Samardzija reflects on passing of Cubs scout that signed him

Samardzija reflects on passing of Cubs scout that signed him

Cliff Floyd landed in Fort Lauderdale – the night before a gunman opened fire in a South Florida airport terminal – and could immediately sense something already went wrong by the way his phone started buzzing.

The news rippled throughout the baseball community last week: Cubs scout Stan Zielinski, 64, had died suddenly overnight at his home in Chicago's western suburbs. The sense of loss hit Floyd hard, because he placed so much trust in Zielinski as a Thornwood High School senior, believing what this guy from the Montreal Expos kept telling his family before the 1991 draft. 

"Not one lie ever came out of this man’s mouth," Floyd said. "Stan was so genuine, man, and just so real with everything that a young kid needed."

The Cubs will miss that presence in the Wrigley Field clubhouse this week when team officials hold their kickoff meetings for the 2017 draft – and remember Zielinski's invaluable contributions to a World Series champion before Wednesday's funeral service at St. John the Baptist in Winfield.

Zielinski spoke with conviction and authority, scouting for the last 38 years and working for the Cubs since 2001, fitting into front offices run by Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry and Theo Epstein.

Zielinski could shift between the pro game and amateur scouting, recommending Hendry acquire Chris Archer from the Cleveland Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade and reinforcing what Epstein saw in Kyle Schwarber at Indiana University.

Zielinski, who went to Loyola Academy on the North Shore, could also make connections in South Holland with Floyd’s mother, Olivia, and father, Cornelius, convincing them that the Expos would take their son with the 14th overall pick, launching what became a 17-year career in the big leagues and a second act as a broadcaster with MLB Network and SiriusXM Radio.

"It's having the ability to be the calm in the storm," Floyd said, "in any environment. Whether you're in the hood or the suburbs, it doesn't matter, because you have to be able to change your vibe going to different households. You can’t just be one-dimensional.

"That's an ability or a quality that not a lot of people possess. And when you have it, you have it.

"I'm a mama's boy. Stan realized he had to put the full-court press on her, or it's not going to work.

"The rest is pretty much history."

It became a two-man operation. Floyd, the Chicago Tribune's 1991 Athlete of the Year, had committed to play for Hendry at Creighton University. Standing in the family's driveway, Hendry asked Floyd what he wanted to do – turn pro – and told him he would go inside and try to influence Olivia.  

Hendry explained how he couldn't promise that he would be at Creighton forever. That candid admission eventually caught the attention of Montreal general manager Dave Dombrowski, who would later help Hendry make the jump to pro baseball with the expansion Florida Marlins and make Floyd a part of the 1997 World Series team.

Zielinski arranged for the Expos to deliver a $290,000 bonus and a clause in the contract that included money for college, allowing Floyd to take some offseason business classes at DePaul University and please his mother.

"She was such a big advocate of education that she was like: 'You're going to college,'" Floyd said. "She was just so big on who was going to take care of her baby when I was finally out of her eyesight after 18 years.

"These two guys were literally godsend, bro. They were literally everything you could possibly want your kid to be involved with. Without one, maybe you couldn't have the other.

"But I think when you look at how it all transpired for me, it was crazy, because my mom was so strong-willed at getting you to see it her way or the highway.

"When he finally said, 'Your mom is on board,' I thought he was crazy. I go: 'Stan, get your ass out of here. There ain’t no way. She just told me last night she wouldn’t do it.'"

Fifteen years later, Zielinski helped Hendry put together a $10 million deal that infuriated Bud Selig – the Major League Baseball commissioner at the time – and priced a Notre Dame All-American out of the NFL draft.   

"I'm in debt to him big-time," Jeff Samardzija said. "The more I talked to (Stan), and the more I saw that he was watching me, (and) the more they really explained to me why they felt (it would work), it just started to make the option a little bit more realistic for me. Whereas before it was maybe just a long shot or a pipe dream to involve baseball in my professional life.

"Sometimes, it takes other people believing in you for you to really start believing in yourself. I know he saw me play more in college probably than any other scout or GM or crosschecker or whatever. I knew his opinion of me was pretty solid – and it wasn’t wavering."

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Blach only lasts three innings as Giants get mashed by Mets in loss

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AP

Blach only lasts three innings as Giants get mashed by Mets in loss

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yoenis Cespedes had three hits including a two-run homer and Lucas Duda had three hits including a solo blast as the New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 11-4 on Friday night.

The win snapped the Mets' four-game losing streak. They had lost seven of eight.

The Giants have lost 10 of their last 11 games, 12 of their last 14 and 19 of their last 24.

Along with Cespedes and Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto all had three hits.

After being held to five runs over their last three games, the Mets broke out their hitting slump, combining for 20 hits.

All but one Mets starter (Jose Reyes) had at least one hit and all but two (Reyes and Cabrera) drove in at least one run.

Seth Lugo (2-1) won for the third time in his last four starts. He gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings and was 1 for 2 with one RBI.

Morse reveals he barely remembers Harper-Strickland brawl after concussion

Morse reveals he barely remembers Harper-Strickland brawl after concussion

Giants reliever Hunter Strickland received a six-game suspension for his involvement in a May 29 benches-clearing brawl with Bryce Harper and the Nationals. Harper originally was suspended for four games before winning his appeal and served a three-game suspension. 

But the player who has lost the most amont of time came sprinting from first base trying to break up the melee. 

Michael Morse clashed heads with Jeff Samardzija and went crashing down. He has been out since with concussion symptoms and revealed Friday he barely remembers anything from the fight, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

After missing nearly a month of games, Morse feels much better, though effects from the concussion are still there. Every day Morse goes to Stanford for testing and therapy and still deals with lingering symptoms like dizziness once he raises his heartbeat and headaches. 

If Morse ever joins the reeling Giants is a question in itself. 

San Francisco currently has the second-worst record in baseball at 27-48 behind only the Phillies and have already started to shift to younger players. No matter, the 35-year-old Morse wants to be a part of the team. 

"You know me," Morse said to reporters before Friday's game. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm a happy-go-lucky guy. I'm happy to be with these guys. They're going through such hard times.

"I want to be with them, if not on the field, then off the field, helping them mentally if not physically."

In 24 games this season, Morse is batting .194 with just one home run. If his time has come to an end, the one home run was one to remember. 

Morse, in his first game back with the Giants since 2014 launched a pinch-hit solo home run to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Dodgers on April 26. The fan-favorite raised his hands at the crack of the bat, bringing back memories of Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS.