Cubs infielder Mike Fontenot, a Baton Rouge native and former LSU second baseman under legendary coach Skip Bertman, is no stranger to the heat. "My whole family is used to it," Fontenot said. "Most of them have moved over to Lafayette (west of New Orleans), but we're still in the midst of it."
Fontenot was quite the hometown favorite at Zephyrs Stadium throughout the series, signing autographs and chatting with the locals along the Cubs' third base dugout whenever time permitted. Several members of his family was on hand throughout the week.
Once the rest of the series was officially cancelled Saturday, travel plans prompted a good number of players to immediately begin packing at the team hotel and get ready for what would normally be a 17-hour bus trip to Omaha. The Cubs are scheduled to open up a four-game series there beginning Monday night.
Those who stayed behind at the park were primarily pitchers, particularly Raul Valdez, Carmen Pignatiello, John Koronka, Jon Leicester and Bobby Brownlie, who all threw from the bullpen. Rich Hill, Federico Baez, Russ Rohlicek and Jermaine Van Buren also got in some work through long toss.
The last time the Cubs were scheduled to play in New Orleans was back in July, but Hurricane Dennis postponed the entire series. On Saturday, mandatory evacuations were issued for some parishes in southeastern Louisiana beginning early in the afternoon, and by 4 p.m. New Orleans began preparing for "contraflow."
David Kelton was cleared by trainer Robert Grimes to return from the disabled list on Saturday. He has not yet been activated, however. Kelton hasn't played since August 17 at Albuquerque after being sidelined with a recent hamstring problem. He was involved in moderate workouts with the team on Friday and took batting practice before the Cubs' 7-1 win.
In fact, Kelton even managed to find yours truly with a groundball up the middle during BP. "Sorry about that," he said with a smile afterward. Kelton and his wife recently purchased their first house together and plan on enjoying time away from the ballpark in their newfound home in Hoover, Ala., once the season ends. The 25-year-old will become a free agent after the season is over.
Incidentally, another outfielder – Ben Grieve – shied away from most all reporters on hand and did not seem too eager to fraternize with teammates or coaches, either. Grieve is batting only .256 in 78 games with the Triple-A club. He hit his 14th home run with the club on Friday.
As Inside The Ivy first reported following Friday's game, infielder Scott McClain was promoted to the big league club after his contract was purchased. McClain got the news from manager Mike Quade after the game; Quade was informed by Player Development Director Oneri Fleita via telephone.
McClain batted .293 in 121 games with the team, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 93 runs.
In town for the series, which was originally scheduled to host seven games in all (two doubleheaders) were Rudy Vorkapic, a contributor to Vine Line and At The Yard magazines, and of course Iowa play-by-play voice Deene Ehlis.
Vorkapic, who could in all honesty double as Pat Hughes' long lost twin, was on hand Friday night to cover New Orleans' Rick Short and his quest to bat .400. (Short is currently hitting .388 with eight games to play.) In addition to his work with the Cubs' official magazine, Vorkapic has also covered the New Orleans Hornets and served as a reporter for the Daily Herald.
Ehlis, who will wrap up his 16th season in the I-Cubs' broadcast booth in just over a week, has been primarily flying solo this season after former color commentator Dave Raymond left the team to take over the play-by-play duties of the Brockton Rox in Massachusetts.
Ehlis and I were scheduled to go on-air together for 2-3 innings in game one of Saturday's doubleheader. Hopefully next year, Dino. I still owe you lunch.