Cubs prospects hope to make own mark

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Jim Adduci, father of Cubs prospect Jim Adduci, made it to the big leagues and now his son is on the Cubs' 40-man roster.

    Jim Adduci, father of Cubs prospect Jim Adduci, made it to the big leagues and now his son is on the Cubs' 40-man roster. Bruce Miles | Daily Herald

 
 
Posted3/4/2010 12:01 AM

As kids, their backyards were big-league ball fields.

They cavorted around clubhouses and played catch with major-leaguers. It was like having their baseball cards come to life every day.

 

Any kid would love the chance just to meet a big-league ballplayer, but three Cubs prospects got up close and personal as sons of major-league players.

Now each wants make a name for himself while carrying on a family tradition.

Meet pitchers Casey Coleman and James Russell and outfielder Jim Adduci.

All three are in Cubs big-league camp, with Adduci earning a 40-man roster spot last fall. Adduci and Russell have dads who played in the majors, Jim Adduci and Jeff Russell.

Coleman goes them one generation better. His dad and granddad, both named Joe, were American League all-stars.

Joseph Casey Coleman would like to make it one, two, three generations at the old ballgame.

"It would be awesome," said Coleman, who didn't see his dad pitch but got to hang around the Angels when the elder Coleman was the pitching coach in Anaheim. "There's a lot of - not pressure - but I'm always reminded about being the first third-generation pitchers or whatever. It would be really cool living up to the family name. I know it would make my dad proud and my family proud. I'm just trying my best to get up there.'

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As is each of these players. Here are their stories in short.

The local boy: Jim Adduci was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, in Canada, and he took some good-natured ribbing recently about whether he was cheering for Canada or the U.S. in Olympic hockey.

But Adduci has strong Chicago roots as a graduate of Evergreen Park High School. His dad played for the Cardinals, Brewers and Phillies, and he currently works as director of baseball operations at the Bulls-Sox Academy in Lisle.

The younger Adduci is all Chicago with a blue-collar work ethic. Although the Cubs brought up former No. 1 draft pick Tyler Colvin last fall for some outfield depth, Adduci made them think long and hard after he batted .300 with a .377 on-base percentage at Class AA Tennessee to help his team reach the playoffs for a second straight year.

Afraid they'd lose him in the Rule 5 draft, the Cubs added Adduci to the 40-man roster.

"I was really surprised," he said. "I didn't think about it. I had a goal in mind in the off-season, that I was hoping to come to this camp and be able to play in front of these guys and get an opportunity and have them make decisions. It was a great honor to be on that 40-man roster. I'll keep doing what I do on the field."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With a strong throwing arm, an ability to get on base and the skill to play all three outfield positions and first base, Adduci's time could be soon.

"He always gives you a good at-bat, and you can count on him every day to show up, be on time and give you 100 percent," said farm director Oneri Fleita. "A lot of kids out there want to know what this game is all about. It's all about being consistent and giving 100 percent every pitch of every inning of every game."

The Canadian birthplace is the result of Adduci's dad playing in Vancouver in the 1980s. But the younger Adduci claims the Cubs as his own.

"I grew up watching the Cubs, and obviously, it's been great being a part of your own team in the city of Chicago," he said. "I'm glad to be a part of this."

Knowing how to pitch: At 6-feet, 180 pounds, Casey Coleman may not look intimidating. He just knows how to pitch.

He was 14-6 with a 3.68 ERA last year at Tennessee, earning minor-league pitcher of the year honors for the Cubs. He walked 58 and struck out 84 in 149 innings during his second pro season.

"All he's done is throw strikes and win ballgames," Fleita said. "It's nice when your dad and grandfather both played in All-Star Games. I'm sure this wasn't his first tour of duty in a clubhouse. He's grown up in a clubhouse. He knows what a baseball diamond is all about. He knows how to carry himself."

The Cubs have a guy named Greg Maddux in camp helping the pitchers. It's way too early to compare Coleman with Maddux, but his approach seems to be on the right track.

"Right now, I'm a sinker guy or a two-seam guy," Coleman said. "I try to get a lot of quick outs with groundballs. Being able to throw my changeup and curveball for strikes has helped me out a lot."

It also doesn't hurt to have the Coleman bloodlines and a dad who's ready to help with just the right touch.

"It was awesome, just growing up in the clubhouses and dugouts and being able to imitate the guys on my dad's team," the younger Coleman said. "Whenever I had a problem, he was just one phone call away. He's always been very helpful. He always (had) a layoff approach, though. He doesn't put pressure on me, but as soon as I had a question, he was there with that answer. I feel really lucky and fortunate to have that kind of my information. I think it's played a big part in my career so far."

The lefty: Unlike his dad, a right-handed closer who saved 186 games, James Russell is a versatile lefty who exhibited improved control and won himself a promotion from Tennessee to Class AAA Iowa last year.

He walked nine in 37 innings Double-A as a starter and reliever. In a dual role at Iowa, he was 3-3 with a 3.43 ERA with 19 walks and 46 strikeouts in 652/3 innings.

"I started out in Double-A as a starter and kind of struggled a little bit," he said. "They put me in the bullpen, and I started doing really well. I like pitching, so whatever they want me to do."

His dad was an all-star with the Rangers in 1988 and '89, when James was toddling around. Dad went back to the Rangers in 1995-96, where the younger Russell got to watch a fellow lefty.

"I became really good friends with Darren Oliver," James Russell said. "We worked in the off-season together. We worked out with the same trainer. It's helped a lot. I grew up around the locker room and got to see how everybody carries themselves, kind of what it takes to get up to that next level."

Even though Dad's a righty, there are some things that transcend it all.

"He'd give me little pointers," the younger Russell said. "We're kind of different pitchers. Mechanics wise, he would help me, and about the mentality of being a pitcher."

With a slider to go along with his two-seamer, changeup and curveball, Russell could be a dark horse who sneaks in while nobody is looking.

"I don't know if I'm maybe fighting for a position or just kind of letting them see what I can do," he said.

Anything to make Pops proud.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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