SPORTS

Jenkins still emotionally invested in Cubs, keeping an eye on Epstein

01/19/2012 10:15 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT
CALGARY - Ferguson Jenkins takes a wait-and-see attitude towards Theo Epstein's appointment as president of baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs.

Jenkins, from Chatham, Ont., spent 10 years of his Hall of Fame pitching career with the Cubs, winning a Cy Young award and earning three all-star team designations as a Cub.

The 69-year-old Jenkins still works for the Cubs, making public appearances for the team.

The Cubs faithful — and they are faithful because the Cubs haven't won a World Series in 103 years — pray that Epstein can work the same magic in Chicago as he did with the Boston Red Sox. Epstein, 38, was general manager of the Red Sox for World Series wins in 2004 and 2007.

The Cubs hired Epstein in October. Jenkins is holding off on giving Epstein his full endorsement.

"I really don't know what to take of him yet," Jenkins said Thursday in Calgary. "I tried to get a meeting with him and he was really busy.

"He's young. He's never put a jockstrap on though. See that's the thing. I tell people all the time 'this guy reads about the game and has seen it on TV or in stadiums,' but he's a pretty smart individual. He knows talent and that's what it's all about.

"People sit back and say 'you know he never played' but he watches and recognizes what individuals can do what and where they can play."

Jenkins, the first Canadian to win a Cy Young, was in Calgary to see his memorabilia displayed in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hall in 1987, but it was his first visit since the new hall opened last summer at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park.

"Fergie" Jenkins played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball with Chicago, Philadelphia, Texas and Boston. His 3,192 strikeouts put him among 16 pitchers in baseball's history to reach a career 3,000. The right-hander retired in 1983 and the Cubs have retired the No. 31 worn by both Jenkins and Greg Maddux.

"Most of my activity was all in the U.S. I would have loved to have played for Toronto or Montreal," Jenkins said. "I pitched against them, but never played for them."

Jenkins is a member of the Order of Canada and Canada Post issued a stamp in his honour last year.

A magnified version of the Stamp, a Cubs jersey and glove, as well as some Jenkins baseball cards are among the artifacts on display in the baseball section of the hall.

Jenkins lives in Anthem, Ariz., but was on an extended trip to Canada doing work for his foundation and for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont.

"I've always told people I'm proud to be a Canadian and I'm still a Canadian," Jenkins said. "There's been a lot of the fellas, or ladies, that have changed their citizenship, but my mother always told me to be proud of who you are and what you are. So I've not changed my citizenship."

Jenkins takes pride in the number of Canadians in Major League Baseball now and singles out Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and New York Mets outfielder Jason Bay as possible players who could join him in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in the future.

"I try to watch the papers to see how many of these youngsters are getting signed to pro contracts and where they're going and what teams they're with," he said. "A lot of the teams that sign Canadians, they need athletes and this was kind of a untapped resource for a long time.

"A lot of scouts are now in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. to look at these youngsters."

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