(CBS) The Cubs’ biggest fan is enjoying every bit of the ride this 2016 season. After all, this was part his vision.
When Tom Ricketts took over as chairman of his beloved Cubs, he entrusted Crane Kenney to oversee the business operation and Theo Epstein to run the baseball operation. Both divisions of the Cubs are currently thriving.
On Thursday, Ricketts discussed the Cubs’ 2016 at the On Deck Luncheon with the Spiegel and Goff Show.
“You’re still a fan,” Ricketts said. “You just go from being a fan to a responsible fan.”
Being a Cubs fan has been wonderful this season. The Cubs are 47-23 entering Thursday, and despite being swept by the Cardinals at Wrigley Field this week, they still own a 9.5-game lead over St Louis for first place in the NL Central.
Ricketts landed Epstein during the fall of 2011 to run the baseball operation. Rather than spending big money on aging veterans — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were available that offseason — the Cubs committed to rebuilding.
The Cubs’ rebuilding process entailed acquiring young talent by selling off aging assets. With that came three tough years of losing. Finally, in 2015, the young talent arrived and the Cubs won 97 games and reached the NLCS. They currently have the best record in baseball.
“There’s not a single owner, team president, GM or any baseball person that wants to lose any one game, ever,” Ricketts said.
“It’s a credit to the fans for hanging with us through this long process” of rebuilding.
There remains no update in the process of Epstein getting a long-term deal from the ownership group.
Ricketts has served as chairman since October 2009. The Omaha native met his wife in the Wrigley Field bleachers while attending University of Chicago. Now, he oversees Wrigley Field and its expansive operation to renovate and restore the 101-year-old ballpark for another century.
Under Ricketts’ watch, the Cubs have redone the bleachers, added signs and two videoboards to the ballpark, created a state-of-the-art 30,000-square-foot clubhouse with tremendous amenities, restored the facade and enhanced the concourse. There’s more to be done, the most notable addition being the plaza adjacent to Clark Street.
Despite a city ordinance that will regulate the Cubs’ usage of their plaza, Ricketts is eager for the completion, which is anticipated later this fall — perhaps even for the postseason.
“We accept where we’re at,” Ricketts said. “It just wasn’t what we talked about a couple years ago.”
“The plaza is going to be awesome. It’s going to be great for the neighborhood.”
Ricketts recalled early in his tenure as chairman when fans would approach him outside Wrigley Field.
The Cubs were well behind in the standings, and the Wrigley renovations were just a dream at the time.
“Thank God we have a plan,” fans would tell the chairman.