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Sources — Wrigley Field to be given federal landmark status

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CHICAGO — Seven years after filing the paperwork, Wrigley Field is to be given federal landmark status in the National Register of Historic Places, according to sources. The move will give owners of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family, access to federal income tax credits on the recently completed refurbishing of the 106-year-old ballpark. The official announcement is expected Thursday.

Wrigley Field was built in 1914 but had not had an extensive makeover until the past half-decade when the Ricketts family spent about $1 billion of their own money to refurbish it. They applied for the federal status back in 2013, after becoming eligible for it in 1987, but needed to keep that eligibility through the renovations before being approved. The move should earn millions in tax credits, just as it did for the owners of the Boston Red Sox, who made a similar move with Fenway Park about a decade ago.

The Ricketts family abandoned their desire for taxpayer assistance in the renovations long ago but were hopeful to get the credits in the form of the landmark status, which was approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt.

“The historical significance of Wrigley Field is interwoven into our nation’s story and a key part of what has become America’s beloved pastime for over a century,” Bernhardt said.

National Historic Landmarks are defined as “buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that have been determined by the Secretary of the Interior to be nationally significant in American history and culture.” As such, certain renovations to said landmarks can qualify for tax credits. The Ricketts family upgraded the basic structure of Wrigley Field but modernized it, adding video scoreboards along with new seats and underground clubs. They also made it safer for fans watching in-stadium, as previously nets hung to catch falling debris from the aging structure.

Not all facilities survive their landmark status after renovations. Soldier Field, also in Chicago, was stripped of its landmark status in 2006 after it was rehabbed.

Wrigley Field is the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park and was the home of the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1970. There are approximately 2,600 National Historic Landmarks in the United States, including Fenway Park and the old Tiger Stadium.

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Miami Marlins acquire Adam Cimber from Cleveland Indians, designate Jose Urena for assignment

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CLEVELAND — The Indians sold side-arm reliever Adam Cimber to the Marlins on Monday for $100,000, and Miami designated right-hander José Ureña for assignment.

Ureña, the Marlins’ Opening Day starter in 2018 and 2019, spent six seasons with the Marlins and had been with them longer than any other active player. He went 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts last season, when he had a $3.75 million salary and earned $1,388,889 in prorated pay. He had been projected for a salary of about $4 million for 2021.

Cimber went 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA in 14 games this past season for Cleveland, which acquired the right-hander in 2018 from the San Diego Padres in the deal that brought All-Star closer Brad Hand to the Indians.

Cimber, 30, went 6-7 with a 4.30 ERA in 110 appearances with the Indians over 2½ seasons. He was 6-3 in 2019, when he pitched in 68 games.

San Diego selected him in the ninth round of 2013 amateur draft. He pitched in 42 games for the Padres in 2018 before he was traded to Cleveland.

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MLB launches wood-bat league for draft-eligible prospects

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is creating a minor league for top eligible prospects leading to the summer draft.

The wood-bat MLB Draft League is launching with five teams and could add a sixth, MLB said Monday. Teams will play a 68-game regular season that includes an All-Star break that would coincide with the draft in early July.

Teams are being awarded to communities that lost franchises as MLB moved to shrink the affiliated minor leagues from 160 to 120 teams this offseason following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement, which governed the relationship between the majors and minors. MLB has planned to eliminate the separate governing body of minor league baseball.

The founding members of the MLB Draft League are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey: the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the Trenton Thunder, the West Virginia Black Bears and the Williamsport Crosscutters. MLB said it is in discussions with a sixth team that it hopes to announce soon.

The league will be operated by Prep Baseball Report — a scouting, events and media organization focused on youth ball — and former Cape Cod League coach Kerrick Jackson has been appointed president.

MLB said in a statement that players will “receive unprecedented visibility to MLB club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Prep Baseball Report and the founding members of the MLB Draft League to create a one-of-a-kind league that will attract the nation’s top players who are eligible for each year’s MLB draft and allow local fans to see top prospects and future big-league stars in their hometowns,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball economics and operations. “This announcement continues MLB’s commitment to preserving and growing baseball in communities around the United States.”

MLB announced in September that the Appalachian League, formerly a Rookie-level affiliated league, would be transformed into a wood-bat college summer league.

