With the Chicago Cubs just days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa, Arizona, the dreadful realization of seeking a replacement for the legendary and passionate radio broadcaster Ron Santo begins to sink in.
Ron Santo tragically passed away on December 3, 2010 due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes
The Cubs have a tall task at hand as Pat Hughes, who worked with Ron Santo for 15 years in the booth, simply put it, "Ronnie was one of the all-time icons of Chicago sports. You have Ron and Billy Williams and Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg and Gale Sayers and Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus and Walter Payton and Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They are the pantheon of Chicago sports"
Many felt Ron Santo had lost his way in the booth with his lack of knowledge of baseball and his inability to discuss key events during a game.
But, this is what made Ron Santo true and genuine.
He was a fan favorite.
He would say what every fan was thinking and you can attest he was the voice of the people.
He wore his heart on his sleeve and he would not be ashamed to let it be known.
Pat Hughes recalls a game where the Cubs outfielder Brant Brown dropped a routine fly ball that allowed three runs to score against the Milwaukee Brewers during a game with playoff implications.
The Cubs ended up losing the game. After the game, Hughes recollects Jim Riggleman, the Cubs manager at the time, had to reconcile Santo to make sure he was going to be fine.
As for Cubs fans, they loved his passion and his dedication for the team.
Every Cubs fan is familiar with the expression, "Bleed Cubbie Blue."
Ron Santo literally did.
The Cubs have a tough decision to find the right person to accompany Pat Hughes this season in what already is a sensitive and delicate issue.
Fans will be skeptical at first when the Cubs finally make their decision and they may not accept a character who is less intriguing than Santo.
Pat Hughes asks fans to welcome his new side-kick and to allow him some time to become comfortable in the booth.
"He’s not going to be as entertaining or as popular. Please, please, give the new guy a chance and let us grow as a team. Whoever the new guy is, I hope the audience gives him a chance," pleads Hughes.
The Cubs apparently have narrowed their decision down to Dave Otto and Keith Mooreland. Both were active last year in the booth with Cubs when they would fill-in for Santo when he could not make a trip or a game.
Whoever the Cubs decide to choose, the new broadcaster is in the unfortunate position where he may face heavy scrutiny from the general public which will make the transition period very difficult.
The Cubs have to make sure they hire a person who will not try to overshadow Santo's legacy.
There will be a few bumps on the road during the adjustment period between Pat Hughes and his new partner. However, Hughes, a five-time Illinois Sportscaster of the Year recipient, should make it a smooth ride for his new counterpart.
This season will have a different feel for many loyal Cubs fans who religiously listened to Cubs broadcast on the radio.
There will not be as many as obnoxious and hilarious moments involving someone's hair piece catching fire or conversations involving Pat's sweaters.
On opening day when the first broadcast call is produced, emotions will be running high as an area of unfamiliarity will be explored.
It is fitting as we never really knew what we were going to expect from Ron Santo listening to him every day.
But Cubs fans have been part of something that is rare throughout these years and as Pat Hughes expressed, "Finally, these past few days it has been as clear to me as it's ever been that these past 15 with Ron Santo, I've been part of something very special."
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