Joe Girardi’s connection to the Chicago Cubs dates back to his childhood.
While growing up in Peoria, his father, Jerry, brought Girardi and his siblings to Wrigley Field about five times a year. He was munching on Ron Santo’s Pro pizza at the ballpark and watching Hall of Fame third baseman and outfielder José Cardenal, his two favorite players. Decades later, those memories still resonate. The annual trips instilled a generational Cubs fandom that was further deepened when the organization removed him from Northwestern in 1986.
This weekend, Girardi returns to the organization he started his professional baseball career with and spent seven seasons on the North Side.
Girardi joins Marquee Sports Network as a play-by-play analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Jon “Boog” Sciambi and analyst Jim Deshaies in the stand when the Cubs face the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Girardi, who lives in the Miami area, will also be part of the broadcast of the Cubs’ three-game series against the Marlins Sept. 19-21 at LoanDepot Park.
“It’s kind of like life has come full circle in a way for me,” Girardi told the Tribune on Thursday. “Because I think of all the good times we had as kids coming to the stadium with my dad. … It brings back a lot of good memories. My belief is that my dad will be in heaven laughing at me playing a game knowing how much we listened to.
President of Business Operations Crane Kenney reached out to Girardi through his agent in July to gauge interest in Girardi joining the TV show and involving him again in the Cubs organization. Girardi has made it clear that he is absolutely on board, and the parties have identified these two series in which Girardi, 57, will be part of the Marquee show.
The pivot on the broadcast side comes after the Philadelphia Phillies fired Girardi on June 3 just two months into his third season as manager. Although he seizes this opportunity, Girardi wants to become a manager again.
“But I understand that these jobs are valuable,” Girardi said. “And being released is disruptive for families, so I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone. It’s an interesting job because you have to move around a lot. It’s difficult.
“So if I’m streaming for the rest of my life, I’m okay with that. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to manage 14 years, and I feel really good about it. But if the Opportunity presented itself, yes, I’m definitely interested, but I understand that it might not be too much.”
After the Phillies fired Girardi, he stayed in the Philadelphia area because his daughter, Lena, was playing on a local 15-U AAU basketball team. He also traveled twice to Burlington, North Carolina to visit his son, Dante, who was playing in the Appalachian League. Girardi wanted to wait until Lena, a sophomore in high school, and Dante, a Florida International junior, returned to school this week before making any commitments.
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Girardi also took time to reflect on what was wrong with the Phillies. They posted a 132-141 record under Girardi and missed the playoffs in his first two seasons. Girardi wants to learn from his experiences, integrating self-assessment into the process. This is not the first time he has had to deal with the loss of his job. The Marlins fired him after one season in 2006, and the New York Yankees fired him in 2017 after 10 seasons and a 2009 World Series title with the organization.
“You try to think about all the good things and what you love about the game and how valuable it is to have one of those jobs, and you think about things you might have done a little differently. “said Girardi. “But then you have to start moving one way because it can consume you.
“When a manager is fired, whatever the hour, it’s disruptive, not only for you but also for your family. You have to bring things back to normal where there is consistency, especially when you have kids at home, and that’s what I focus on.
Girardi’s previous broadcast experience includes work for YES Network, MLB Network and Fox Sports. He watched a lot of Cubs and Brewers games in preparation for the weekend series. The Phillies did not face either team before his dismissal. Girardi can’t wait to see Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele pitch against the Brewers.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young players to prove, ‘Hey, I’m part of the puzzle next year as we continue to improve’, and they pick up some minor league talent, which I think, is important for the depth of the organization,” Girardi said. “It’s important that some of these guys show up and play a big role in all of this, and other guys can be traded in to get one or two things that you have. need to get you to the top.”
At the moment, Girardi’s commitment to Marquee is only for two series. But he would like to play more games next season, although that likely depends on whether a managerial opportunity arises in the offseason. The team and the city, where the nephews and his mother-in-law live, remain attractive for Girardi.
“I’ve been a Cubs fan all my life, that’s never changed,” Girardi said. “The only time I didn’t cheer for them was when I played against them. Obviously, Chicago is a fantastic city, so yeah, I hope that works out.