For three hours on Sunday, the Cubs successfully wound down the 30th Cubs Convention. The vibe was a lot more mellow and the audiences seemed about 25-30 percent of what they were on Saturday. Even so, the smaller crowd was cheery and the overall feeling of hope for the 2015 season the fans had been drumming up all weekend long still hung in the air as we bargain shopped and autograph hunted.
I haven't felt this kind of excitement from Cubs fans since 2008. We might be getting ahead of ourselves a bit by predicting a zero-to-hero transformation, but hey, why not us? Maybe 2015 will be the magical season we've all been praying for for so long. Fans left this weekend with a renewed optimism and a whole lot of autographs. The sense of camaraderie amongst us was strong and there is no doubt in my mind that the Cubs have the world's greatest fans. I'm honored to count myself one of many. Seriously, Cubs fans are the best. You all give me a sense of belonging that next to my family keeps me sane and motivated, in what has at times has seemed a pretty bleak existence here on planet earth. For that, I will always be grateful to my Cubs fan brethren. You rock!
Tom Ricketts was walking around the convention with a throng of autograph seekers and well wishers following his every step. I even got in line to meet him and have our photo taken, figuring it's as close as I'll ever be to a billion dollars. I was tempted to ask him for five grand. He wouldn't miss it, right? Check out the photo montage in the gallery.
No matter your opinion about how the Ricketts run the Cubs, we are truly lucky to have an owner who understands the value of cultivating a good relationship with the fans. I've given the Ricketts a hard time from time to time as management plays Monopoly with Wrigleyville, but Tom seems a genuine guy and I'm certain his goal for bringing a World Championship to the North Side is also his passion. Plus, he's way more handsome than the Chicago Tribune.
I caught part of the "Down on the Farm" panel hosted by Mick Gillispie, which further solidified what we all already know. The farm system is stocked! Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, C.J. Edwards, and Pierce Johnson all spoke of the hard work it took them to get as far as they've gotten, and also gave some great advice to young players about the road to the big show. Anecdotally, Edwards has a super deep voice for such a skinny guy. It kind of shocked me. He also has such a thick southern accent (from South Carolina) that I could understand less than some of the players who've just learned English. They were all charming lads.
Jaron Madison and Jason McLeod were very informative about what demands they make on young players as they move through the system. They resonated the idea that the Cubs have players in their system who aren't on the radar, but that they expect big things from this next season -- breakout years. McLeod predicted that half the starting pitchers on the Kane County Cougars would be major leaguers. Boy, that would be great!
I grabbed a few autographs from Bob Howry, Glendon Rusch, Tom Ricketts, Brian Schlitter, and Eric Jokisch as the lines were about one-third as long compared to Saturday and I moved through quickly and easily. The one exception was the line for Kyle Hendricks which spilled out of the autograph hall and into the foyer, which was likely the reason that I got the Howry and Jokisch signatures in about 15 minutes total.
Since the shattering of my Cubs gnome on Friday night, I've been having players sign a Wrigley Field ball my girlfriend Nicole's father gave me. He died last summer during a Cubs road trip to Colorado which you can read about here. I thought it a fitting honor to enhance the ball he so generously bestowed upon me.
The other thing I love about the convention on Sunday, besides the easier-to-navigate crowd, are the bargains! I got two shirts at the Cubs store for $5, a half price mid-1980s home jersey for $50, and a pair or Cubs booty shorts for my girlfriend for $5! Well… I guess the booty shorts were partly for me as well. The key is to wait until 11 a.m. and then start shopping. Vendors sometimes mark down items in order to not have to put them back in the truck. A further plus to buying everything last minute is that you don't have to carry it around either. Some fans look like pack camels!
I packed all these Cubs experiences into two short hours of Sunday metered parking, all while not wearing my Cubs Convention Pass lanyard. I've mentioned this lack of security before, and I think it's unethical to sneak in, but you don't need a ticket to the show, if you catch my drift. I got five autographs and I could have just been any schmo off the street. If the convention in years to come is as popular or more in the future, I would imagine it might become a problem. But just so you know, if the convention is sold out next year and you find yourself without a ticket, you can probably come anyway. But it would be wrong of you.
All in all, the Cubs Convention proved to be a celebration of who we are as Cubs fans. Loyal, dedicated, passionate, and well…a little crazy. The state of the team is strong. Our love of the Cubs verges on maniacal. The future looks bright. Our deep devotion to our beloved team will help us through those inevitable games in every season, where the Cubs are getting blown out by 9 runs in the rain, and I turn to my buddy and utter this years slogan "Let's Go".