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updated: 6/30/2014 7:38 PM

Fenway trip a bit of a homecoming for Cubs' Rizzo, Hoyer

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  • Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, drafted by Boston, says he still has friends in the Red Sox organization.

      Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, drafted by Boston, says he still has friends in the Red Sox organization.
    Associated Press

  • Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer also worked in the Boston Red Sox' organization under current Cubs president Theo Epstein.

      Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer also worked in the Boston Red Sox' organization under current Cubs president Theo Epstein.
    Associated Press

 
 

BOSTON -- Although Anthony Rizzo says he doesn't dwell on it, Monday's "homecoming" to Fenway Park stirred some momentary what-ifs.

"If I was the first baseman last year, I'd obviously have a nice shiny ring on," Rizzo said.

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Rizzo, the current Cubs first baseman, originally was drafted by the Red Sox. Two trades later -- from Boston to San Diego and from San Diego to Chicago -- Rizzo is the first baseman for the Cubs, whose ring fingers are unadorned by championship jewelry.

But Rizzo has found a home in Chicago despite not getting to play for the team that drafted him.

"As a kid, even when you get drafted, you play for an organization but you play also for other teams out there," he said. "You just have that organization's name on you. You obviously want to play for that team. I know firsthand you're playing for a lot of other teams as well.

"You think you're untouchable. That was the toughest, getting traded from here, because I still have a lot of friends in the Red Sox organization. When you're traded once, you realize the business side of things. You don't know until you go through it.

"I love Chicago. There are only a few teams you can walk into the park and say, 'You're playing here.' The Cubs are definitely one of those teams."

It's old-home week for Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, too. Hoyer worked in the Red Sox' front office under current Cubs president Theo Epstein, who is not on the trip.

"I love this ballpark," Hoyer said. "I grew up coming here as a kid a couple times a summer. I worked here for a long time. There's a little bit of a homecoming element to it. In general, there are now two ballparks that are iconic in this country. I think this one and Wrigley."

In part because of that, immediate comparisons between the two organizations are easily made. These days, it's apples to oranges.

Fenway Park, built in 1912, has been renovated. It still exudes charm and history, but with modern comforts and amenities. The Red Sox also are in the American League East, which means they're in an arms race to compete. They opened the season with a player payroll of about $154 million.

The Cubs, on the other hand, still are waiting to get their 100-year-old ballpark fixed up, and their payroll this year checked in at about $74 million, or as high as about $90 million if former outfielder Alfonso Soriano's obligation is considered.

"When you're talking about the ballparks, this place has had a full makeover," Hoyer said. "This is what I hope Wrigley is in five years, let's say. From the ballpark standpoint, with the (Green) Monster seats, the right-field seats, the concourse difference, the suite level.

"It's like an awesome brownstone that's been totally renovated, and they've been able to do that already. We haven't had that chance yet."

Ditto for the ballclubs on the field.

"From a team standpoint, obviously, we're in very different places," Hoyer said. "They won the World Series last year. They won three in the last 10. It's very different. I think where the similarities are, this is a place that had the narrative of being unable to win, had the narrative of having a curse.

"I think when you watched them last year, the last thing in the world you were thinking about was a curse. They had gotten past it. They had the best team, and they were going to win the World Series.

"I still look at this place as the perfect blueprint for what we're trying to do. We want to build a team of great homegrown players that can climb that mountain and defeat that narrative and really bring something that makes Chicago very proud for a long time."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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