Cubs

American Legion Week has come at a perfect time for the Cubs

American Legion Week has come at a perfect time for the Cubs

If this was a movie and not real life, right now would be the montage with some classic song playing in the background while all the players get back in touch with their roots and regain their passion for the game.

Think of Rick Vaughn regaining his "Wild Thing" look and haircut or Billy Heywood and the Twins remembering how to have fun while "Runaround Sue" blares.

Joe Maddon and the Cubs are taking a page out of Hollywood and it just might be what the doctor ordered for this team.

A couple hours after Maddon and Anthony Rizzo and a few other players slid down the Williamsport hill on slabs of cardboard, the Cubs went out and won their first road series since Game of Thrones was on the air.

Sure, it was technically a neutral site, so not really a "true" road series win, but the Cubs will take what they can get at this point. 

Couple that with the beginning of "American Legion Week" at Wrigley Field Tuesday and the Cubs are really hammering home the point: This is a game — go play and have some fun.

That means players are forbidden from showing up to the clubhouse too early during this week and there is no batting practice. This is something Maddon has done every year and the Cubs are now 21-3 during American Legion Week after Tuesday night's 5-3 victory.

"September provides its own energy. August, man, you gotta find it sometimes," Maddon said. "We have taken 5,727 swings each — at least. Maybe it's 10,000, I don't know. I don't know how many throws they've made. I don't know how many videos they've looked at. I don't know how many data sheets they've read. By this time of the summer, it's gotta be at least 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical. Maybe 75/25. You get to this point, it's all mental over physical.

"You have to have that rested mind and body. So I think by picking this time of year to do this, they show up a little bit later, they don't feel compelled to do certain things that they feel like they may have to do to present the right image sometimes. A lot of this stuff is overplayed. A lot of it is eyewash. A lot of it is there to ameliorate others' concerns. Just do what's necessary.

"When hitters aren't hitting on the field, it's also about pitchers not standing in the outfield. It's also about coaches not hitting 1,000 fungoes. It's about when everybody's mind is fresher, you're gonna get a better product. I believe that."

The players agree.

"You get here late and it kinda throws some guys' routines off, but I think it helps this late in the year," Rizzo said. "It's good timing and it's a good win."

Right now, Nicholas Castellanos is the poster boy for a loose/fun approach to the game and he went out and showed that again Tuesday night by homering in the first inning to give the Cubs an early lead. 

That initial lead didn't hold up, but the Cubs prevailed anyways, thanks in large part to big nights from Rizzo (two homers, a single and a walk) and Castellanos (two singles to go along with his first-inning blast). 

But for the newest Cub, it was just another "Opening Day."

After confirming he tells Maddon "Happy Opening Day" before each game, Castellanos refuted a reporter's claim that Tuesday is not Opening Day because the Cubs don't have an 0-0 record.

"That's only if you believe the record," Castellanos said. "It's kind of the mentality — if what has happened is a memory and what's going to happen is a thought, you're taking yourself out of right now. So in that case, every day is Opening Day."

Insert your favorite Bill and Ted GIF here. 

But Castellanos has a point and the Cubs have been feeding off his energy since he arrived at the beginning of the month. 

And it certainly helps to get a weeklong reminder of where these guys came from — the Little League fields to the American Legion ball where they just showed up and played and didn't have to worry about October or money or pressure.

"I wouldn't call it pressure," Castellanos said. "I would call it fun. This is awesome."

For the last couple months, Maddon has been preaching about how important it is for his team to take a deep breath and stop pressing or worrying about making mistakes.

What better way to drive that point home than getting in touch with their inner child?

"I remember American Legion Ball like yesterday, man," Maddon said, while giving props to Post 210 in Danville, Ill. and their trip to the American Legion World Series in North Carolina this week. "That was the summertime. That was coming home after installing fences with Richie and putting your uniform on, going down to 22nd street. There was no video, there was no analytics, there was no BP, there was no nothin'. 

"I mean, your coach couldn't throw BP, so we didn't have that, either. So you just went out and you put it on and you might've had the McDonald's burgers on the bench and you went out and you played baseball and you played it really well."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Another Cubs star injured

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Another Cubs star injured

SportsTalk Live is on location on Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field for Cubs Authentic Fan Night. Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma joins the panel to discuss the Cubs' 47-run sweep of the Pirates and dissect what Anthony Rizzo's ankle injury means for the team's playoff chances.

10:30 - The Score's David Schuster joins the show to talk about the Bears' improbable win in Denver and another sub-par performance by Mitch Trubisky.

19:00 - Kap gives his plays of the night on FanDuel Money Mondays.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Anthony Rizzo injury update

Cubs Talk Podcast: Anthony Rizzo injury update

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Anthony Rizzo talks about his ankle sprain, Theo Epstein reacts to the injury and Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki discuss how the Cubs will fill the void in the lineup.

01:00 - How Rizzo is doing a day after the injury

03:30 - Anthony Rizzo discusses his injury

06:00 - Will we see Rizzo again in the regular season?

08:00 - Theo Epstein discusses Rizzo's injury

10:00 - Who will play first base in Rizzo's absence?

12:00 - Need to continue the offensive surge

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.