This is going up ridiculously early for two reasons:
First, because I'm heading over to the convention right after work, and
Second, because I'll be posting today's top 100 profile before I leave work, and wanted to make sure I get this done.
This isn't going to be a really long recap because, frankly, there wasn't all that much going on. The setup is largely the same as years gone by -- long lines for getting into the main memorabilia/merchandise area so people could grab at the $20 grab bags being sold (not really worth it -- most of them contain a lot of leftover giveaway items, including Target seat cushions that they put on the group section seats in 2006, some Cub notebooks from Office Depot, and some T-shirts) and the game-worn jerseys and game-used bats (which I wasn't interested in this year because I bought the Neifi jersey at the tent sale last September -- and yes, it is being worn today).
The opening ceremony started on time -- unusual, normally there's a 15-minute or so delay for one reason or another, and it was really hot in the Grand Ballroom. Among the former players, the biggest welcome (apart from the obvious, such as Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg) was for Jody Davis. I observed at dinner (more on this later) that this may be because Davis, now back in the organization as a minor league manager, has always gone out of his way to say how much he loved being a Cub. This is something that endears players for life -- I suspect Mark DeRosa, who has already made statements about how much he loved playing in Wrigley Field as a visiting player and how much he's looking forward to being here, will become a fan favorite as a result.
That is, as long as he doesn't totally regress in his playing abilities!
Jeff Samardzija, who was signed to a five-year, $10 million deal yesterday to play baseball exclusively, was among the current players introduced. He seemed pretty overwhelmed, surprising for a guy who's played college sports on a bigtime level.
Otherwise, the largest applause for current players was reserved for Derrek Lee, Kerry Wood, and, naturally, Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano, the last two players introduced. Minor leaguers Eric Patterson and Donnie Veal were introduced to polite applause -- I think most people in the room weren't even sure who Veal was. Lou Piniella was warmly welcomed with the usual "Loooooooooooooou" chant; he too seemed a bit overwhelmed. There were probably more people in the Grand Ballroom than at most Devil Rays home games.
Usually, at the opening ceremony a video highlight reel from the previous year is shown before the ceremony. They didn't do this, leading me to think, "Makes sense. There weren't any highlights." Instead, they showed a video after all the introductions, looking more forward than back, although there were a few scenes from 2006 -- the biggest reaction came when Michael Barrett's punch of A. J. Pierzynski was shown.
After that, I went and had dinner with BCB readers cubbiejulie, sparkles721, raalic17 and ctcoff99, and my friend Mike the BCB cartoonist. As jessica posted somewhere in one of the diaries (can't find it now!), she also joined us for the opening ceremony, but had to return home to walk her mom's dog.
In addition to the requisite thousands wearing Cub clothing, I spotted quite a few people with Bears garb on, and several brave fans in town from New Orleans for Sunday's game dressed in Saints regalia. Hope they survive the weekend.
For those of you coming to the convention today, a few notes:
We will be saving seats for BCB'ers in the Continental Ballroom for the Jim Hendry/Lou Piniella session at 9 am. I would recommend an early arrival, if you can.
After that session is over, we're all going to be meeting in the bar/grill area at the northeast corner of the hotel. This is where a few of us met last night and apparently, the description of where it's located is a bit confusing -- so maybe this will help: it's between the car turnaround on Balbo and the registration desk, or if you are coming from the Michigan Avenue side, walk into the hotel, go towards the elevators, turn right and walk past the registration desk; you'll see this area on the right -- the Lakeside Green Lounge as indicated on this page.
Hope to see many of you there later this morning!