Rizzo grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so he was a big fan of the Marlins. Anthony is still fan of Hanley Ramirez. "I just like the way he hits the ball. He is just a great overall player," Rizzo said.
In 2008, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Anthony as the 17th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. They put him at #22 in the spring of 2009. And in the winter before 2010 spring camps opened, they had moved Rizzo up to #8 in the Boston farm system. And in the winter before 2011 spring training, they rated Anthony as third-best prospect in the Red Sox organization—then was #2 in the Padres organization after they traded for him a few weeks later. And finally, in the spring of 2012, the B.A. Handbook had Rizzo as the #1 prospect in the Padres organization.
Anthony's brother plays football at Florida Atlantic University, which offered Rizzo a baseball scholarship before he signed with the Red Sox. Anthony played football until his junior season in high school, when he quit the gridiron to focus on baseball.
Rizzo's father used to hit golf balls to Anthony to help his instincts at first base.
In 2009, Anthony was a South Atlantic League All Star.
The Red Sox named Rizzo as one of two 2010 Minor League Player(s) of the Year, along with C Ryan Lavarnway.
In 2010, Anthony became the first 20-year-old to hit 20 homers in the Eastern League since former Red Sox prospect Dernell Stenson did so in 1998.
In 2011, Rizzo ranked second in the Pacific Coast League in slugging (.652) and fifth in hitting (.331). But then-Padres (now Cubs) G.M. Jed Hoyer admits that he erred in rushing Rizzo from Triple-A to the Majors after hitting so well at Tucson. But Anthony just used it as a learning experience.
Anthony has good makeup and a fine work ethic.
March 2013: Rizzo played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. His great-grandfather is from Sicily, which is how Rizzo was selected.Also on the Italian national team for the 2013 WBC were Major Leaguers like Nick Punto, Jason Grilli, Chris Colabello, switch-pitcher Pat Venditte and Rizzo's future Cubs teammate Chris Denorfia. The team was coached by Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.
"Obviously, I'd love to play for [the U.S. team], that was my first choice, but they have all the 'mon-stars' on there," Rizzo said during a Cubs Caravan stop. "Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background. It's a pretty cool experience."
In May 2010, Rizzo's mother, Laurie, drove with her husband, John, about 14 hours to spend Mother's Day with her youngest son. He was playing for the Red Sox's Class A team in Salem, Virginia. Well, he was when the Rizzos left their Parkland, Florida home.
That Mother's Day, Rizzo was able to give her the perfect present: He was being promoted to Double-A Portland.
Laurie Rizzo would have driven cross-country to be with her son. She wasn't sure she'd be able to watch Anthony play again after he was diagnosed with cancer in April 2008.
That year, Rizzo was playing for Class A Greenville and batting .360. But his legs had swollen to the point where they looked like giant sausages.
"When I got back from this road trip, I gained like 15 pounds," Rizzo said. "I was swollen from my waist down and everything, and I thought it was just weird. I was hitting well, so I didn't want to say anything. Two weeks later, after all the tests are in and whatnot, it came to that."
The Red Sox sent him to Boston General Hospital, where he was diagnosed with limited state classical Hodgkin's lymphoma. Laurie was present when the doctors delivered the news.
"She decided to fly up to Boston and hang out for a little while—and when the doctors came in, she was there. It was tough news to get, but the doctors were so assuring that everything would be fine. It was emotional. How did his mother handle it?
"Not good," Rizzo said. Laurie's mother was also battling cancer at that time.
"She knew when I got sick that I didn't want sympathy," Rizzo said. "I didn't want to be known as the 'cancer patient.' I just wanted to be normal, and whenever people asked me, I didn't want them to say, 'Oh, how are you doing? How are you feeling? Can we touch you?' I was just sick. She did real well handling everyone. Everyone was so supportive with the food they'd send and the thoughtful letters."
Laurie took the next step, literally, when she organized a 5-kilometer walkathon to raise money for the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. Since Anthony lost his grandmother to the disease and dealt with it himself, he and his mother have been motivated to fight back. The inaugural event raised more than $100,000.
In 2013, the Rizzo family also adopted Team Italy during the World Baseball Classic, as his older brother, John, made food for the players and staff during the second-round games in Miami. His mother is a pro in the kitchen, too, and makes a pasta and chicken dish that is Anthony's favorite.
"Whenever I go home, that's all I eat—breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Rizzo said. "She knows. That's what I grew up on. When I'm home, if I want food, she'll cook it for me. I have no shame saying it—she does everything for me. It's the greatest."
Anthony is a regular visitor at children's hospitals in Chicago, talking to cancer patients about what to expect and trying to inspire them to keep up the battle. When Rizzo was diagnosed, he got advice and support from Jon Lester.
"I always say my parents went through it worse than I did," Rizzo said, "so if I can, I talk to the parents and say, 'It's harder for you guys than it is for the kid, and everything will be OK.' I say the same thing to the kids. I tell them, 'Your parents feel worse than you do.' That's the nature of it. Parents are worried when their kids go to the movies when they're 16 years old. I can't even imagine [how they feel with a child] being sick."
Rizzo has given his mother pink bats from the minor leagues, which Major League Baseball encourages players to use on Mother's Day to raise awareness of breast cancer. Other gifts he's delivered in the past include some things for the pool.
This year, Anthony wanted to say thanks for Laurie's support and effort with the walkathon. She turned her young son's bout with cancer into a positive by raising money and awareness to help others.
