Many to root for outside of the Cubs
Every day I go to the ballpark, I root for my team, the Cubs, to win. My professional identity is rooted with the club and I make no bones about that.
However, having been in and around the game for a long time, there are many people in other uniforms I do follow and kind of root for on a personal level.
It is natural to want to see good people, and those you really respect as professionals, be successful.
I was thinking the other day about my favorite guys on other clubs. Those whom I only know by watching in an enemy uniform and/or by talking to on the "other" side of the field.
So, without further ado, I give you my personal all-star team of active non-Cubs.
•Bronson Arroyo. I think I've seen him pitch more than any other opposing pitcher since I started broadcasting. And I never get tired of watching that crazy Ray Guy-like leg kick.
As my partner Jim Deshaies says, he pitches like Bob Ross used to paint, ad-libbing at every turn to come up with just the right touches. I can't think of anyone in the game who has ever said a bad word about him as a person, which doesn't hurt.
•Adam Dunn. So self-deprecating and funny. He understands his limitations as a player as much as anyone I've been around. How refreshing.
•Fredi Gonzalez. I have known Fredi for a long time, dating to his coaching days under Bobby Cox. Excellent baseball guy who has done a terrific job in Atlanta.
•Todd Helton. A first-ballot Hall of Fame-caliber player whom I will miss talking to when he retires. I asked him earlier this year what he does better now at 39 than he did at 25.
After saying he had nothing for me, he grinned and said, "I enjoy the game more now."
•Jason Heyward. I will never forget his MLB debut in 2010 in which he walloped a 3-run homer off Carlos Zambrano in his first career plate appearance.
There was so much hype that year, and he didn't let it faze him a bit. The local kid becoming a star in his hometown? How can you not root for a guy like that?
•Matt Holliday. He always has a minute to say hello. Plus, he's the best hitter in the NL nobody talks about.
•Paul Konerko. As steady and realistic as any star player in the big leagues. He never gives the media cliched answers. I wish I had a chance to talk to him more often during the season. I know I'd be smarter for it.
•Yadier Molina. I will get some grief for this among Cubs fans, but he might be my favorite player outside of Chicago.
He is an MVP-caliber player in every way. It's not easy seeing him beat the Cubs with huge hits, but I completely appreciate and respect how he goes about his business.
•Mariano Rivera. Never met him, but who doesn't root for this guy on some level?
•Jimmy Rollins. Like Holliday, he always makes time for me. And I love his demeanor. He acts like every day at the park is his first.
•David Wright. An all-star in every way. Mostly, I love how he carries himself. I've never sensed an aloofness whatsoever. He is a team captain in the largest city in the big leagues, but I've never seen him big-time anybody.
This is by no means a complete list but a good cross section of guys who represent the game incredibly well, in my opinion.
•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]