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McMinnville native reaches World Series
Lester Strode in 28th year with Cubs
Strode was a standout for the Pioneers before graduating in 1976.

McMinnville native Lester Strode has reached the pinnacle of baseball, advancing to the World Series as the bullpen coach for the Chicago Cubs.
Strode, a former Warren County star, has been with the Cubs for 28 years. The team is making its first World Series appearance in 71 years against the Cleveland Indians. Game one was Tuesday night.
Strode was a standout for the Pioneers before graduating in 1976. A photo in an old Southern Standard shows him holding a home run ball he hit in the bottom of the seventh to give WCHS a 9-7 win over Oakland.
When asked the secret to his success, Strode says his best advice is to practice the three P’s -- positive, patience, and persistence each and every day.
“Whether it’s baseball or life in general, this is a good philosophy,” said Strode, who recalls his experiences in Warren County fondly. “I look back on the past and remember all the people who helped me. My parents were there for me and always number one, my high school coaches and others. We’re playing World Series baseball, but I’ll always have McMinnville in my heart. I can feel the support all the way up here.”
Some say the Billy Goat Curse is responsible for the World Series drought of the Cubs. This is much like the Red Sox Curse of the Bambino where many claim the Red Sox were destined to lose after selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The Billy Goat Curse was a coined after a lucky goat was denied access to a game because it smelled badly, and the owner said the Cubs would win no more.
Strode dismisses the intangibles and instead focuses on reality.
“Regardless of any curse, we’re just going to play good baseball,” Strode said. “We try to stay in the present. It’s different, the World Series, but really nothing changes. It’s the same game, the same rules. We don’t change who we are. We just come out and enjoy and play. We don’t let things get in the way of reality. We focus on success, in playing our game to the best of our ability.”
Strode was coached by Leo Davis and Ken Smith at WCHS. He quickly garnered attention for his athleticism and was selected to the all-district team his senior year. In 2006, he was inducted into the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame.
Strode says his success is full of failures.
“You have to go out and take advantage of every opportunity life brings you,” said Strode. “There’s going to be failure, but you have to put that behind you and keep going … focus on success. Keep practicing and playing the best you can. Strive to be your best day in and day out. Take responsibility for your job and let others do theirs.”
After playing college ball at Cumberland University in Lebanon and Kentucky State University, Strode spent eight years in the minors with the Royals, Cardinals, Orioles and Cubs. Strode joined the Cubs organization in 1989.
In 2006, the same year he was inducted into the Warren County Hall of Fame and the Cumberland University Hall of Fame, he took on his current role as major league bullpen coach.
There are two pitching coaches for the Cubs. The pitching coach, Chris Bosio, is responsible for instruction for the pitchers. He will usually visit the mound when a pitcher is tiring or when there is a need to relay instructions in mid-inning, although it is usually the manager himself who comes out when there is a pitching change.
Strode works with the team’s relief pitchers, ensures they are ready to enter the game, and supervises their warm-up. Strode works with talent like Cubs closer Hector Rondon, claimed from the Cleveland Indians in the 2012. Rondon became the team’s primary closer in 2014.
In his first two seasons in that role, Rondon saved 29 and 30 games, respectively. In 2015, he posted a 1.67 ERA.
Games one and two are at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Games three and four are at Wrigley Field, as is game five if needed. Games six and seven, if necessary, are scheduled for Cleveland.