MESA, Ariz. It took two sittings, nine hours total, for Marlon Byrd to get the tattoo on his right arm. The words are from Theodore Roosevelts The Man in the Arena, a 1910 speech Byrd reads every year before the season starts.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood
Byrd wanted a reminder, which he paired with an image of a coliseum. It was part of an offseason makeover in which the Cubs outfielder lost around 20 pounds after seeing a specialist in New York.
Byrd who has long been obsessive about his preparation and routine discovered food allergies and symptoms of celiac disease.
The transformation really happened all around the Cubs organization. Theo Epstein is in charge of the front office, Dale Sveum is the third manager in the past three years and Byrd is one of a few established veterans still remaining.
I have to go play the game, thats it, Byrd said. Ive trained all offseason, so I dont have to think about (anything else except going) all out. For this organization, a sense of urgency? No, we have everything in place.
(Chairman) Tom Ricketts made the moves right after the season ended and brought the new regime in. Youve seen what (Theos) done, everything hes put in place. Those guys are workers. Were going to have a staff where you come in (and) go play, thats it.
Its a different feeling around here, and its a good feeling.
This is a team that waved goodbye to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, who combined for 57 homers and 173 RBIs last season. Sveum plans to bat David DeJesus leadoff, and probably Bryan LaHair cleanup, but its wide open after that.
An All-Star in 2010, Byrd never really got on track last season, which was interrupted for six weeks after a fastball fractured his face at Fenway Park. He finished at .276 with nine homers and 35 RBIs. Hes another potential bounce-back player on a roster filled with them.
Put me in the lineup, thats it, Byrd said. Im going to dictate where I am by the way Im hitting.
Byrd is entering the final season of a three-year, 15 million contract, and he will be pushed by outfield prospect Brett Jackson. Its time to enter the arena again.
I dont want to go anywhere, Byrd said. I came to Chicago for a reason and that was to help them win. I havent done that yet. I have a lot to accomplish here and I just have to go out there and do what I can to help this team win. And if they want me here, Im definitely going to be here.