Cubs

Albert Almora Jr. on foul ball incident in Houston: 'I hope this never happens again'

Albert Almora Jr. on foul ball incident in Houston: 'I hope this never happens again'

ST. LOUIS - The day after his foul ball line drive hit a young girl in the stands in Houston, Albert Almora Jr. didn't even get out of bed.

The Cubs had the day off after traveling to St. Louis following the conclusion of their series with the Astros Wednesday night.

Almora said he woke up to an avalanche of messages from family and friends Thursday morning lending their support. He has reached out to the family of the young fan, but they have asked for privacy on her condition.

In the two days that have followed since the incident, the conversation on protective netting around the ballpark has reached its crescendo, with many speaking out about the need to protect fans at all costs.

"I hope this never happens again, so whatever the league has to do to make that happen," Almora said as he stood at his locker in the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium. "I don't think any kid that goes to a baseball game with their parents or whoever should worry about making it out unhealthy or whatever the case may be. I don't think that should ever cross their mind. 

"Whatever the league needs to do to do that, that should be in place."

Almora isn't alone in that thought and maybe this incident will inspire some action to extend the netting beyond where it is now, which is roughly through the end of the dugout on either foul line at most MLB stadiums.

Even that has been a major improvement in recent years after debate about whether the netting affects fans' experience watching the game. But the current situation is not enough to protect children and families from foul balls whistling into the stands at 90 or 100 mph, as my colleague Doug Glanville so aptly broke down about his own firsthand experience bringing his kids to games.

"A couple years ago, there was very minimal [netting] and now there's a lot more than there had been and there's gonna be more than that," Joe Maddon said Friday. "Just goes way back. I've seen a kid at Quad Cities — when I was catching — sitting on a stoop outside the dugout probably no more than 15-20 feet to the left of home plate — a foul ball hits the kid right in the face.

"I mean, there were not nets at all back then, except for directly behind home plate. So where we're at right now is a pretty significant increase since then and it's gonna be even more than that, for sure. Typically, it always takes something to happen before people react and that's just the way we can react — not just in baseball, but as humans in general."

Maybe this situation will be the impetus behind more change. It's only been two days, but it sure seems like that's the direction it's moving. 

As for Almora, it was amazing he even moved forward and continued playing that game Wednesday night after how broken up he was. But he cited the support from his teammates and Cubs family as a major reason why and felt like he was in a good state of mind before Friday's game. The off-day probably helped give him time to process everything, too.

"[The support] has been nothing but positive," Almora said. "But at the same time, it's not about me. It's about hopefully everything's OK with the family. But yeah, there's really not much else I can say. I've been blessed with the people around me in this situation. As tough as it's been, it has made me a better person, I think, and it has opened my eyes to other things.

"I don't know. I never want it to happen again. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but you take it in stride and move forward and hopefully all is well and she's gonna make a full recovery, God willing. But it's something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. 

"I'm not saying I'm gonna try to turn it into a positive, but right now, all I've seen, all I've experienced is love and people that care and that means a lot. That means the world to me."

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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