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Vitters relied on dad, coaches to reach Majors

CHICAGO -- When Josh Vitters and his older brother, Christian, were growing up near Anaheim, Calif., their father, Warren, would take the two boys to an elementary school to play baseball.

"It was his favorite thing to do and our favorite thing to do," Vitters said.

The three would work on hitting, on fielding and on all other aspects of the game. They'd also get yelled at by some of the school's neighbors.

"I don't think we were supposed to hit at places where we did," Vitters said. "I remember a few people complaining. But it seemed like no matter where we were, we found a place to hit."

The work paid off. Vitters, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was promoted to the big league team on Aug. 5 of this year. When asked to pick one mentor who helped him get to the Majors, Vitters, 23, didn't hesitate. His father, who was his coach from T-ball until Josh was 14, was key.

"He gave us every opportunity to succeed," Vitters said. "He did whatever it was we needed. If it wasn't for him, there's no shot I'd be where I am today. He really helped me become a good baseball player."

Vitters had others who helped in his march to the Majors, including John Weber, the baseball coach at Cypress (Calif.) High School. Weber, 43, downplayed his involvement with the young infielder.

"Good players are good players," Weber said of Vitters, who batted .390 his senior year.

Even now, Weber and Vitters get together for dinner in the offseason, and Vitters likes to make at least one trip back to his high school. When Vitters was promoted to the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa, Weber was at Dodger Stadium for his former player's big league debut.

"I think he can be a major fixture in Major League Baseball," said Weber, who has coached other future big leaguers such as C.J. Wilson and Heath Bell. "I think [Vitters] is talented enough to be an All-Star. He's still very young. He's young in age, but not in pro ball."

This season was Vitters' sixth in the Minors, and he's had plenty of coaches along the way.

"It's hard to single out one person, because I wouldn't be doing justice to all the other coaches -- everybody has done a great job, and I've loved all the coaches I've had," Vitters said. "If I had to say one, I'd say Tom Beyers was one who was influential for me. Not only did he help me as a hitter ... but he helped me grow up a little and mature into this baseball life. I think he definitely played a big part for me growing up with the Cubs."

Beyers, now the Minor League hitting coordinator for the Cubs, was Vitters' first manager at Class A Boise in 2008. Vitters batted .328 that year. The two were reunited at Double-A Tennessee when Beyers was the hitting coach in '10.

"Every year in Spring Training, I still work with him and really enjoy it," Vitters said.

Weber tries to watch Cubs games to keep an eye on Vitters. He's seen how the rookie third baseman has struggled. Vitters ended an 0-for-27 stretch on Sunday with a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Pirates. How can someone with such a great swing have such a tough time?

"It's the big leagues," Weber said.

Warren Vitters knows that, too. Expect father and sons to find a field someplace this offseason and get back to work.

Chicago Cubs, Josh Vitters