"She's strong. That's just who she is, where she comes from—along with my dad and my brother," Rizzo said. "It was a team thing [dealing with cancer]. That's why I say, 'We went through it, we beat it.' I say, 'We're in the big leagues,' not me. It's the whole supporting team that helped me get to where I am now."
And that definitely includes his Mom. (Carrie Muskat-MLB.com-5/11/13)
Anthony went to school with Adam Sandler's wife, Jackie.
Anthony's brother John played college football for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
In 2012, Rizzo began the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and provide support to children and their families battling the disease. He knows firsthand the impact it can have after being diagnosed in 2008 with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Through fundraising for research and providing support for pediatric cancer patients and their families, Rizzo's foundation aims to give every family a fighting chance against cancer.
July 24, 2014: Rizzo had his third multi-homer game of the season, but this one had extra meaning. Hours earlier, Rizzo, a first-time All-Star this season, visited the cancer ward at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago and met Mike Kasallis, a 22-year-old cancer patient. Rizzo, a cancer survivor himself, didn't exactly promise to hit a home run for Mike, according to the team's website, but he said he would certainly try.
Anthony delivered big: hitting his 24th dinger of the year in the third inning and No. 25 in the seventh to take over the National League lead.
Barely into his professional career after being drafted by the Red Sox, an 18-year-old Rizzo was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008. He went through six months of chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free.
"This one hit more at home for me," Rizzo told the Cubs website of his meeting with Mike and his family. "I usually don't get flashbacks, but I did this time."
August 22, 2014: "I was absolutely stunned," Kasallis said about seeing Rizzo deliver his request. "All I said was, 'If you hit a home run, blow a kiss to the sky for me.' And he did."
Kasallis, his girlfriend, Ashley Souk, and his family were at Wrigley Field as part of the pregame ceremonies.
"When my son asked, [Rizzo] said, 'I'll do my best,'" said Donna Kasallis, Mike's mother. "To not only hit the home runs, but to remember to do that [touch his lips and point], that's what was so touching."
Rizzo and Kasallis have exchanged text messages since that July day and since Mike began chemo treatments. Rizzo knows what Kasallis is going through.
Kasallis, of suburban Buffalo Grove, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State in May, and he was diagnosed on June 20 with pancreatitis.
"We have six months and two years to go," Donna said of the chemo treatments, which includes weekly sessions for six months, then monthly treatments for two years. She said the good news is that Mike is already in remission.
What was their reaction when Rizzo homered that night at Wrigley Field?" I started crying," Donna said. "[Mike] got all choked up. And then to do it again—we started crying."
Rizzo had said the visit brought back memories of his own experience.
"This one hit more at home for me," Rizzo said in July 2014 about meeting Kasallis, his mother, and his girlfriend. "I usually don't get flashbacks, but I did this time."
When Rizzo visited Kasallis in the hospital, Donna said her son perked up for the first time since the diagnosis. She had taken Mike to see a doctor because he was complaining of stomach pains, and it turned out to be much more serious. Donna said they were lucky to get a diagnosis so early.
"It was the first time I'd seen him with any spark," Donna said of Rizzo's visit. "It was like I saw my kid again that day."
Rizzo's mother, Laurie, joined him at the hospital, and Donna asked for advice. "I said, 'How do you deal with this?' and she said, 'One second at a time,'" Donna said. (Carrie Muskat - Mlb.com - 8/22/2014)
Rizzo was named the winner of the 2014 Branch Rickey Award. He is the youngest to receive the award. Anthony will be inducted as the 23rd member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame on Nov. 14, 2014, at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver. Two days later, on Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla., Rizzo and his foundation will host a third "Walk-Off for Cancer" 5K walk.
The Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, MLB teams are asked to nominate one team member for the award.
Rizzo has overcome Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with while a Minor Leaguer with the Red Sox in 2008. His foundation's goal is to help families affected by cancer. Besides his fundraising walk in his hometown, Rizzo has hosted two "Cook-offs for Cancer" in Chicago. So far, he's raised more than $500,000. The first baseman also is a regular visitor to pediatric cancer patients in Chicago and Hollywood, Fla. (Muskat - mlb.com - 9/18/14)
A long meeting between Jon Lester, a cancer survivor, and an 18-year-old Anthony Rizzo, who had just been diagnosed with the disease, will always be remembered by both. It's a moment that created a special bond between Cubs teammates Rizzo and Lester, and still is discussed by the two stars seven years later.
Before Rizzo and Lester became teammates with the Cubs in 2015, they shared a special moment in 2008, when both were with the Red Sox. Anthony, selected by Boston in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, had started fast in the minors, but noticed a lack of energy and had put on about 15 pounds.cHe went to get checked out and it was revealed he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer, and would have to undergo chemotherapy.
The first baseman headed to Boston for treatment, and the front-office staff brought Rizzo to Fenway Park to meet with Lester, who was two years removed from being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma and a round of chemo treatments. Then-Boston general manager Theo Epstein and then-manager Terry Francona approached Lester about speaking with Rizzo about his experiences.
“There are things that teammates or peers can say to one another that a doctor or a GM or manager can’t say,” Epstein said. “To be able to process it as someone who had been through it, and pass on some really helpful words to a younger person to go through it. For them to be teammates here is great. They share that special connection. It felt like a privilege to be there and watch those two help each other out.”
