Hickey feeling at home with Cubs, Maddon

Pitching coach is a Chicago native, eager to bond with staff

December 21st, 2017

CHICAGO -- Sometime after Jan. 1, new Cubs coach Jim Hickey will start calling the pitchers to say hello and try to get a head start on the 2018 season.

Hickey, 56, who will be reunited with manager Joe Maddon, has already been looking at video of the Cubs pitchers.

"I'm somewhat familiar with a lot of those guys anyways just from being a baseball fan and seeing some of the games," Hickey said last week in Orlando when he stopped by the Winter Meetings. "I often would watch the Cubs just because that was one of my favorite teams. I grew up there and that's who I rooted for."

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A Chicago native, Hickey is returning to his hometown after spending the last 11 seasons with the Rays, including eight on Maddon's staff.

"There's a lot of factors that make it almost a perfect scenario if it's not a perfect scenario," Hickey said about joining the Cubs. "First of all, I was born and raised there [in Chicago], and I still have family there, a lot of family there. The fact that Joe and I are so familiar with each other and have had so much success together [is a plus]. The fact that the organization is so successful and so progressive now and obviously the winning really helps."

Hickey came to Chicago to see the Cubs' facilities and meet with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. That trip convinced him to make the move.

"The really, really tipping point that weighted the scales in Chicago's favor was when I came in for the visit and I met with Joe and I met with Theo and I met with Jed, [the latter two were] guys I had never ever talked to at all," Hickey said. "Physically going into the office building, and seeing the building first of all, and seeing all the support staff in there, the people -- you could tell the vibe in that buliding and it was the middle of the winter. The vibe in that building was fantastic.

"There were some other pretty attractive things out there. This was a relatively easy decision for me overall."

This will be Hickey's 15th season as a Major League pitching coach, and he's had quite a few success stories, including , , Chris Archer and . A right-handed pitcher, Hickey was drafted by the White Sox in the 13th round of the 1983 Draft but never made it to the big leagues that way.

Chris Bosio, who was the Cubs' pitching coach for six seasons, used to get to know his staff on the golf course. Hickey admits he "stinks" at golf, preferring fishing and hunting. He'll figure out a way to bond. Right now, he's been looking at video and "scouting" the Cubs pitchers as if he was preparing to face them.

"Regardless of how familiar I am with those guys going into Spring Training, I'm going to learn the most during those six weeks in Spring Training about those guys and what they do and what they like to do and what they're capable of doing and all the things you have to be there in order to observe," Hickey said.

Hickey wanted to make sure the pitchers had their time off and will get some face time in January at the Cubs Convention.

"[Hickey] is good with mechanics," Maddon said. "He's good with game planning. He's good on a lot of different levels. He's going to be extremely relevant. The pitchers will gather around him. They will rally around him. He's got a great personality, too."

Hickey and Maddon will have to come up with another good luck charm. When they were together in Tampa Bay, they'd look for dolphins as they drove to work over the bridge.

"If he ever saw dolphins, that was a huge good luck [charm], and we would always win on the days he saw dolphins," Hickey said of Maddon. "If I was driving over for a day game, I'd let him know if I saw dolphins."

There aren't any dolphins in Lake Michigan, but the two will likely come up with something else when the 2018 season begins.