The let's-see-who-can-wear-the-most-outlandish-Cub-getup-fest, the annual Cub Convention, began today at the Chicago Hilton & Towers on S. Michigan Avenue.
Before I go any further, a tip-o-the-cap to Zack and the guys at Cubscast, the "World's First Chicago Cubs Podcast", who have graciously lent me a bit of space at their booth (conveniently located near Wrigleyville Sports in the main exhibition hall near the food court) to distribute BCB cards. If you happen by their booth during the convention, pick up a BCB card, and they are also planning on doing live podcasts at times during the event. Also, you can enter their raffle to win cool prizes including an iPod.
The Cubs are also having raffles this year, in place of the usual giveaways; for $5 you can buy a ticket that will possibly win you prizes including autographed balls, game-worn jerseys, game tickets and even tickets to the "Meet the Team, Have A Ball" charity event during the season.
The grab bags that the Cubs fill with all the merchandise left over from giveaway days was raised in price this year from $10 to $25 -- the come-on being that 500 random bags would have "an autographed item". When George, who I waited in line with for 45 minutes (and they opened up ten minutes late), got his and it was filled with the usual junk like an Office Depot-sponsored Cub notebook and a floppy hat, I decided to pass.
I did buy a convention T-shirt for Mark (who will join me tomorrow) and considered a game-worn Adam Greenberg jersey (thinking it might be the very one he wore when he was hit in the head), but even though it had an "authentic" paper tag, it didn't have the sewn-in set and number tags that game-worns usually have, so I passed. I may check it out again tomorrow.
At the opening ceremony, things were a bit more low-key than usual, not surprisingly. Of the former players, Ron Santo got the loudest ovation -- louder than even Ernie Banks, who will turn 75 later this month (and Wayne Messmer led everyone in "Happy Birthday" for Ernie). Santo seemed genuinely touched by the cheering, as did Ryne Sandberg, who was quite a bit more animated than usual.
Of the current players, the loudest cheering was reserved for Carlos Zambrano -- no surprise to you BCB readers, who have him far in the lead in the "Who's Your Favorite Current Cub" poll. Mark Prior also got loud cheers, as did Derrek Lee, but Z is clearly the fan favorite.
There was a video shown promoting the WBC, as well as one featuring famous baseball fans (Jimmy Carter and Ben Affleck among them) and how they reacted when their teams had miracle postseason wins. I said to George, "Just once, let it be us."
More tomorrow, including a full report from the Hendry/Baker Q&A session. I thank all of you for the questions you posted in that diary, and will print the page out and bring it with me tomorrow morning. I have no idea how many of these questions I can get asked, but I'll be sure to report on any answers. It ought to be somewhat contentious -- given the reception Hendry got, which was loud booing (and he seemed VERY uncomfortable and tight-lipped). Baker got mixed applause and booing -- a bit more to the side of applause.
Look, I know the convention is somewhat treacly, and a rah-rah session, but it is also time to think about baseball in the dead of winter (not so much so this year, as other years when it's either been 10 below zero, or a blinding snowstorm as it was last year), and to renew friendships, and think about pitchers and catchers reporting in only 33 days.
If you are here for the first time because you picked up a BCB card at Cubscast, welcome -- and jump right in and participate. That's what BCB is all about.
Finally, I have one bit of news gleaned about the bleacher construction project. Many of you have asked about the CF restaurant, and what progress has been made there. The answer from me, based on the photos, has always been "none". And there's a reason for that. Apparently, as this project proceeds, it is becoming clearer to both the construction folks, and management, that this restaurant may not fly as scheduled. Meetings are going on, and Opening Day MAY come without any such restaurant completed. That's the word I hear from my sources, anyway.
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Pat Hughes, at microphone, introduces the 2006 Cubs, left to right: Glendon Rusch, Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre, Sean Gallagher, Jerry Hairston, Bob Howry, Derrek Lee, Matt Murton, Juan Pierre, Mark Prior, Michael Wuertz, Jerome Williams (Carlos Zambrano was about to be introduced)
Photo by Al