Rizzo estimated he and Lester spent about 35 minutes talking in the bowels of Fenway Park during a rain delay, and said it was “awesome” for Lester to chat with him. Anthony ultimately underwent six months of chemotherapy, and found out four months later the cancer had gone into remission.
“I went into it kind of head on; just talking to him was nice,” Rizzo said. “It was cool because I was talking to a Major League pitcher in the Red Sox clubhouse, which I had never been in.”
Lester, who does charitable work to help those diagnosed with cancer, stressed to Rizzo to live his life the way he wanted. If he felt good, Lester told the youngster to go out and do things he enjoyed. If Rizzo was having a bad day, he told him to lay low. The players continued conversing after that meeting, with Lester lending support.
“Being in those shoes at one time, you go back and remember what you were feeling when you found out, and leading up to your first treatment and your next treatment and all those emotions come back,” Lester said. “When things go the way you want them to it’s nice to reminisce on those times and that meeting—and meeting his dad and meeting him.”
In Lester’s first start after meeting Rizzo, he tossed a no-hitter against the Royals on May 19, 2008. Rizzo still jokes with the Cubs' ace that he helped him attain the historical achievement.
“It was a great time, and to be able to meet those guys and help out and be able to do that,” Lester said.
“It was awesome what he did for me," said Rizzo, "and I try to pass it along, what he’s done for me, and other people.” (Matt Ehalt - The Record - May 13, 2015) (Editor's note: Lester and Rizzo became Cubs teammates in 2015.)
By the time Rizzo was 25 years old, in 2015, he was already the leader of the Cubs. "He sets the example of how we want to play baseball on an everyday basis," veteran catcher David Ross said. "For me, he's obviously the most valuable player on our team, bar none. He's the center of our lineup and he jokes around out there and has fun. He's learned how to be 'the guy.'"
Anthony says, "I constantly pick guys' brains. I'm constantly talking to (Jon) Lester about the playoffs and David Ross and (Jason) Motte. My thing is when people who are older than you and have been there and done it and tell you something more than once—and you hear from different sources all the time—it's usually right. I try to take that information and process it, and try to pass it along.
"You've got to have fun," Rizzo said. "That comes from my parents, living it up. We play a game of baseball, and it's a lot of fun. We are going to make this as fun as we can possibly make it. We only have a short window to play the game. Everyone inhere has fun, and that's what the game is all about. It's just like when we were kids."
September 29, 2015: Rizzo joined an exclusive 30-30 club—he now has hit 30 home runs and been hit by a pitch 30 times, only the second player in Major League history to do so, joining Don Baylor (1986).
November 25, 2015: During one of Anthony Rizzo's regular hospital visits in Chicago earlier this year to check on patients in the oncology ward, the Cubs first baseman met Adrianna Fernandes. Call her Addie; everyone does. The bubbly Lockport, Illinois, teen was undergoing chemo for optic nerve glioma, a rare and inoperable cancer that had caused her to lose sight in her left eye.
When Rizzo walked into Addie's room at Lurie Children's Hospital, there was an immediate connection. She knew all about him and the Cubs and was excited to meet him.
"That response is the reason why I go," Rizzo said. "That's what this foundation is all about."
On Nov. 15, it was Addie's chance to give back as she took part in Rizzo's "Walk-Off for Cancer" in his hometown. Addie, who turned 14, had a chance to be in Italy as part of a Make-A-Wish gift. She chose Rizzo's walk instead.
"I said, 'Guess what's coming up? It's the walk,'" Addie said of a conversation she had with her mother. "I wanted to come to the walk and Make-A-Wish made it better, and we got to go to Disney [World in Orlando, Fla.] and hang out."
"He puts a smile on her face," Addie's mother Lisa Morello said of Rizzo. "For us, it's like being with family. When she was in Florida, Addie was taking a break from the chemo. The treatments are designed to shrink the tumor that's causing the problem with her eyesight. However, the chemo also makes Addie sick. If you met her, you'd never know the severity of the illness that she's dealing with. When she can, she plays softball, volleyball, and basketball. She's always the happiest kid," Morello said.
The walk was the sixth time Rizzo and Addie got together, and for the sixth time, the first baseman gave her a huge hug. She disappears when he wraps his arms around her.What did Rizzo learn from his battle with cancer? To never take anything for granted. Addie seems to have the same attitude. That's something to give thanks for at this time of the year.
"I wanted to come here because I wanted to give back to Anthony," Addie said. "I've met him so many times and he's done so much for me and my family, so I wanted to give back and walk this walk." (C Muskat - MLB.com - November 25, 2015)
February 23, 2016: Rizzo just joined an exclusive club. It has nothing to do with baseball, and everything to do with guacamole. That's right, he just received his personalized celebrity Chipotle card. Fellow slugger Bryce Harper received his in 2013, and according to Yahoo, the card only provides free burritos for a year.
Other athletes who have received Chipotle cards include Russell Wilson, Abby Wambach, Tony Hawk and Jozy Altidore.
Rizzo could be the Cubs' new piano man.The All-Star first baseman is taking piano lessons early in 2016, hoping he can someday join his musically inclined teammates to play together. He's always enjoyed listening to piano music and is hoping he's inherited some skills from his father, John.
"My dad is very musically inclined," Rizzo said. "He can pick up pretty much any instrument and start playing it along with a song. He has what musicians say is perfect pitch. I was going to try the guitar, but I really enjoy the piano."
So, the younger Rizzo found a website in which you complete a survey about what instrument you want to play, how many times a week you're willing to take a lesson, and the location. It matches prospective students with the right music teacher.
