Unsurprisingly, this year’s Cubs Convention has a totally different vibe. Gone is the century of angst, replaced with a chorus of “Thank you!” and shared joyous memories from the not too distant past. Whereas in past few conventions, the talk was about rebuilding both the team and the ballpark and how the Cubs are going to get better, this year’s convention is all about the finished product and the momentous task of finally winning the World Series.
There is no “Breaking News” at this year’s Cubs Convention about what’s to come. For the first time in Cubs Convention history, we’ve come to reminisce our favorite moments from the Championship season and celebrate the great team that’s about to embark on another long campaign. We’ve come together at the Sheraton to continue processing our collective fan feelings about what just happened to us all. Not only the fans, but the owners, coaches, and front office staff. We all share in an excited bewilderment which permeates the air.
Tom and Laura Ricketts got things started at 9 a.m. in the large open ballroom, which is, for the first time since I’ve attended, not split into separate smaller conference rooms. It’s more comfortable, open and airy, solving one of my major complaints of sweating under winter wear in a stuffy packed room. There are large video screens set up on both sides of the stage as well so everybody can see what’s happening The sound system is much better and more powerful too. In years past, if you were even halfway back, it was difficult to hear and see.
For that, we can thank the Ricketts family, who has continued to improve just about everything about the Cubs. Laura Ricketts outlined the Cubs’ mission of building a charitable community for the team and boasted that the Cubs were number one in the Major Leagues when it comes to giving back with plans of being the “World Series Champions of giving.” This is something we can all be very proud of.
Some bullet points of this session that I found interesting:
The Cubs are putting in new flagpoles and will raise the Championship Banner on Opening Day at Wrigley.
Fans will be a part of the ring ceremony that happens two days after Opening Day. Seems as though there will be an announcement about this sometime soon.
David Ross got choked up when Cubs fans gave him a standing ovation, and Tom joked to him later: “That’s probably never happened to a .220 hitter.”
There will be 50 percent more women’s bathrooms and more bathrooms overall, and there will be eventually be 8 elevators. (We’ve actually known this for a while now, as I said, no breaking news.)
Laura is still getting used to her recognizability on the street. She says, “I can’t go to Starbucks without taking a shower.”
Tom’s low of the year was “falling behind to the Dodgers” and his favorite game was the Sunday night against the Mariners where Jon Lester laid down a bunt to win it in extra innings. Tom said Theo called him and apologized for the team stinking it up early in that game in front of a national audience.
The Cubs continue to weed out ticket brokers. If you have a P.O. Box in California, your tickets will be cancelled, Tom said. They say it’s difficult to control this but they do recognize brokers as a problem. They are hoping to come up with a system by which you could tell if the fan that buys the ticket is using the ticket.
Tom talked extensively about how he hired Theo Epstein, basically saying that he believes Theo to be the best at what he does in the entire world. He had a short list of other names but there really was no plan B.
#CrazyHatLady even asked a legitimate question this year about ADA accessibility which Tom addressed by talking about the new elevators. However, fans of #CrazyHatLady were pleased as punch when she followed up by asking Tom Ricketts if he found it difficult to learn the words to “Go Cubs Go” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
The following front office session featured Theo Epstein, Jason McLeod, Randy Bush, and Shiraz Rehman. They paid tribute to Cubs scout Stan Zielinski, who recently passed away, saying he was the best at what he did.
The front office crew was repeatedly thanked by fans for the Championship and the questions ranged from how did you build such an amazing team, to when did you know Kyle Schwarber would come back and be the stuff of legends. Once again, there was not really any new information at this session. The amazing team was built player by coach by scout by finding genuine talent with fine character, and they found out Kyle Schwarber could still hit pretty much right before we all did. It was a surprise to everyone. Specifically about Kyle, Jed Hoyer said that much of his success was due to his ability to track the ball.
The final session of the morning was attended by Joe Maddon and his entire coaching staff. And yes, a few fans found it necessary to ask about his use of Aroldis Chapman in the World Series, pulling Kyle Hendricks and using Lester when he did. And Joe said what he always says: “I had a plan, I did what I did and it was right because we won the World Series.” Which by the way, he plans to do again saying he’s hoping to “D-Peat” in reference to having an historically amazing defense last year.
Disconcertingly, there was quite a bit of talk about the wear and tear the long and brutal season took on the players. Joe said, “By Game 7 no one felt good!” Lester Strode talked about the importance of a throwing regimen and planning for the long haul emphasizing the importance of players being honest about how they are feeling. For the past two years, the Cubs have remained incredibly healthy, and it seems that is owed to careful planning by the coaching staff in managing player fatigue.
Joe Maddon was genuine and funny as always calling Cubs fans something special and unique, comparing the Cubs parade to Woodstock. He digs us and you can tell. Joe said of the Albert Almora Jr./Jon Jay platoon that they “make a nice sandwich,” and Dave Martinez told a weird story about Wade Davis shooting a bear in Canada. Other than that, it was “Thanks for the World Series!” again and again.
And why shouldn’t we just sit around and thank each other? The fans, the players, the coaches. We all did it together and we appreciate the heck out of each other.
I’ll be back with more on the Convention tomorrow and The Unconventional party that I’m throwing tonight at G-Man tavern! Come on out! You’re all invited!