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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Giants hammer three homers in third straight spring training win

Giants hammer three homers in third straight spring training win

BOX SCORE

At Goodyear, Arizona, Joe Panik, Conor Gillaspie and Jarrett Parker homered for San Francisco. Jimmy Rollins singled and scored twice.

Giants lefty Matt Moore went 1 1/3 innings in his first start of the spring, allowing one run and one hit. He walked two and struck out three.

Cincinnati starter Tim Adleman pitched two innings, giving up four hits and two runs.

Giants spring training Day 14: Moore, Beede debut as SF improves to 3-0

Giants spring training Day 14: Moore, Beede debut as SF improves to 3-0

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — An hour after he gave up a run, walked two, and struck out three in 1 1/3 innings, Matt Moore stood in front of his locker and smiled.

“I usually stink in spring training,” he said. 

That’s not entirely true. By spring training standards, Moore’s 4.06 ERA over 19 exhibition appearances is practically Cy Young-worthy. But the Giants have come to find that Moore, acquired at the deadline last summer, has high standards. He lived up to them the last time he took the mound in orange and black, throwing eight brilliant innings in the final game of the 2016 season. 

Moore had a long offseason to think about the way the postseason ended. He said he doesn’t have regrets. 

“The ball doesn’t go your way, but there’s nothing about what happened that night that I second-guess,” he said. “We all showed up. Boch managed the game, we played the game … that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The Giants are counting on Moore to help them get back to October. To recover from last year’s lengthy run — his first full season back from Tommy John — Moore pushed the start of his offseason throwing program back a month. Sunday’s outing was just the second time facing hitters this spring because rain messed with some of the coaching staff’s workout plans, but Moore said he feels strong. 

“We got him where we wanted,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He looked good.”

GAME RECAP: The ball was flying at Goodyear Ballpark Way Out In The Middle Of Nowhere and the Giants took full advantage. Conor Gillaspie, Joe Panik and Jarrett Parker homered in a 9-5 win over the Reds. The Giants are 3-0 in Cactus League play … Tyler Beede struck out one in two scoreless innings. Beede gave up two hits, but he finished his 2017 debut by getting a double-play ball … Jimmy Rollins scored twice while leading off … Albert Suarez made his debut, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings … Cincinnati’s pitching was mostly brutal, but former Giants prospects Luis Castillo and Keury Mella finished off the day with three scoreless innings. 

POSITION BATTLE: Parker had two hits and walked twice. His homer was a laser shot. “He smoked that one,” Bochy said. “I didn’t think it was going out, but he scalded it. It shows the kind of power he has.”

Mac Williamson had two hits, a walk, and two runs. He made a slick sliding catch for an out near the left field wall. The left field candidates are off to a good start. 

QUOTABLE: “It’s great. There are a lot more places to eat.” — Moore, on his first spring in Arizona. Moore is from New Mexico, so he’s happy with the switch from having camp in Florida.