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South Bend Cubs Manager helps develop champions

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

The road to building a championship team, like the Chicago Cubs, starts at the Minor League level. Jimmy Gonzalez is tasked with developing the young players of today into the stars of tomorrow.

The Chicago Cubs are the reigning World Series Champions and that new winning attitude has trickled down through every facet of the organization, including right here in South Bend.

While in Mesa, Arizona at the Cubs Spring Training facility, South Bend Cubs Manager Jimmy Gonzalez talked about the upcoming season and his role in building a champion.

"It's all player development within the minor leagues and we're just trying to develop these guys. Obviously, I have guys who are a lot younger than upper level AA, AAA. It's getting them used to how we do it here in the United States. The Cubs way. How we expect them to play the game. It's not always about the results but how they play the game," Gonzalez said.

Before Gonzalez could teach his players "the Cubs way" he had to learn it for himself.  

Gonzalez was taken in the first round of the 1991 Major League Baseball draft by the Houston Astros as a catcher. He became a journeyman minor leaguer, playing 14 seasons with several organizations-including the Astros, Padres and Mets.

"As I was playing towards my later years when I knew it was coming to an end, as everybody goes through that. I knew I wanted to stay in the game. I saw that the things that were happening in the game and how I wanted to make things better and kind of add my difference to that. It's always kind of been a desire, dream and I'm here living it with the Chicago Cubs," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is in his third season in South Bend and has made the most of his opportunity for the Cubs. He even won the 2016 Midwest League Manager of the Year.

"He's one of the best coaches I've ever had," Kyle Miller said.

Does he think the team can go far this season?

"I think every year we go in with that expectation. If you go in with anything less than that, you're not doing the right thing. Obviously, we have a great pool of young players, guys who were in Eugene last year and were able to win a championship," Gonzalez said.

The Eugene team is the short season club.

This year's South Bend Cubs have 20 players on the roster for opening day from that record setting Northwest League champion team.

Regardless of the potential, it will always come down to the same thing for Gonzalez.

"I think my number one thing is making players better. Whether it be in the big leagues or the minor leagues that's what I want to do. These guys even at the higher levels, they're still learning and that's something that you can't take for granted or forget that these guys are there to learn. And we have a lot of years of experience between our whole staff and it's good to pass that on. I think that's the biggest thing I really enjoy is the development of the players," Gonzalez said.

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