This year's Cubs convention will be the first at a new venue, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The move from the Hilton is long overdue -- the event outgrew that hotel at least a decade ago. The Sheraton, newer, larger and closer to North Michigan Avenue, is a much better choice.
Many of these sessions will look familiar to you; first, the Opening Ceremony is scheduled to begin Friday, January 18, at 5 p.m. This ceremony will featuring player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will provide special VIP access to children 16-and-under. I'm hoping that wherever they hold this, it will hold more people than the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton, where perhaps one-third of the convention attendees got stuffed into a room far too small for that event. As usual, the first day will feature a Cubs Convention favorite: Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as live radio broadcasts of WGN Sports Night.
You'll be able to meet some of the team’s offseason acquisitions Saturday, January 19, at a "Meet the New Cubs" session featuring pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson, catcher Dioner Navarro and outfielder Nate Schierholtz, hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper. It'll be good to see and hear Deshaies, who's been widely praised for his work with the Astros, and see how he and Kasper mesh at their first public appearance together.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- "Ricketts Family Forum," featuring Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speaking with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- "Meet Cubs Baseball Management," featuring President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and Manager Dale Sveum speaking about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- "From Draft Day to the Big Leagues," featuring Cubs Minor League prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discussing what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the Minor Leagues.
- "Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff," featuring the Cubs Manager, Bench Coach Jamie Quirk, Hitting Coach James Rowson, Assistant Hitting Coach Rob Deer, Bullpen Coach Lester Strode, First Base Coach Dave McKay and Third Base Coach David Bell speaking with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- "For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care," featuring a unique Q-and-A session where only kids can ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- "Renew Wrigley Field," featuring Cubs executives discussing ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, Season Ticket Holders and the community.
- "Not for Women Only," making its return to the Convention, featuring Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell and Travis Wood discussing their personal sides and lives off the field.
- "WGN Radio’s Sports Central," a live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski featuring segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s shorter program features two panel sessions:
- "Down on the Farm," featuring Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde joined by Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters giving a breakdown of the Cubs Minor League teams from Iowa down to Mesa.
- "Stat Sundays," with broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offering insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stats Sundays throughout the season.
This isn't intended to be a comprehensive list of sessions; there are certain to be others, and at this time, I don't have a time schedule available (generally, the "Meet Cubs Baseball Management" session is first thing Saturday morning). I'll try to add times to this when they're available. There's also the usual kids interactive areas and, of course, tons of memorabilia and souvenirs intended to separate you from your money.
Passes are still available, and with a larger venue, crowds could be smaller than usual. Hope to see some of you there.