05/01/08 3:46 PM ET
Sandberg to manage at Wrigley
Former Cubs second baseman's Class A squad to take field
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Minor League baseball is coming to Wrigley as Sandberg and the Chiefs play the Kane County Cougars on July 29 in an official Midwest League contest. The game, which will start at 7:05 p.m. CT, is believed to be the first Minor League game in the ballpark's 94-year history.
"It's an opportunity for everybody involved," Sandberg said Thursday at Wrigley. "It's a chance of a lifetime for some of these players to come here and play a game at Wrigley Field. I'm excited about it, and I know the fans will have some fun with the game."
Sandberg, in his second season as the Chiefs manager, played for the Cubs from 1982-94, and again from 1996-97. He's been in the dugout, but never in this role.
"It'll be a whole different look for me," Sandberg said. "I'll be coaching third and managing from the dugout, so that will be a first for me. It's pretty ironic -- it just comes down to you never know what's going to happen in this game. This is another fun thing, an opportunity, a great experience, all those things wrapped into one.
"It'll be something these players will never forget and something for them to shoot for and let them see how nice it is."
The July 29 game will have all the extras fans of Minor League baseball have come to know, including mascots, T-shirt tosses and letting the kids run the bases.
"We hope this is the beginning of a tradition every summer," Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said. "We have a manager in the dugout who plays young players. We feel this is a way of rewarding folks in the Minors who work so hard."
Half of the Cubs' current roster came up through the team's system. Plus, Kenney said, Cubs manager Lou Piniella doesn't hesitate to use young players who are called up. Last September, Sam Fuld, Kevin Hart and Geovany Soto all played big roles for the team. It definitely helps motivate the players.
"As we look at it in the organization, we're making sure these young players know, 'You better be ready,' and 'It's not as far off as you think,'" Kenney said.
If the Cubs sell more than 10,000 tickets for the game, it will count as one of the team's night games. Tickets for the game will go on sale Friday at 9 a.m. on cubs.com, and range from $10 to $30.
"We want to make this a big celebration of Ryne coming home," Kenney said.
Sandberg remembers when he was first called up to the big leagues. He was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, making his debut in Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1981.
"I was in total awe of the whole thing -- just the size of the stadiums at the Major League level is a big thing," Sandberg said. "Knowing my guys, I know they'll go out and give a good effort."
One of Sandberg's players is Josh Vitters, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft. Vitters has been slowed recently because of an injury to his left hand, which he suffered on a swing, but he should be back for the game at Wrigley.
What about Sandberg? Will he take batting practice for old time's sake?
"I might swing the bat a couple times," he said. "No pinch-hitting -- I'm too rusty for that."
The Cubs' games are always on the television in the Peoria Chiefs locker room.
"For them to see it on TV, a lot of them might feel it's miles and miles away," Sandberg said. "For them to be out there and play a game, it'll be great."
Sandberg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, has made it clear he'd like to return to the big leagues as well.
"I'm looking forward to a day when I can come back here," he said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.