PHOENIX – Anthony Rizzo was not in the Cubs’ lineup for Friday’s Cactus League opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.
But Rizzo was front and center as he joined teammates in wearing the baseball caps of his high school alma mater, Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. A mass shooting at the school last week killed 17 people. The Cubs will wear the caps again for Saturday’s home opener in Mesa, Arizona.
“It’s unfortunate that the city is getting so much recognition for this reason, but I think it’s amazing that you saw the golfers yesterday with all the ribbons, and you see everyone honoring what’s going on right now,” Rizzo said. “These kids [from the school], the whole city is rallying around a lot to make a lot of different changes. It’s nice to see.
“That’s our future. That’s our youth. It’s what this country’s going to run on in years to come. It’s people that have a voice, and they’re using it, all over, whether it’s fighting for this or that, there are people who have voices, and when a lot of people come together, it’s amazing the power they have.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon expressed support for students who have been rallying against gun violence and calling for changes in laws.
“We’re not just wearing [caps]; we’re on board,” Maddon said. “We have to do everything possible in order to prevent that from happening again.
“I love the activism by the kids. I really do. When I was growing up, it was a different method. There was a lot of protesting of the [Vietnam] war at that time, and the establishment. You would think that the group that did that would understand that by the time you grew up and became the establishment, that you would understand how to interact better. I’m always disappointed – I’m of that age group – to see that because I know what the thought process was back then. Everybody was going to change the world and make it a better place. And then you forget.”
Leadoff battle begins: The Cubs lost Friday’s exhibition opener, 2-1, to the Brewers, but they fielded largely a minor league team.
Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Tommy La Stella and Victor Caratini were the major leaguers in the lineup.
Happ led off and wound up making a diving catch in center field to rob Jesus Aguilar to end the third inning. Schwarber batted second and walked his first time up.
Maddon said Happ and perhaps three other major leaguers would audition for the leadoff spot. Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Ben Zobrist are other possible candidates.
“We wanted to see Happ,” Maddon said. “He’s all in with that. It’s purposeful. We’re going to try to audition the dudes that we think might be in that spot. There’s nothing to be read into it yet. It’s just that we’re going to audition people. It’s a spring training lineup. It’s so different than the regular season.”
The switch-hitting Happ lined out hard to left field on the first pitch of the game.
“It was good,” he said. “I saw a good pitch to hit and got the barrel on it, so that was a successful first effort. On our team and in our lineup, any spot is good to hit in. The leadoff spot, being able to set the table for those guys, would be great.”