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Some Cubs chasing their dreams
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Tyler Colvin (66) and Koyie Hill (61), here with Ronny Cedeno last spring, are doing their best to win a roster spot.


Associated Press

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Published: 3/6/2008 12:19 AM | Updated: 3/6/2008 8:40 AM

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- He comes to camp wearing a uniform number better suited for a football interior lineman than a baseball player -- 66, 73, 60.

He could be a veteran out to prove something to himself or to an organization. Or he could be the phenom in his first or second big-league camp.

He is the nonroster man, the guy who fills out a baseball team's spring squad but who most times has little chance of sticking.

The Cubs have 20 such players in camp. Here is a sampling of their stories:

Looking for one chance

Infielder Bobby Scales had a good season at Class AAA Pawtucket last year, but because the Boston Red Sox stayed healthy, the 30-year-old Scales couldn't even get a whiff of championship champagne. He hopes to do so with the Cubs.

"This may sound hokey, but I love doing what I do," said Scales, an infielder who played seven positions last year. "I'm very fortunate to have an opportunity to play baseball at the professional level.

"I've never been in the big leagues before, and that's what keeps me going. The day I stop believing that is the day I'll quit and do something else. Some guys are afraid of that. I'm not afraid of that.

"I haven't made a whole lot of money in this game. I have to work a regular job on top of getting my training in. I'm not poor. But I can't get up at 9 o'clock in the morning and go meet my trainer and then do my training and not go to work. I have to go to work just like everybody else in the off-season.

"It's definitely the road less traveled, but it is what it is, and I'm happy to still be doing it."

One more shot

Reliever Chad Fox walked off Wrigley Field in April 2005 after feeling something pop in a right elbow that already houses three screws.

He thinks it may have been only scar tissue. The 37-year-old Fox, who has 214 big-league games under his belt, just wants to try it again after spending two years at home.

"I was telling my wife the first few days, 'Even the grass smells different,' " Fox said "We're all gifted. You get going and you take things for granted. I always said that when I lost my brother to cancer that I would never take things for granted, but we do. That's our nature, and it's unfortunate.

"Each day when I wake up and I say my prayers, I'm so excited, excited to put these pants on and put these shoes on. I have no idea what tomorrow's going to bring. And I don't look forward. I take care of my business every day, and when tomorrow's here, I'll take care of that day."

'New' organization man

After a player comes to camp as a nonroster man once, he usually never comes back. Most often he looks for a chance elsewhere the next spring.

Not Les Walrond. The 31-year-old lefty is back for his third spring as a Cubs nonroster man. His last appearance in the big leagues came late in 2006, when the Cubs needed a starter. He says he now feels part of the Cubs family.

"When you get a little older, it's kind of hard to be a journeyman," said Walrond, who pitched in seven games for the Kansas City Royals in 2003. "You get associated with the players and the staff and the coaches.

"I know guys that are my age, they get to jumping from team to team each year. It's one of those things where if I struggle one year, these (the Cubs) guys have seen me pitch well, and it's always good to have somebody on your side that way."

The Cubs will use Walrond as a lefty reliever this year, most likely at Class AAA Iowa. From there, who knows? But someday, Walrond says he'd like to give back.

"I enjoy the game," he said. "I enjoy working at it and seeing how good I can get at it and trying new things. Hopefully, one of these days, if I'm not coaching, hopefully I'll be teaching. It's been in my blood since I've been 4 years old, and I enjoy coming out to the field every day."

The No. 1 pick

Outfielder Tyler Colvin came to camp last year as a wide-eyed kid just eight months after the Cubs took him in the first round of the 2006 draft.

"It got me comfortable quick, and it got me a little confidence that I could hit up here," Colvin said. "It just got me rolling. I don't think I really stopped hitting."

During a 2007 season split between Class A Daytona and Class AA Tennessee, Colvin stroked 147 hits and belted 16 homers. However, he walked a combined total of only 15 times while striking out 101.

"This year, I'm working on a little more discipline, trying to get a little more patient up there," he said. "Fifteen walks is pretty bad. I don't think I'm going to be the big on-base guy. I like knocking the guys in.

"I know 15 walks aren't good, but I know I'll improve on that this year. Walking 50 times a year is not me. I'm an aggressive hitter, and I like to get the big hits in situations, not the walks."

The catcher

When the Cubs desperately needed some help behind the plate last year, Koyie Hill came up after spending spring as a nonroster man with the Cubs and the early season at Iowa.

He batted only .161, but the Cubs were 17-8 in games he started at catcher. He was sent back to Iowa in late August, but the Cubs say they wouldn't have won the NL Central without his help.

"I feel like I made a difference, and I feel like I helped the team," said Hill, who turns 29 Sunday. "I feel like I did my role and everybody else did theirs. What we did last year was an incredible experience. When I got there, we were 8½ back. When it was all said and done, we won. I felt very good about it."

Why is he back?

"The organization," he said. "(GM Jim Hendry) and teammates and the clubhouse. I believe in what they're doing here and in my special little role, whatever it is."

Hill knows his job to guide the pitchers through a game and a game plan.

"I want to do whatever it is that makes them feel the best," he said. "That's No. 1: them feeling like a million dollars and me doing my part as a catcher, doing my part in my little circle there. They have to feel like the most important person in the world when they're out there. That's what I think about."