"This one works out perfect because she's right around the corner," Rizzo said of his teacher. "She's amazing so far. She motivates me."
He's been going four times a week, and when he's done with his lesson, Rizzo goes home to practice. The Cubs have a few guitar players, and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske plays the drums.
"Hopefully I can step up with my piano skills, maybe some vocals, and we can put this thing together," Rizzo said. "It's very frustrating because you look at people who are so skilled, and I'm like, 'Wow, I'll never get there.' I just have to keep practicing and keep playing to get better." It's just like learning how to play baseball. (Carrie Muskat - MLB.com. - Feb.29, 2016)
Rizzo tuned up for the 2016 regular season with a brief piano recital on March 28, 2016. Rizzo was surprised when he saw a piano near the agility field before the morning stretch.
"They put me on the spot," Rizzo said. "I wasn't prepared—totally unprepared. That's what this camp is about—be ready to do something."
Rizzo warmed up by playing a "Heart and Soul" duet with teammate Kris Bryant, then played a little of "Hello" by Adele and also "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. His teammates sang along. (Muskat - MLB.com - 3/29/16)
Rizzo's star is on the rise. He was part of the Cubs' quartet featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's MLB season preview edition; he's currently featured in an ubiquitous league-financed commercial alongside Kris Bryant. And it was revealed that he now has his own brand of cereal.
Jewel-Osco, a collection of stores located in the Chicago area that are infrequently visited by Eye on Baseball's very own Dayn Perry, has introduced what it calls "Rizzos"—or, seemingly, generic Cheerios with a baseball tie-in.What's the difference between Rizzos and a half-dozen other cereals available at most stores, you ask? Well, those other cereals don't feature images of Rizzo and his signature, that's what. Oh, and at least some of the proceeds will go toward helping children battling cancer. So if you live in the Chicago area, consider grabbing a box of two of Rizzos -- and who knows, if you're unlucky, you might even run into Mr. Perry. ( R.J. Anderson | MLB Staff Writer/April 6, 2016)
Anthony remembers wanting to buy certain cereals because of who was featured on the outside of the box. Now, Rizzo has his own box of cereal. Cubs fans now can buy boxes of "Rizzos" at Jewel Osco stores in the Chicago area. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families battling the disease.
"I was like, 'Yeah, heck, yeah, I want to be on a cereal box'—it's awesome," Rizzo. "As a little kid going to the store, I was grabbing all the cereals off the shelf."
He has yet to try the honey nut toasted oats cereal. The box features a drawing of the two-time All-Star swinging the bat. "I'm sure I'll like it," Rizzo said of the cereal. Maybe being featured on the cover of a Wheaties box is next?"Hopefully," Rizzo said. "That's the ultimate." (Muskat - MLB.com - 4/7/16)
In April 2016, an offhanded remark by Jim Deshaies sparked a lively exchange with his partner on Cubs broadcasts, Len Kasper. They wound up trying to pin a nickname on Anthony Rizzo.
Deshaies had pointed out that Rizzo is the player who most makes the Cubs such a dangerous team. He said he is to his team what eggs are to an omelet. There are a lot of things you can do to add flavor, but you don't get out of the pan without the eggs.
Kasper suggested that perhaps they should start calling the All-Star first baseman "The Key Ingredient." Or maybe, he said, they should go with "Eggs" Rizzo, in the style of Catfish Hunter, Ducky Medwick, Goose Goslin, Yogi Berra and "The Georgia Peach." Works for me.
Eggs Rizzo? That nickname probably isn't going to stick, but Deshaies was on to something. This is the one guy manager Joe Maddon must have for the omelet he's whipping up at Wrigley Field. (Rogers - MLB.com - 4/12/16)
Jason Heyward and Rizzo were both born in 1989, only one day apart. But while Heyward reached the big leagues to stay as a 20-year-old, with the team that drafted him, Rizzo was traded by the Red Sox and Padres before establishing himself with the Cubs. Such real-world experiences can toughen a guy up, not that Rizzo needed toughening up. He had to beat Hodgkin's lymphoma before he could start climbing the ladder as a pro.
To Heyward, it's Rizzo's resiliency that stands out. "It's not easy being traded, especially young," Heyward said. "That and obviously his battle with cancer off the field. It's not anything he boasts about, but obviously it's not easy."
Some Chicagoans will always remember where they were when they heard the Cubs had acquired Rizzo after the 2011 season, when he had hit .141 in a 49-game audition with the Padres. It wasn't that fans envisioned how central Rizzo would become to the franchise's success that made the Andrew Cashner-for-Rizzo deal so memorable. But this was Theo Epstein's first truly bold move after leaving the Red Sox, an early litmus test for the new regime.
Cubs senior vice president for scouting and player development Jason McLeod had worked alongside Epstein and Jed Hoyer when the Red Sox drafted Rizzo in the sixth round in 2007. He says Rizzo has the best makeup of any prospect he's scouted, and both his determination and intelligence have been on display as he's made himself a better hitter in each of his five seasons with the Cubs.
Rizzo talks a lot about his team but not so much about himself. His loudest praise recently was for Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and the people who designed Wrigley Field's new home clubhouse.
"Now we're in a country club," Rizzo said. "Simple as that."
