Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is giving back to those in need around the world.
The 3-time MLB All Star celebrated the launch of The Big Z Foundation Sunday with a special reception and dinner sponsored by Fogo de Chao (661 N. LaSalle St). The mission of The Big Z Foundation is to help underserved children and families in Chicago communities and developing countries.
As a long time Cubs fan, I was thrilled for the opportunity to sit down with Zambrano to discuss his new charity and the upcoming season.
The idea for The Big Z Foundation has been a long time in the making. “I didn’t have the people or the support,” Zambrano said. “Three years ago it was just a dream. Now the dream came through. This is the perfect time. I have the perfect people at the Big Z Foundation. Hopefully with faith, everything will be true.”
With the devastation from the earthquake in Haiti last week, Zambrano places great importance on helping those in need. “A lot of people are struggling. With life, this world, a lot is going on. I want to help people in case something happens in other countries. Just like what happened in Haiti.”
Zambrano, 28, said he is really looking forward to the upcoming season. “I have a lot of expectations for this season. Sometimes last year I was negative. That was one thing I had to correct.”
Last year, the Cubs were expected by many to win the National League’s Central Division. Instead, the Cubs struggled and finished 7.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Zambrano promises that Cubs fans will see a very different pitcher this year. “You won’t be seeing Carlos Zambrano arguing with umpires. You won’t see Carlos Zambrano breaking bats. Believe me, you will see the same passion, same emotion. But under control.”
He also feels that his mental aspect of the game must change. “I’m working on that, working on that mentality part. That’s very important. You will see me concentrating before the game. To focus on the games is very important.”
For baseball fans, the end of February always signals the beginning of spring training. Zambrano wants to get back to the type of training he did during his first few years in the league. “This spring training you will see me running with the pitchers, with the rookies. I lost that. Last year and the year before, I used to run on the treadmill while all the other pitchers would be running. This year you will see me doing all the stuff I did when I was a rookie.”
At 6’5″ and 265 pounds, Zambrano is in excellent shape. He added a change to his off-season training. “One thing that helped me was boxing.”
Zambrano feels that he needs to be a complete player, on the mound and at the plate in the National League. His bat is an important weapon to have in the Cubs offense on the days he pitches. “You can win a game one to nothing with a homerun. You can do a lot of things when you hit,” Zambrano said. “That’s why you have to practice hitting, too.”
Coming off a season of high expectations, Zambrano thinks there are a few things the Cubs must do to make the playoffs. “It doesn’t matter who you have on your team. If they don’t perform, they won’t win. It matters how you execute the game. That’s the key. We play good, we play with passion, and we play smart ball. We’re going to win.”