(MCT) MESA, Ariz. _ When the Chicago Cubs opened up Hohokam Stadium in 1997, then-general manager Andy MacPhail called the $18 million ballpark an integral part of their long-range plan to develop a young core of players who could compete down the road.
"The principal failure of this organization in the last eight years has been its inability to develop talent," MacPhail told the Tribune. "You become too reliant on trades, and trades are hard to make because you don't have the young kids pushing your veterans so you can deal your veterans, or you don't have the attractive young kids to offer to other teams. Then you become exclusively reliant on free agency and that is a very poor cornerstone (on which) to build an organization.
"So we're following the same plan we used (with the Twins) _ improve your facility and focus on the development of players. A good spring training site, when you have baseball in the summer and fall like we do here, is a critical and key component for us."
Times change and management comes and goes. But the Cubs remain the Cubs.
After 17 seasons, the Cubs ended their run at Hohokam on Thursday, losing 6-4 to the Mariners to end the Cactus League part of the exhibition schedule with a 16-18-1 record. They will move to a new facility on the other side of Mesa next spring, with the city of Mesa paying $84 million to build it and another $15 million in infrastructure improvements, including a lagoon that will be stocked with bass.
The Cubs aren't sad to leave Hohokam, which never lived up to MacPhail's hype of being a catalyst for a more consistent organization.
The new park, which is yet unnamed, is expected to give the team some modern day comforts.
"Your whole attitude is a lot better _ the fields, the cages, the whirlpools, the theater, the weight room," manager Dale Sveum said. "There are so many amenities there that are going to be so nice. You're talking about a whole 'nother reason for winning."
The A's will move into Hohokam in 2015 after a major renovation.
Soriano watch: Alfonso Soriano hit his team-leading fifth home run Thursday. Now the key is to take it into the season, where the cold weather tends to affect his starts.
Soriano had no home runs his first 30 games last season, but wound up with 32 on the year. Since joining the Cubs in 2007, he has hit 0, 2, 7, 3, 10 and 0 homers, respectively, in the first month of each season.
Can Soriano change the trend?
"That's not me, what happened last year in the first six weeks of the season," he said. "After that, I turned around my season. I hope this year can be a little different because if we want to be a contender we have to have a good April."
Extra innings: The Cubs finished with an attendance of 145,381 in their final season at Hohokam Stadium. That's a 57,742 decrease from the spring of 2009, when they drew 203,105. ... The Cubs came into Thursday with 45 home runs, second most in the Cactus League and tied for third in the majors with the Orioles. ... Scott Feldman will stay in Arizona to continue throwing before joining the team in Pittsburgh. Feldman is scheduled to make his Cubs debut April 5 against the Braves.