Somedays I am too ambitious. After Wednesday’s game between the South Bend Cubs and Clinton Lumberkings was rained out, I was all prepared to get as much information as I possibly could fit on my phone during Thursday’s doubleheader. I arrived at the park with the iPhone fully charged and a list of about five things I wanted to get done during the games. Most of them involved Eloy Jimenez.
It’s no secret that Jimenez is my favorite Cubs prospect this year. As each month goes by, the hype surrounding him continues to grow. Considering his performance in the Futures Game, which included four RBI on a home run and a double, plus an amazing catch in right field, it appears the real praise might only be getting started.
I think the big thing I came away with from spending 6 and 1/2 hours around this kid is that not only is he a great player, but he’s also a great teammate and he handles everything, even fans, so graciously.
I arrived at the ballpark in Clinton, Iowa at about 3 P.M. After I picked up my press pass, I immediately went to the field and met Mike from Scout (Northsider’s Report). We talked for about 10 or 15 minutes and he got me caught up with what was going on with the rain delay the day before and the happenings on Thursday.
For the better part of two hours before the game, I just absorbed everything that was taking place. There were bullpen sessions with Carson Sands, Scott Effross, and Tanner Griggs. Still, most of what I focused on was reared to Jimenez. He went through all the requisite drills with a smile on his face the whole time. Wherever he was, there was always a crowd of three, four, or five players around him. They just seem to be drawn to him.
When the drills were over, Jimenez took his phone and was sitting on the edge of the seats by the dugout. Pretty soon, the gates opened and fans came in. Initially, there were 4-5 who converged on Jimenez, who happily signed autographs for them one at a time. The whole time, Eddy Martinez sat right beside him being ignored until the last few minutes before they went back to the locker room. I said hello, Jimenez responded in kind and he patted me on the back. I immediately messaged Dave Wolfmeyer, who told me never to wash my shirt again. So far, I have complied.
When the first game started, I sat down in what was supposed to be a camera well, really just a wire screen and two wooden seats. For the next four innings, I sat with a sixth-grade bat boy. He was pretty excited and sported an Anthony Rizzo shirsey beneath his uniform. I immediately loved that kid. Anyway, for the next four innings, I spent most of the time teaching him about all of the South Bend Cubs.
I managed to get several close-ups and video of Jimenez’s first three at-bats.
It is easy to see in the videos what is great about his swing, which is pretty much everything. If you watch his hands and the balance his feet have, you can see why there is excitement about his power stroke. Even though he only has nine home runs at the midway point, he has the potential to do so much more. At just 19, he is being pitched around like he is a veteran. He rarely gets a good pitch to hit. And if he does, it is usually a mistake which he pounces on.
In between games, I went back out on the field and continued to watch Jimenez for the first 10 minutes of the break. He did nothing but sign autograph after autograph after autograph at the tarp by the dugout. He did so with a smile, seemingly amused by the adoration.
Once he was done signing autographs, he went over and spent time with Martinez. They talked for a bit, played some catch, then got loose again followed by some exercise and drills, all the while laughing and smiling. Are you sensing a theme here?
I managed to get an at-bat from Game 2 on video but then my battery started to run out. In the seventh inning, Jimenez did come through with a RBI single that proved to be the difference in the game. For the day, he went 2-for-7 with that RBI and is currently hitting .331 with 59 RBI in 83 games on the year.
Considering the hype that surrounds Eloy Jimenez, I came away very impressed with how he is handling everything. For a 19-year-old kid, he seems mature beyond his age. His attitude and demeanor will benefit him as he moves up the system.
If you, like me, can’t get enough of this kid, here are some pictures from Thursday night’s doubleheader.