend because now they heard from one of their fellow teammates that there is a great facility in South Bend, great locker room and it's only an hour and a half away from Chicago," Hart said.
No matter what level a player is, he can get everything he needs to succeed right here in South Bend.