"He's one of those leaders who will take any blow," Heyward said. "We roast on him all day. We get on him in the clubhouse. But when it's game time, he's ready to go, and we know he is. He's just one of those guys you love to see every day in the clubhouse." (Rogers - MLB.com - 4/12/16)
There was handmade cavatelli and Roman-style pork paninis, a tuna tostada with chile-rubbed albacore and a lobster burrito. And chef David Burns was making a sandwich he called "The Rizzo Bomb" that featured Laurie Rizzo's meatballs and marinara.
All the items were made in easy-to-eat sizes and were part of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation's fourth annual "Cook-Off for Cancer." Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Cubs' first baseman's foundation, which raises money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families battling the disease. June 2, 2016's event raised more than $630,000.
Rizzo told his teammates to come hungry. "I made sure [to tell them]," he said. "Most of the guys know -- they're all excited. Even if we lost, it's good to come to these events. What we raise money for is far bigger than anything we do in baseball."
A few kids who are battling cancer and who have met Rizzo during his visits to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago also were at the Cook-Off. Rizzo's foundation also hosts a "Laugh-Off for Cancer" event in January and a "Walk-Off for Cancer" 5-kilometer walk in his hometown of Parkland, Fla.
"I probably like this one because I like all the food," Rizzo said. There were plenty of options. Cubs players stepped in to serve the food, and the winning item would be determined by tips received. Last year Piccolo Sogno restaurant and chef Tony Priolo won the event. This year Priolo was featuring the Roman-style pork panini. Burns took advantage of Rizzo's mother Laurie's cooking talents and borrowed her recipe for meatballs and marinara sauce to create the "Rizzo Bomb" sandwich on Italian bread.
Rizzo's foundation has raised $1 million in its three years of existence, and the goal this year is to raise $1 million more. When Rizzo was a Red Sox Minor Leaguer and first diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, he was introduced to another cancer survivor, pitcher Jon Lester. Now, they're teammates. "[Lester] has no idea how much he helped me, but his little bit encouraged me to do all this," Rizzo said.
One food item Rizzo was going to make sure to taste test were a version of "Rizzo treats" made from his "RizzOs" cereal. "I was excited about that," he said. (Muskat - MLB.com - 6/2/16)
July 22, 2016: A pair of All-Stars and rivals on the field are teaming up off the field. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo are joining forces in support of the "Cancer Knows No Borders" campaign as they hope to encourage residents of Wisconsin and Illinois to donate to their choice of two cancer non-profit organizations, each of which is represented by one of the All-Stars.
Fans of the Brewers and Lucroy can donate to Wisconsin's Aurora Health Care Foundation (www.aurora.org/noborders). Rizzo, a cancer survivor, has selected his own non-profit, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation (www.rizzo44.com), to be the recipient of donations by Cubs fans.
"Anytime that you can help people out through the platform that we have, I think it's important to take advantage of that," Lucroy said. The "Cancer Knows No Borders" campaign will run for 16 weeks, focusing its efforts on Wisconsin and Illinois. Roundy's Supermarkets and the USA Today Network-Wisconsin are also joining in on fundraising efforts. Customers at Wisconsin and Illinois-located Pick 'n Save, Copps, Metro Market and Mariano's store locations can donate to the cause, and USA Today Network sites in Wisconsin will include content, advertising and promotional materials created to raise awareness of the campaign. Lucroy regularly makes visits to children's hospitals to visit patients battling cancer.
"I have my 5-year-old here, and I couldn't imagine what it would be like if she had cancer," Lucroy said. "Playing against Rizz and Jon Lester, who had cancer, there's a lot of people in baseball that have had or know somebody that has had it. It's easy for me to relate to it. "I'm very happy to be a part of this and lend my support to it, to bring some awareness, bring some attention to it and hopefully get some funding. Trying to find a cure, I think that's the ultimate goal in all of this."
For Rizzo, the disease hits a personal note. As an 18-year-old in the Red Sox organization, Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After six months of chemotherapy—at the same time as his grandmother battled breast cancer—he learned that he beat his cancer.
"It was insane to me because I just got drafted out of high school, my friends were going to college," Rizzo said. "I was on top of the world playing professional baseball, and then you get hit with a disease that I knew nothing about. It was a shock to me and my family. Thankfully where I was at the time, the doctors explained it really well and I had really good doctors and they got me through it."
In 2012, Rizzo founded his non-profit foundation to support cancer research and help families and children fighting the disease. "To bring awareness to that is what my foundation is all about," Rizzo said. "We just try to raise as much money for cancer research, we try to help individual families going through it. Because when I was going through the battle, I saw my mom and dad and brother and they kind of looked worse than I did, and I was the one who was sick." (C Hogg - MLB.com - July 22, 2016)
Sept 2, 2016: Rizzo remembers learning that he was in remission as if it were yesterday. It marked the eight-year anniversary of that date, and coincidentally, it's the same day that Major League Baseball chose to raise awareness of pediatric cancer.
"I remember getting the news, and I could see it and remember where I was," Rizzo said. "It's so far in the past, but when I think about it, it was like it was yesterday."
Rizzo was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkin lymphoma in April 2008, when he was a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox organization. One of the people who inspired him was pitcher Jon Lester, whom he met in Boston.
Since joining the Cubs, Rizzo started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million with a walk-a-thon in his hometown of Parkland, Fla., plus "Cook-Off for Cancer" and "Laugh-Off for Cancer" fundraisers.
