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Cubs bringing Mesa HoHoKams spirit to new ballpark

New Cubs spring training facility

The Mesa HoHoKams, key in originally attracting spring training to Mesa, will have a continued presence at the new Cactus League home of the Chicago Cubs when it opens in 2014.

The HoHoKams take their name from an extinct American Indian tribe once found in the Sonoran Desert. Today the HoHoKams represent a service organization that, among other things, facilitates spring training in Mesa. They raised the original funds for Rendezvous Park, the former spring home of the Oakland A’s, which was later renovated into HoHoKam Park, the longtime home of Cubs spring baseball.

HoHoKam Park will live on after the departure of the Cubs; the Oakland A’s are scheduled to occupy the ballpark in 2015, and presumably the HoHoKams will have the same presence there as they did during the Cubs days. Still, there was community concern that the HoHoKams would not be involved at the new Mesa home of the Cubs, but the team and the organization came to a deal last week. From the Arizona Republic:

The agreement ends months of uncertainty for the HoHoKams, who use revenue from their stadium operations to pump $150,000 to $160,000 a year into youth-sports programs.

“I feel pretty good,” said Mike Whalen, leader of the 160-member civic group that brought the Cubs to Mesa for spring training in 1952….

“We’re going to be doing basically some of the things we did at Hohokam Stadium,” Whalen said. Volunteers will park cars, take tickets, sell programs and serve as “ambassadors” for fans in the new 15,000-seat facility.

That may not sound like a lot. But in spring training, volunteer organizations are still an important part of equation. Whether it’s the yellow-shirted guides in Surprise Stadium to the Bradenton boosters selling seat cushions, volunteers add a human face to Major League Baseball during what some would argue is the most pleasurable time of the season.

In other Cubs spring-training news, Ovations will continue to work with the Cubs on ballpark concessions. Ovation ran the concessions at HoHoKam Park and brought in Chicago spirit to Mesa, including Chicago-style hot dogs and Old Style in a can.

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