About a week or so ago,, MLB Network had a one-hour show, part of their series “MLB Presents” that looked at the off-season for the Cubs and Miami Marlins. The first 25 minutes were the Marlins, mainly on their terrific star Giancarlo Stanton, and the rest were the Cubs. It will not shock you to learn that I skipped past the Marlins, but the Cubs sequence was impressively well done.
(In fairness, I skipped the first part due to time constraints. Long story, but the short version is that though I'd recorded the broadcast, it was late, and I really wanted to see the part about the Cubs...)
The Cubs sequence largely focused on their highly-regarded and charming (really) new manager Joe Maddon, and I thought that that would be the highlight – and it was terrific. But then they did a seven-minute sequence about Anthony Rizzo and…well, if he did't shoot up towards the top of anyone's Favorite Cubs list after watching it, I’d be shocked.
The piece covers his whole career, which isn't all that long, given that he's only 25. But if don't know Anthony Rizzo -- who was selected to his first All Star game last year -- the core of that story is him being diagnosed at the appalling age of just 18 with Hodgkins lymphoma. The story deals with his relationship with then-Boston Red Sox General Manager (and now-Cubs President) Theo Epstein and then-Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester (now signed with the Cubs), along with interviews with Rizzo's parents and the joyful Rizzo himself, and more – with tons of game-footage, highlighting important points in this journey... and boy howdy does Anthony Rizzo come across as...well, absolutely great. And if the sequence that deals with Rizzo and a young man in the hospital does have you shaking your head in total admiration, then you're not paying attention.
I liked Anthony Rizzo before. I knew his skill on the ball field, a lot of his story and some of his personality. But seeing it all told here in full detail, with a lot of unknown material, and told so well, it just put him on another plateau.
I can't embed the sequence, but you can watch it here on the Major League Baseball website. It's about seven minutes long. Do yourself a favor. Even if you don't like the Cubs, baseball, or sports. You'll really like Anthony Rizzo.
[UPDATE: I belatedly discovered that the above video is only the first half of the report. And it's now possible to embed both parts. So you can watch them here below.]