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Coomer: Samardzija trade affects clubhouse, for now

Lockport graduate savoring first season on Cubs' radio broadcasts

Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 9:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:46 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
Oakland's Jeff Samardzija works against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth inning Sunday in Oakland, Calif.

Ron Coomer has been there.

The blockbuster trade that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija, an All-Star and team leader, and Jason Hammel to Oakland for highly regarded shortstop prospect Addison Russell, young outfielder Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily is impacting the Cubs’ clubhouse in the short term.

In the long run, we’ll see how it works out.

“When you trade a Samardzija, it does do something to the clubhouse, for sure,” Coomer said from Cincinnati, where he and WGN Radio partner Pat Hughes are calling the Cubs’ five-game series against the Reds. “We are all human. We have friendships and that will to win.

“Does the trade make the Cubs better now? Absolutely not. In the future? We’ll see. You have to understand where you want to be a year or two from now. It could make this job a lot more fun in the future.”

Coomer, a Lockport graduate, is in his first year as the Cubs’ radio color analyst. He was a .274 hitter over a nine-season major league career, largely with the Minnesota Twins but including stints with the Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers. The last several years, he was color analyst for Twins’ telecasts on Fox Sports North.

He knows there are times when a front office feels change is necessary. Still, it often is not an easy pill to swallow.

“When it comes to the day-to-day rotation, I liked Jeff [Samardzija] a lot,” Coomer said. “He’s a true Midwest guy, went to Notre Dame and he obviously was pitching well. I’m happy he was named a National League All-Star. He deserved it.

“Hammel was a great guy, too.”

The Cubs are destined to finish last in the National League Central. If that weren’t the popular opinion before the trade, it is now.

Yet Coomer said that has not and will not affect the way he performs his job. And if you haven’t heard him, rest assured, he is very good at his craft.

“The job is going great,” he said. “I’m happy to be back home. Pat [Hughes] and Judd [Sirott] are phenomenal in the booth. They make it really fun.

“Pat is known in the industry as one of the best play-by-play men. He has helped make it more enjoyable for me than I even could have guessed.”

Even if the Cubs are not a contender.

“The team hasn’t been great,” Coomer said. “But the Twins had good teams and bad. Good teams come and go, but at the end of the day, the job is still the job. And the job is what’s really been enjoyable.”

Coomer said he has talked to friends in the baseball world since the big trade was made, and he said one thing appears close to a guarantee.

“For sure, the Cubs added one player everyone is talking about,” he said of Russell. “The baseball people I talked with said he may not wind up at shortstop in the big leagues, but he could. Other GMs have said he can move to another position, and he has a really good bat.

“I don’t know much about the young outfielder [McKinney], other than he is a left-handed hitter who has a chance to make it. The pitcher [Straily] has been up and down. We’ll see how he does. But Russell is the guy everyone is talking about.”

Earlier this season, another big announcement involving the Cubs was the switch of their radio broadcasts from WGN to WBBM (780-AM) beginning with the 2015 season.

“I knew the move to another station could happen when I took the job,” Coomer said. “Everyone I work for at WGN has been outstanding to me. We’ve been told they (WBBM) are going to pick up our contracts for next year.”

Coomer said he is meeting next week with Ron Gleason, the director of news and programming at WBBM. Back in the ’80s, during the era when Coomer was playing at Lockport, Gleason worked at WJOL and WLLI in Joliet.

“I’ll be going back to my roots in Joliet and Lockport, talking to Ron Gleason,” Coomer said. “Pat [Hughes] and I just want to do the best we can regardless. Pat is so good at what he does. I appreciate how good and consistent he is. He’s definitely consistent day to day and is a nice guy.

“Our booth is a really good place to be. But I enjoy all the things this job has to offer. As you know, I was away for a long time. Being able to reconnect with people from Joliet and Lockport, being part of that, is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable.”

Coomer will be happy if this is only the beginning of a long career on Cubs’ broadcasts. Meanwhile, might the unthinkable be brewing? Imagine the atmosphere at Wrigley Field if enough of the hot prospects the Cubs have been stockpiling fulfill their promise down the road.

Dick Goss is a sports editor for Shaw Media. He can be reached at dgoss@shawmedia.com.

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