"I've come a long way and done a lot of really good things on the baseball field, but a lot ... better off the field," Rizzo said. "I'm really grateful today to be where I'm at. I think about it more today than other days, but it's nice." Rizzo posted on Twitter: "8 years ago TODAY I was told I was in remission. I remember crying and hugging my family thinking how lucky we were."
He added: "Today we are going gold to recognize those families who are battling cancer who will never receive the news my family did." Rizzo noted that only four percent of cancer funding goes to pediatric cancer research, and he said, "We must change this and make sure every kid has a fighting chance. #LetsGoGold." (C Muskat - MLB.com - September 2, 2016)
November 18, 2016: The Cubs first baseman captured two Esurance MLB Awards. He won both Best Social Media Personality and Best Play Defense awards -- as voted on by the fans.
February 8, 2017: Anthony invited 12-year-old Henry Sembdner to watch batting practice and a game, saying he'd heard the seventh-grader was a Cubs fan.
The youngster was attacked by another student after Henry bumped into him. He suffered facial fractures and other injuries. The boy remains hospitalized, but school officials say his condition is improving and he's breathing on his own after doctors removed a breathing tube.
Police say their investigation is continuing to determine whether the other boy should face criminal charges.
Feb 16, 2016: During the Cubs' visit to the White House in January, Anthony Rizzo spotted a small sign on former President Barack Obama's desk in the Oval Office that said, "Hard things are hard." The message resonated with Rizzo, and is something the Cubs need to remember as they begin defense of their World Series championship.
"There's no shortcuts," Rizzo said. "That [message] really stuck with me. I just did a workout with [strength coach Tim Buss] and he kicked our [butts]. It's not fun, but it's necessary. We have to have fun and push ourselves to the limits.
"[Manager Joe Maddon's] message since Day 1 when he got here was, 'Push yourself to the limit you don't think you can get to, and you'll see in a few years, we'll be way past that,'" Rizzo said. "That's what we plan on doing."
"The focus in spring is get your work in, and when the season starts, the biggest thing is get off to a good start," Rizzo said. "I'm sure we'll hear Joe talk about that throughout spring, and especially later on when [the regular season] is two weeks out." (C Muskat - MLB.com - Feb 16, 2017)
Anthony was asked what occupation he'd be in if he weren't a baseball player? "Something in psychology. Why people do the things they do."
A cancer survivor himself, Anthony has been a regular visitor to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, trying to boost the spirits of the kids there. On August 29, 2017, he delivered a $3.5 million gift to the hospital and cut the ribbon on the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Waiting Room.
"It was a long time in the making," Rizzo said. "It's obviously a step in the right direction for the foundation to help as much as we can. Today everything came to fruition. To see the jersey that the kids signed when we go there, it was pretty special."
Rizzo, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma when he was a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox organization, unveiled an interactive mural in the waiting room and a framed Rizzo jersey, which the patients have signed during his visits. His foundation has created two endowed funds for patients being treated for cancer and their families.
One provides grants on a case-by-case basis for families facing financial hardship due to unexpected needs. The second supports two oncology Child Life specialists, a position funded entirely by philanthropy. "It's kind of staggering," manager Joe Maddon said of the foundation's efforts. "It's one thing to give money, but he's always there [visiting patients]. I know he gets recognition, but I don't think he gets enough."
Rizzo hasn't forgotten the days when he had to undergo treatment. "Today was a day when I had flashbacks [about] sitting in the waiting rooms and going through the treatments and being sick," Rizzo said. "I don't do that much, but today was one of the days when it got to me."
His message to kids is "Stay Strong, Dream Big," and he has tried to share that with the patients he visits.
"I feel I try to do a really good job of keeping baseball in perspective," he said. "You go out there between the lines and give it your all, give it your best, and that's all you can do. There's so much more to life than baseball." (Muskat - mlb.com - 8/29/17)
Nov 8, 2017: Rizzo received the prestigious Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award from the Major League Baseball Players Association, presented during the Players Choice Awards. The award is named for the founding executive director of the modern MLBPA and is given to the player who most inspires through his contributions on the field and in the community. Rizzo, the Giants' Buster Posey and the Yankees' David Robertson were finalists.
"This is another amazing award to win, especially because it's voted on by your peers," Rizzo said during the telecast on MLB Network. "It means so much to be recognized for things like this. To be associated with Marvin Miller is something that's incredible for what he's done for the game of baseball." (C Muskat - MLB.com - Nov 8, 2017)
Jason Loutsch is a huge Cubs fan, so when it came time to name the dark bay colt his Albaugh Family Stable bought at the Keeneland Sales in September 2016, he decided to combine the names of his two favorite players, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.It turns out, "Bryzzo" is a winner. On Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the 2-year-old Bryzzo won his second race, which was a "nice surprise," said Loutsch, the managing general partner at Albaugh Family Stable. What also was a surprise to Loutsch is that the name they concocted is the same as the Bryzzo ad campaign created by Major League Baseball.
"We have a tough time coming up with names," Loutsch said. "We try to name them after family members or an event or people we like who are famous. I'm a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and we won the World Series, obviously, so I thought it would be great to name him after my two favorite Cubs, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. I took the Bryant and Rizzo and came up with Bryzzo." (Carrie Muskat -MLB.com -Nov. 27, 2017)
Jan 13, 2018: The Cubs Convention took place, providing fans with player meet-and-greets, baby news (?) and autograph sessions from current and former players. One of the more fun activities was a panel led by Anthony Rizzo -- although, this wasn't your typical Q&A session.