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How Adam Wainwright’s love for fantasy football has benefited more than 30 charities

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It’s that time of year, when executives are checking the waiver wires and looking to make moves to improve their teams. But in this case, the front office gurus in question are baseball players themselves and their teams consist of football players.

For many baseball players, fantasy football is their offseason vice — that and a round of golf. In both cases, the players come for the trash talk and stay for the competition.

“We’re so competitive, by nature,” free agent pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “We’ll compete on who can eat their cereal the fastest. Fantasy football has provided baseball players with a fun outlet. It brings clubhouses together. Trades, trash talking, checking scores — and it keeps players close in the offseason.”

Through his charitable foundation Big League Impact, Wainwright took things to another level this fall. He commissioned a “Players Only League” that benefits not only his own foundation but 31 other charities. Each participant, 32 MLB players in all, played for the charity of his choice. The league, which conducted drafts every week with teams having $50,000 to spend on players, had two-week running matchups and is down to the final four: Wainwright is taking on Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray in one semifinal, while former big leaguer Matt Holliday faces off against Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed in the other.

And while the competition has been fierce, the passion comes in earning money for charitable causes. Each round resulted in more money for the winning players’ charity of choice. High point totals and a “second chance” bracket provided extra ways to earn.

“That’s one of the coolest parts about it,” Gray said. “And if you’re out early, there are still ways to make money for your charity.”

Gray has raised about $15,000 so far for Project One Four, a charity created by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price to help youth organizations. Due to the pandemic, golf tournaments, celebrity cook-offs, black tie affairs and many other fundraisers have been canceled, so creativity has been needed to raise money for worthy causes. Enter Wainwright and Big League Impact, which matched each player’s $5,000 entry fee in contributing to the pool for the charities.

“We’re starting to catch some notoriety among the players,” Wainwright said. “They know we’re going to have fun and do some cool things to help out their charities. That’s my goal. To empower players around the league, who have huge platforms but don’t know how to use those platforms just yet.”

It’s the perfect mix of passions for Wainwright, who might have a fantasy football “addiction,” according to those who know him. They were only half-kidding, as Wainwright is in five leagues this year.

“Let’s see, there’s my Triple-A team from 2005,” he said. “My home league with my best friends. The clubhouse league with the Cardinals. That’s A-1 priority because you’re looking at those guys in the face every day.”

“He’s always been more concerned with his fantasy football teams than just about anything else,” Holliday, a former teammate, said of Wainwright. “He’s Mr. Tough Guy on game days [when he’s pitching], not talking to anyone, but if you have a good trade, you can talk to him about fantasy football.”

Holliday is playing for his own foundation, Homers for Health, which has raised nearly $3 million for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

You might think Wainwright, as a free agent, would be more concerned with where he’ll play baseball next season after spending the last 15 years with the Cardinals. But a recent 40-minute phone call produced very little baseball talk. His interest, besides fantasy football, is in helping people. After hanging up, he texted back, not about who he’s starting at quarterback this week, but to emphasize the best part of the whole tournament.

“The coolest thing about everything we do is knowing that there are people around the globe who have clean water that didn’t,” Wainwright wrote. “That have a feeding program that were hungry. That have access to doctors and medicine that had no hope of help before. That have a roof over their head for the first time. And that are free from the bondage of trafficking. All because of a bunch of baseball players working together to make a difference.”

That same sentiment was echoed by the other final four participants. The baseball players have a passion for helping, while at the same time enjoying some competition against each other. The combination wasn’t lost on Holliday, a good friend of Wainwright’s, who is hopeful they meet in the final. Holliday also openly wondered how the commissioner of the league made it to the semifinals.

“I question it,” Holliday said with a laugh. “He’s in charge of this deal, but he always finds his way into the finals. If I didn’t know him so well, and his character, I would question some of the shadiness.”

That’s just a taste of the trash talking that goes hand-in-hand with fantasy football. Wainwright beat Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer in the previous round and made sure to let him know about it.

“Max is a great trash talker,” Wainwright said. “No doubt about it. We’ve had battles on the baseball field, pre and postgame. This was big for me. It’s not as important as baseball, but it’s pretty close as far as bragging rights go.

“He’s really ticked off about it. I won a side bet off of him too.”

