Joe Girardi’s connection to the Chicago Cubs dates back to his childhood.
Growing up in Peoria, his father, Jerry, brought Girardi and his brothers to Wrigley Field about five times a year. He ate Ron Santo’s Pro’s Pizza in the stadium and watched 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 deepened even more when the organization drafted him out of Northwestern in 1986.
This weekend Girardi returns to the organization with which he began his professional baseball career and spent seven seasons on the North Side.
Girardi Joins Marquee Sports Network as a game analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Jon “Boog” Sciambi and analyst Jim Deshaies in the booth when the Cubs play 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 from September 19-21 at LoanDepot Park.
“It’s 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 when we were kids and we used to come to the stadium with my father. … he brings me many good memories. My belief is that my father will be in heaven laughing at me making a game knowing how many we used to listen to.”
President of business operations Crane Kenney approached Girardi through his agent in July to gauge interest in Girardi joining broadcast television and getting him involved again in the Cubs organization. Girardi made it clear that he was all for it, and the sides identified these two series in which the 57-year-old Girardi will be a part of the Marquee broadcast.
The pivot to the broadcast side comes after the Philadelphia Phillies fired Girardi on June 3, just two months into his third season as manager. Although he is taking advantage of this opportunity, Girardi wants to return to directing.
“But I understand that these jobs are valuable,” Girardi said. “And being fired is upsetting for families, so I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone. This is an interesting business because you have to move a lot. It’s hard.
“So if I stream for the rest of my life, I’m fine with that. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to manage for 14 years, and I feel great about it. But if the opportunity comes, yeah, I’m definitely interested, but I understand that maybe not too.”
After the Phillies fired Girardi, he stayed in the Philadelphia area because his daughter, Lena, played on a local 15-U AAU basketball team. He also twice drove to Burlington, North Carolina, to visit his son, Dante, who played in the Appalachian League. Girardi wanted to wait until Lena, a high school sophomore, and Dante, a junior at Florida International, returned to school this week before making commitments.
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Girardi has also taken time to reflect on what went wrong with the Phillies. They posted a 132-141 record under Girardi and missed the postseason in their first two seasons. Girardi wants to learn from his experiences, making self-assessment part of 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 these jobs, and reflect on the things that maybe you would have done a little bit differently,” Girardi said. “But then you have to start moving forward in a certain sense because it can consume you.
“When a manager is fired, no matter what time it is, it’s upsetting, not only for you but also for your family. You have to get things back to normal where there’s consistency, especially when you have kids at home, and that’s what I focus on.”
Girardi’s previous broadcast experience includes working for the YES Network, MLB Network and Fox Sports. He has been watching a lot of Cubs and Brewers games in preparation for the series this weekend. The Phillies weren’t playing for either team before he was fired. Girardi expects to see Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele pitch against the Brewers.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young players to show, ‘Hey, I’m part of the puzzle next year as we continue to get better,’ and they’re picking up minor league talent, which I think is important for the depth of the organization.” Girardi said. “It’s important that some of these guys come forward and be a big part of this, and other guys can be traded to get that piece or two that you need to get to the top.”
At the moment, Girardi’s commitment to Marquee is only for two series. But he would love to make more games next season, though that probably depends on whether a managerial opportunity comes up in the offseason. The team and the city, where his nephews and his mother-in-law live, continue to attract Girardi.
“I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole 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 it works out.”