Joe Girardi’s connection to the Chicago Cubs traces to his childhood.
While growing up in Peoria, his father, Jerry, brought Girardi and his siblings to Wrigley Field about five times each year. He would snack on Ron Santo’s Pro’s Pizza at the ballpark and watch the Hall of Fame third baseman and outfielder José Cardenal, his two favorite players. Decades later, those memories still resonate. The annual trips instilled Cubs generational fandom that further deepened when the organization drafted him out of Northwestern in 1986.
This weekend Girardi returns to the organization with whom he began his professional baseball career and spent seven seasons on the North Side.
Girardi is joining 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, also will be part of the broadcast for the Cubs’ three-game series against the Marlins on Sept. 19-21 at LoanDepot Park.
“It’s kind of like life has come full circle in a sense for me,” Girardi told the Tribune on Thursday. “Because I think about all the good times that we had as kids coming up to the ballpark with my father. … It brings back a lot of fond memories. My belief is my father will be in heaven laughing at me doing a game knowing how many we used to listen to.”
President of business operations Crane Kenney reached out to Girardi through his agent in July to gauge interest in Girardi joining the TV broadcast and getting him involved again in the Cubs organization. Girardi made clear he absolutely was on board, and the sides identified these two series in which Girardi, 57, will be part of the Marquee broadcast.
The pivot to the broadcast side comes after the Philadelphia Phillies fired Girardi on June 3 only two months into his third season as manager. Although he is embracing this opportunity, Girardi wants to manage again.
“But I understand that these jobs are precious,” Girardi said. “And being let go is disruptive for families, so I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone. This is an interesting business because you have to move around a lot. It’s difficult.
“So if I broadcast for the rest of my life, I’m good with that. I’ve been fortunate I’ve gotten a chance to manage 14 years, and I feel really good about that. But if the opportunity came, yeah, I’m definitely interested, but I understand that it may not too.”
After the Phillies dismissed Girardi, he stuck around the Philadelphia area because his daughter, Lena, played on a local 15-U AAU basketball team. He also twice drove to Burlington, N.C., to visit his son, Dante, who was playing in the Appalachian League. Girardi wanted to wait until Lena, a high school sophomore, and Dante, a junior at Florida International, were back in school this week before making commitments.
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Girardi also has taken time to reflect on what went wrong with the Phillies. They posted a 132-141 record under Girardi and missed the postseason in his his first two seasons. Girardi wants to learn from his experiences, making self-assessment part of the process. This isn’t the first time he has had to cope with losing his job. The Marlins fired him after one season in 2006, and the New York Yankees dismissed 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 precious it is to have one of these jobs, and you reflect on things that maybe you would have done a little bit different,” Girardi said. “But then you have to start to move on in a sense because it can consume you.
“When a manager gets let go, no matter what time it is, it’s disruptive, not just to you but to your family too. You’ve got 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 YES Network, MLB Network and Fox Sports. He has been watching a lot of Cubs and Brewers games in preparation for the weekend series. The Phillies did not play either team before he was fired. Girardi is looking forward to seeing Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele pitch against the Brewers.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young players to prove, ‘Hey, I’m part of the puzzle next year as we continue to improve,’ and they are acquiring 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 up and be a big part of this, and other guys may be traded to get that one or two pieces that you need to get you over the top.”
At the moment, Girardi’s commitment to Marquee is for only two series. But he would love to do more games next season, though that likely depends on whether a managing opportunity arises in the offseason. The team and city, where nephews and his mother-in-law live, remain appealing to Girardi.
“I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life, that has never changed,” Girardi said. “The only time I didn’t cheer for them is when I played against them. Obviously Chicago is a fantastic city, so yeah, I hope it works out.”