While Wainwright, Gray and Holliday are talking some trash, Ahmed, the fourth semifinalist, wants to be known as the “quiet assassin,” though he did question why he was the 30th seed going into the tournament. Ahmed has raised $12,000 so far for Compassion International, which sponsors children in the world’s poorest countries.

“I have to take that up with Waino,” Ahmed said of being the 30th seed. “What’s that all about?”

The Diamondbacks star might feel like he’s playing with house money after beating Clayton Kershaw in the last round.

“He [Kershaw] has beaten me so many times on the field, it’s hard to count them so it feels good to get that little revenge,” Ahmed said. “I didn’t know the format at first. First couple of weeks, I went over budget every time. I had to re-edit and adjust my lineup.”

Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson was eliminated from the main bracket in Round 1, losing to former teammate Jason Castro. Gibson has continued on in the second-chance bracket as he’s making a difference for his charitable organization, Help One Now, which is building a high school in the Haitian village of Ferrier.

“It’s really cool to see the charities impacted,” Gibson said.

Asked who the best trash talker is, Gibson picked another player eliminated in Round 1.

Lance Lynn likes to talk,” Gibson said. “When he wins, he definitely lets you hear about it. He’s not doing very well in the Rangers league either, so it’ll be a little quieter in the clubhouse.”

So who does he like in to win it all and make $50,000 for his charity? (The charity of the runner-up gets $25,000.)

“[Wainwright] took out Scherzer,” Gibson said. “He was on fire all year. Waino has found his groove. I’ll go with my guy. He set [the league] up and had a big year.”

Several players kidded about the issue of Commissioner Wainwright making it to the semifinals.

“Man, it’s always a little sketchy when the host makes a deep run,” Gray said, enjoying the chance to sting his semifinal opponent. “This is the best thing to be able to trash talk about. Baseball is your career, everyone is doing their own thing and competing. But this is a different level.”

Wainwright had plenty to say on the subject of winning his own tournament, suggesting his dedication to the competition, rather than his being commissioner, has been the key.

“I don’t know how good it looks to win your own event, but I’m going to try to do it,” he said. “I don’t care about the optics because it will help our charities do a lot of great things in this world. … I won our clubhouse league last year and that’s what everyone said. ‘Oh, he sets his own rules. He does whatever he wants to win.'”

Mentioning the Cardinals’ clubhouse league gave Wainwright an opening for a shot across the bow there too.

“I’m all over [teammate] Tommy Edman right now because he has one good player, Patrick Mahomes,” Wainwright said. “Everyone else is the worst player times eight.”

Wainwright’s secret is simple. He’ll bother you until he gets what he wants.

“I’m relentless on trades,” he explained. “If I want a player and the guy says, ‘No, I’m not trading him’, by the fourth week in a row of asking, I might wear him down.”

Players find the trash talk comes much easier in fantasy football than in baseball, where livelihoods are at stake. Wainwright said there have been many times when he has faced a hitter on the same Sunday he was playing him in fantasy football, and the fantasy matchup gets much more attention. Gray loves it because nothing is off limits.

“Oh, for sure,” he said. “Everything comes up when you’re running around out there. It’ll be talked about. This is a big matchup.”

It also gives the players a bit of an understanding what baseball fans go through when they play fantasy baseball.

“I don’t take any offense to it,” Gray said. “A lot of times, baseball fantasy owners are very accurate in their statements.”

Trash talking while earning money for charity is about as good as it gets for these players. The back and forth could go on and on, but the semifinals are underway. Two weeks from now, the players only league will be down to just two.

“This is just a great way to raise awareness and money,” Ahmed said.

And what of that 30th seed?

“It’s giving me a little added motivation to win the whole thing,” he said with a laugh. “We miss that competitive outlet in the offseason, so this is good. I’m enjoying it and want to do it for years to come.”

And that’s Wainwright’s goal as well, to grow the league and earn as much money as possible, not just for his own charity but for many around baseball. If he wins his own tournament, so be it.

“It’s happened a lot over the years,” he said. “I have five leagues I play in.”

And beating Wainwright will make it that much more special for his competitors.

“That’s why you play, to beat the host, right?” Gray said. “He has the home-field advantage. And I already know it’s all over his mind so that makes it even more fun. I’ll sit back and watch Project One Four fantasy points roll up. He knows he’s going to have to bring it.”

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