Rizzo hosted the kids-only press conference with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Clark the Cub in his company. The Cubs first baseman's favorite event did not leave him with anything less than entertainment as young fans asked him anything and everything.
As hilarious as some of the questions were, nothing compared to an adorable girl asking Rizzo if he would be her valentine. He accepted and even asked if they could all be her valentine. This may not have been your typical press conference, but it certainly was a memorable one. (J Kleinschmidt - MLB.com - Jan 17, 2018)
Jan 30, 2018: Rizzo helped raise more than $100,000 to install modern lighting at his high school's baseball field at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Rizzo, who had donated $150,000 himself to the cause, was the host of the "Night Under the Lights," which was co-sponsored by Florida homebuilder WCI/Lennar. More than 250 people, including Parkland mayor Christine Hunschofsky, attended the event, held at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts.
There was a silent and live auction, and Rizzo took part in a question-and-answer session. During that session, a couple shared a story about how Rizzo lifted their son's spirits after spending more than an hour with him during a hospital visit. (C Muskat - MLB.com - Jan 30, 2018)
Feb 15, 2018: Standing on the same stage in the park where he has hosted a charity walk-a-thon, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo tearfully addressed a prayer vigil in his hometown of Parkland, Fla., following the tragic shooting at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Rizzo returned home to be with his family and the community after the tragedy, where a gunman shot and killed 17 people.
"I grew up in Stoneman Douglas," Rizzo said to the crowd. "I played on those fields. I went to those classes. I studied in those classrooms, the same ones we saw in all those videos yesterday for all the wrong reasons." During his nearly five-minute speech, Rizzo said he was impressed at how the students are coping with the loss of their classmates and how they're taking care of each other. He praised them as well as the teachers, coaches and first responders. Rizzo also made a plea to end gun violence.
"I'm a baseball player, but I'm also an American," Rizzo said. "I'm a Floridian and a Parklander for life. While I don't have all the answers, I know something has to change before this is visited on another community and another community and another community." The candlelight vigil was held at Pine Trails Park, which is where Rizzo has hosted his walk the past six years.
"I am only who I am because of this community and I want you to know how proud I am to be part of this community," Rizzo said. "I want you to know that you are not alone in your grief. We are all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you. Whatever cover I can give, I will give. Whatever support I can offer to our students, teachers, coaches and families and first responders, you'll have it." The Cubs offered their support to their teammate before he left camp. "What are the proper words now except that we're there for you, whatever you need let us know, we'll try to help," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his message to Rizzo.
"The entire nation is feeling the brunt of all this," Maddon said. "When we heard about this [shooting], you felt awful and that hollow feeling. You just imagine your own kids or your family or anyone you know being involved in that, and it's getting way too familiar."
Rizzo posted on Twitter: "Parkland and Coral Springs please stay strong! This is out of control and our country is in desperate need for change. I hope in this darkest of times back home this brings everyone together and we can find love. You're all in my prayers"
Rizzo, 28, grew up in Parkland and has maintained close ties with his hometown. He donated $150,000 to the high school to install modern lighting at the baseball field, and in January 2018, helped raise more than $100,000 to finish the project. Over the past six years, he's hosted a "Walk-Off for Cancer" event at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, which this year raised $960,000 for the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to fund cancer research and provide support to children and their families battling the disease.
At the walk, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky presented Rizzo with the first Mayor's Medal of Charitable Service, created to honor Parkland residents or those whose deeds have heavily impacted residents. (C Muskat - MLB.com - Feb 15, 2018)
Anthony was 21 years old when he was traded from the Red Sox to the Padres, one of five players involved in the Adrian Gonzalez deal in December 2010. One of Rizzo's new teammates in San Diego was an outfielder, Will Venable, who helped the young first baseman make the transition.
"It was just different," Rizzo said about going from the Red Sox to San Diego. "It was a new organization, and when you go to a new organization, it's hard. Will was one of the guys who was there and a nice guy who understood me. I always liked him for that. He was a good guy and helped me. I always rooted for Will."
Venable is now the Cubs' first-base and outfield coach, and he is reunited with Rizzo. "I got a chance to see a young Rizzo come up and make his debut," said Venable, now 35. "It's great for me now being in this role to have a relationship with him in the past."
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer held that post with the Padres at that time and orchestrated the Rizzo-Gonzalez deal. He also was a main reason the Cubs hired Venable last year as a special assistant. "[Rizzo] mentioned to me that he really appreciated how Will went out of his way for him," Hoyer said. "That's how Will is -- he sees a young guy come up and he puts his arm around him and helps him. When Anthony saw Will here [with the Cubs] last year, he said, 'That's great, I love that guy. He really helped me out."
Maybe it was Venable's upbringing. His father, Max, played for the Giants, Expos, Reds and Angels. Maybe it's Venable's education -- he went to Princeton. Maybe Will Venable is just a nice guy. Whatever, it was, he recognized that Rizzo was in a unique situation and wanted to help. In 2011, Venable was sent down to Triple-A to "catch his breath," as he put it. He and Rizzo connected there. "He was just awesome," Rizzo said. "He wasn't moping or anything. He was excited and just a nice guy. When you're in Triple-A, it was cool to see that."
When Rizzo was called up to the Padres, he had to deal with a lot of hype.
