CHICAGO (AP) — The celebration for Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary begins with a visit from an old friend.
Ryne Sandberg brings his Philadelphia Phillies to Chicago to take on the Cubs on Friday in the first game of the season at the iconic ballpark. It's Sandberg's second trip to his old stomping grounds since he became Philadelphia's manager last August.
"Wrigley Field's a special place to me and my career, so going back there, and to go back in this capacity, I'm very anxious and excited about that," Sandberg said.
Sandberg broke into the majors with Philadelphia in 1981 and got his first major league hit at Wrigley. It was the first of many at the Cubs' longtime home.
Sandberg was traded to Chicago that January, and went on to play 15 seasons for the Cubs. He finished his career with a .285 batting average, 282 homers and 1,061 RBIs. The second baseman had his No. 23 retired by the team in 2005, the same year he was enshrined in Cooperstown.
Nicknamed "Ryno," Sandberg remains popular among Cubs fans. After all, he was at his best in their favorite ballpark, batting .300 with 164 homers and 607 RBIs at Wrigley during his time with Chicago.
"It's the 100th year, anniversary of the stadium there, that'll be special," Sandberg said, looking forward to the second of three opening days for Philadelphia this season.
It's also a very special occasion for rookie Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who was hired in November and finally gets a chance to take a look at his office.
"I think we're all looking forward to making Wrigley Field our haven," he said.
It was a house of horrors last year, when Chicago had a National League-worst 31-50 home record. The home woes, plus a run of four straight losing seasons, also took a toll on attendance. The season total of 2,642,682 was the smallest for the Cubs since they drew 2,623,194 in 1998.
All those numbers played a role in the firing of Dale Sveum, who went 127-197 in two seasons with Chicago. The Cubs are hoping Renteria can get young hitters Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro back on track while laying a foundation for a successful transition to the majors for the top prospects in a loaded farm system.
"We're moving in the right direction with our mentality and attitude," said Renteria, who got his first win when the Cubs beat the Pirates 3-2 in Pittsburgh on Thursday. "It's a long season."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap