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2008 Cubs Convention Report - Day 1

Derrek Lee meets the media before Friday's Cub Convention opening ceremony. That's Carrie Muskat with her back to the camera. All photos by Al

Thanks to Cubs media relations director Peter Chase and his team, I got an invitation to a "media social" held before the convention opened. This is a chance for local media members to talk amongst themselves after the long winter, and also to meet and talk to most/all of the player attendees at the convention. A lot of the bigger-name players, such as Derrek Lee (surrounded above) and Carlos Zambrano, spent their time in front of the Cub media background outside the room;

Jeff Samardzija giving an interview
to a radio reporter
others, like Jeff Samardzija, were more accessible -- and yes, Samardzija is as tall as you think; listed at 6-5, he seems taller. In addition to Samardzija, I met and talked to Scott Eyre, Matt Murton, Ryan Dempster, Ryne Sandberg, Jim Hendry, Jody Davis and Len Kasper, all of whom got BCB cards and told me they'd be in touch -- it was very noisy in the room and not a very conducive space to do any sort of in-depth interview. So, if any or all of these people do contact me and are willing to talk, I'll probably ask all of you to submit some questions that I can send along. I also had a nice talk with Bruce Miles, who, like the rest of us, is ready for spring training to just begin already! Geovany Soto was also spotted, and looks in great shape -- good news for those of us who were worried that he wouldn't be able to keep himself trim.

Unfortunately, by the time the media event was over and I went down to the Grand Ballroom for the opening ceremony, they had the doors closed, saying there were too many people inside. I ran into Jeff and Sue, two of our regular group in the left field bleachers, and instead of trying to either fight the crowds, see if we could convince security to let us in, or watch outside the room on some barely-visible plasma screens, we decided to hit the exhibition hall to see what sort of merchandise was available this year.

It was the usual; if you're going and you're looking for Fukudome shirts/jerseys, there are only a couple of places selling them, including (shameless promotion coming!) Wrigleyville Sports, which you can reach either by that link or the banner on the left sidebar. I decided to invest in a Fukudome jersey; there were also some freebies being handed out, including (thanks -- I needed this to carry all the stuff) a Sports Authority bag, and a StubHub T-shirt. There did seem to be a lot more stuff "on sale" this year than in past years -- you could, at one table, buy a 2007 NL Central champions cap for $10. At a nearby table, the same cap was $5, and yet another table had a collection of these and the proprietor said, "Make me an offer." Jeff offered $1 but was turned down (I bet the guy would have taken $5, Jeff.) Fergie Jenkins again has a booth, though he wasn't there at the time (I expect him sometime today), and so does Bob Feller -- the Hall of Famer looks remarkably spry for someone who's going to turn 90 in November, although his hands are pretty gnarled. Whether that's from all those years of pitching or just because he's 89 isn't clear.

The promotion schedule this year is a little different -- reflecting, perhaps, the absence of John McDonough and Jay Blunk. There are no "bigtime" giveaways like last year's guitar and iPod. The most popular items are likely to be kids' giveaways -- a Dora the Explorer doll (April 19), two Build-a-Bear days (May 17, July 25), and another American Girl giveaway (just the apparel, not the doll, July 10). Otherwise, there will be some scratch-off cards, and otherwise, the Kosuke Fukudome bobblehead (May 27). There are two "Universal Orlando" days (August 22, September 1) listed -- what that means, I'm not sure.

After running into Mike (who draws all the great cartoons here) as he was arriving, I had to take off for the evening. I'll be at the Hendry/Piniella session this morning with your questions in hand. Until then, I leave you with a photo with which I am sure certain members of this site will be very pleased. (And an apology for the yellow/orange tint to the pictures; my new camera phone, despite a 2.0 megapixel resolution, has no flash. All of these were taken with available light only.)

"Orange Guy", looking just a little more orange than usual (that's Daryle Ward in the background, on the right). Look quickly, because he might be traded before Opening Day.

[editor's note, by Al] Thanks to BCB reader BigJohnAZ, who helpfully color-adjusted the photos for me.