"My impression was the pressure the city [of San Diego] put on Anthony was less about Adrian and more about the fact that we truthfully hadn't had a big-time prospect come up and have the same kind of buzz that there was with Anthony," Venable said. "I don't think it had anything to do with Adrian. The San Diego community loved Adrian, he did a ton for the community and everyone was sad to see him go. This is just me guessing, but that [pressure] on top of the fact that we didn't have a very good team and we didn't have veteran leadership, I think it was an uncomfortable situation for a kid to come up and try to be successful. I know Anthony wishes that stretch in San Diego would've been better for him. I'm happy things worked out for him the way it did. It's all good, and my guess is he's not looking back.
"Anyone who comes up, you want to make sure you're professional and respect the game," Venable said. "There's something to be said for a guy who is successful in the Minor Leagues to come up and be comfortable to go about his business the way he did in the Minor Leagues. That's something I wanted to make sure the young guys knew from me, that I supported that."
Now, Rizzo, 28, is a three-time All-Star, a World Series champion, the head of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, and beginning his eighth big league season. Venable isn't surprised at how far the first baseman has come.
"He's a really good kid and super talented, and the game, I don't want to say was easy for him, but you knew he had the ability to succeed at the big league level," Venable said. "Certainly I'm not a scout by any means, but you knew he'd be special. I just didn't know he'd be this special, to be honest." (C Muskat - MLB.com - March 9, 2018)
Anthony took advantage of the Cubs opening the regular season near his hometown of Parkland, Fla., by going to watch his high school baseball team play. He made the trip even more special on Opening Day 2018, hitting a home run, which gave him a chance to pay homage to the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Rizzo launched a solo homer with two outs in the second inning of the Cubs' 8-4 win over the Marlins. As he crossed the plate, he touched the patch on his uniform that both teams are wearing to honor the victims.
"I've hit a lot of home runs," Rizzo said. "That was probably the most out-of-body experience I've had hitting a home run in my life. It just felt really good. My emotions on Opening Day are usually pretty high, but with all this, you can't really put it into words.
"I put my hand on the Stoneman Douglas patch and looked up to those kids up there, the adults who have lost their lives," he said. "It was a special moment for me personally."
Rizzo has watched students from Stoneman Douglas speak out and heard their speeches at rallies. "I think it's amazing," Rizzo said. "These kids are standing up for what they believe in. They're motivating everyone to go out there and register to vote. That's as powerful as they can make their voice heard. They're holding the throttle down on these politicians and holding them accountable for what they believe in. It's unbelievable that an entire nation is rallying around Stoneman Douglas High School."
Rizzo did make an emotional speech at the prayer vigil after the shooting occurred, but he said the community is trying to get back to normal.
"The kids are doing great," Rizzo said. "From the outside looking in, I related it to when I had cancer. People were, 'Oh, can I talk to him? Is he contagious? Can we touch him? Can he go outside?' Those kids [at MSD] are doing great. From what I've seen being around them, the students back in school are doing great, the teachers are doing great. I know a lot of the teachers and I've been talking to them. It's normal -- you have to be normal and try to make it as normal as you can."
That doesn't mean Rizzo or anyone from Parkland will forget what happened, or forget about the victims. "It's where I'm from, it's my city, it's where I was raised, where I grew up," Rizzo said. "I went to that school. Every day, you think about them, every day you feel for what happened." (Muskat - mlb.com - 3/29/18)
Dec. 30, 2018: Rizzo married Emily Vakos. Anthony and his wife, Emily, capped off their wedding weekend with a very elegant photo. Both halves of Bryzzo are now officially off the market. After Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant tied the knot with his wife, Jessica Delp, last offseason, his counterpart Anthony Rizzo did the same with Emily Vakos.
A rite of passage for a handful of Major Leaguers during the winter months, it seems, baseball player weddings are usually pretty lavish affairs. Rizzo's was no exception. There was some pre-reception golf involving David Ross, Dexter Fowler, Rizzo and Eric Hinske. Rizzo's friend and former Cubs teammate, Matt Szczur, and his wife were dressed to the nines for the occasion. As were the Fowlers, who documented much of the fun on their respective Instagram Stories.
As a send-off to what really looked like a magical wedding weekend, the newlyweds shared this outstanding photo that also looks like the type of photo you'd have hanging above your fireplace for decades to come. Congratulations to the newlyweds, clearly starting out the new year on a high note ... even if Alex Bregman didn't crash the reception. (A Garro - MLB.com - Dec 30, 2018)
2018: Rizzo had the highest current WAR (29.2) of any Cubs player.
June 2007: The Red Sox chose Anthony in the 6th round, out of Douglas High School in Florida. The Red Sox signed Rizzo on the August 15 deadline, via scout Laz Gutierrez, for a bonus of $325,000.
December 5, 2010: The Padres sent 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox; acquiring Rizzo, P Casey Kelly, OF Reymond Fuentes, and OF Eric Patterson.
January 6, 2012: The Cubs sent RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na to the Padres; acquiring Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates.
- May 13, 2013: Rizzo and the Cubs agreed to a seven-year, $41 million contract. The deal includes two club options at the back end of the contract that could make it worth as much as $73 million over nine years. Anthony got a $2 million signing bonus.
He received a $750,000 salary for 2013, up from $498,000 under the agreement he reached in March. He then will earn $1.25 million in 2014, $5 million apiece in 2015 and 2016, $7 million each in 2017 and 2018, and $11 million in 2019. Chicago has a $14.5 million option for 2020 with a $2 million buyout. If that is exercised, the Cubs will have a $14.5 million for 2021 with a $2 million buyout.