Cubs already getting good use out of new facilities

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is already taking advantage of the team’s new state-of-the-art facilities at Wrigley Field; he spent part of his off day on Tuesday in a float pod used to “relax the body.”

“It’s pitch black in there,” Rizzo explained on ESPN 1000 on Wednesday. “You shut the door. Music is playing low. (Played) some John Mayer radio to chill out. You really just float. It feels really weird at first. It’s good for your body. When you get up, it’s crazy. Your body is such dead weight.”

The pod is just one of many new amenities available to players and coaches for entertainment, relaxation and preparation. Before the new facilities were built, manager Joe Maddon preferred his players to arrive at the ballpark closer to game time and to stay completely away on an off day. He believes less is more in baseball in terms of preparation. Maddon doesn’t want his players mentally or physically drained before first pitch. He might be changing his mind, though.

“There would be a time where I would sway anyone from wanting to do that, but what better health club to walk into than this one on an off day,” Maddon said. “I might do that at some point. I’m a big steam room guy. I have to figure out how to fit it into my schedule.”

The timing couldn’t be better in regards to a player suffering a major injury -- outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber tore up his knee last week. In the past, Schwarber would be relegated to rehabbing at the Cubs’ spring facility in Arizona. Wrigley Field simply wasn’t equipped for it. That’s no longer the case.

“The difference is the clubhouse can handle that stuff right now compared to the last clubhouse,” Maddon said. “Not sure we could have done as much if we had not had this place right now.”

Schwarber would have been out of sight and out of mind, but now he can stay connected to the team during his long rehabilitation. Maddon believes it makes a big difference in a player’s psyche if he isn’t alone and far from his teammates.

“Why is this facility so important? This is a perfect example of why,” Maddon said. “The common sense approach right here is this guy is so important to our group. He’s overcoming a difficult injury. He needs our support. We think it’s important to keep him here involved so we can see him and he can see us. I think it’s going to benefit him.”

It’s already benefitting Schwarber’s teammates, as Rizzo found out firsthand on Tuesday. Even general manager Jed Hoyer is interested in the float pod. He wouldn’t mind shutting down for a while.

“It powers down your nervous system,” Hoyer said. “Sort of resets things. Incredible value downshifting your entire nervous system. All your senses. Just for 15-20 minutes. The value is tremendous.”

Maddon wasn’t sure if he wanted to try the cryogenic chamber -- it’s too cold for him -- but he was all for the salt water floating in the darkness.

“I’ve heard about this little egg that simulates the mother’s womb back there, so apparently Rizzo is the first guy to jump back into the womb,” Maddon said with a smile.