SOUTH BEND – Ryne Sandberg understands coming from humble beginnings. From a baseball career that began in rural Montana to being one of the most revered players in a storied franchise, Sandberg dished on both sides of the spectrum during an appearance in South Bend Tuesday ahead of the 2019 Midwest League All-Star Game.
“I went to work everyday, not like a gentleman this past Sunday,” joked Sandberg during his keynote speech at the Century Center, glancing at South Bend Cubs owner Andrew Berlin. “Sorry, I had to throw that in there.”
A packed room came to see Sandberg as well as salute the Midwest League All-Stars, which are set to take the field tonight for the 55th annual All-Star Game at Four Winds Field. Sandberg will throw out the first pitch. The Hall of Famer was the obvious draw, with a good portion of the patrons in attendance donned in Sandberg jerseys and/or Cubs regalia. Seated alongside Berlin, Sandberg spoke about his upbringing in A ball, as well as some of his standout moments from his playing days in what was a Hall of Fame career with the Cubs.
Sandberg started his career, which he pointed out could have also gone into football or basketball coming out of high school in Spokane, Wash., choosing baseball and was subsequently drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. Playing in front of maybe 500 fans a night in Montana in Class A ball, Sandberg learned quickly about the value of hard work. After getting his call-up to the majors, he shared how 1981 baseball life was different from that of 2019 baseball life. Not having a bat of his own, he borrowed one from then Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa, and said he kept the bat that got him his first base hit, as well as the ball. It was one of a half-dozen bats from Bowa’s locker.
Sandberg also shared about when he finally felt like a big leaguer, three years later in 1984, and about the “Sandberg Game” where he hit two homers and drove in seven against the Cardinals in June of that year and gained national notoriety almost overnight.
He reiterated to the current Midwest League All-Stars, to which all were in attendance at the Century Center, that going to work each day and treating every day like it was his last was what gave him an edge.
“It’s easy to become complacent and have good games and still have some weaknesses on some part of your game,” Sandberg said. “If you have good games and just get by, you kind of mask what you really need to work on to become a major league player when that opportunity comes. If you show up every day and get your work in, there’s time to make adjustments, time to listen to your coach, there’s time to work on your weaknesses.”
Sandberg, who coached with the Peoria Chiefs about a decade ago, has coached in the former Cove, but not since it’s become Four Winds Field and the home of the South Bend Cubs. At the time, the South Bend Silver Hawks were playing in Coveleski Stadium as the minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Peoria was the affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Hall of Famer is looking forward to seeing the changes to the park.
“I have not seen the new ballpark here, looking forward to it,” Sandberg said, wearing his enormous 2016 World Series champions ring. “I did see the old one, at the time in 2007, 2008, was adequate. So I’ve heard many good things about what’s going on here with the facility. I can’t wait to get over there. You really see that around baseball. There are nice facilities out there, the players have it good. It’s really getting them ready for the major leagues. Here is no different.”
Sandberg was elected into Cooperstown in 2005 and stands as one of the top second baseman of all time. He made 10 straight All-Star Games from 1984-93, was the 1984 Major League Baseball MVP, won nine Golden Glove and seven Silver Slugger awards and ended his 16-year career with 2,386 hits, 282 homers and a career WAR of 68.