I’d only been to the Cubs Convention once before. I remember that it was while I was in high school, but can’t pin it better than that in my memory. I’m going to guess it was about 1991. For Christmas, I purchased two tickets to this year’s Convention, one for me and one for my youngest daughter who is the second biggest Cubs fan in the house.
We stayed at the Hyatt across the river from the Sheraton where the convention was held. For anyone who wants to try to attend the convention and save a few bucks, this is a viable option. The fastest way between the two locations does require going down multiple flights of stairs to get from the Upper Wacker level down to the Lower Wacker level which is on the same level as the Sheraton (and going back up them on the way back). So the stairs is the hardest part. Well, it ordinarily would be. This weekend the bitter cold and horrible wind was probably worse.
We went to Friday night’s opening session. As we didn’t get into the room until a few minutes before it started, we were most of the way back and were left to watch the introductions of past players, coaching staff and players on the big screens. We were able to get a pretty clear line of sight for that and were able to hear the audio fine via multiple large sets of speakers set up for Friday night.
I haven’t had a chance to read any of the other BCB writers’ posts on the event, but I’m sure I’ll be duplicating some things and I apologize for that. The thing that stuck out to me most about Friday’s introductions of the players were these. 1) That David Ross more or less got the loudest applause. I love David Ross, but it amazes me just how beloved he is to Cub fans. 2) It was hard to tell with him wearing a baggy jersey, but I could see it most in his face. Kyle Schwarber has lost a ton of weight. His face didn’t look as rounded as it has in the past and looked much more angular. 3) Kyle Hendricks came out to Sweet Emotion. There’s a chance that he just really likes an Aerosmith song from 20+ years ago. But I choose to think that he is subtly making it known that he is aware and amused by all of the commentary on him being emotionless on the mound.
On Saturday we attended several sessions. I always love to hear Theo and Jed talk. The comment of the day from Theo for me was just a quick insight into his competitiveness. He admitted that the team was gassed at the end of the year and that they were reminded how important it is to take care of business as quickly as possible so the team can catch their breath before the postseason. But the comment that got me was one about if there hadn’t been a rainout in Game 4 of the Nationals series and the Cubs had been able to win that and face the Dodgers on proper rest. He tipped his cap to them and their execution, but I loved the insight into his competitive nature.
The second session was with the Ricketts Family. They talked extensively about the renovations being done to the park and about their charity efforts. I hadn’t really ever heard Laura talk at length and she was a big surprise for me. I found her to be quite engaging. I also love that the front office is competitive at trying to be the most charitable organization in baseball. Tom pointed out that depending on how you measure it, they either already are there or are right behind the Red Sox. They indicated that they ultimately want to be the most charitable organization in all of sports. I’ve seen it before, but Tom readily gives out his email address and suggests people email him directly about an issue. It sounded like the Cubs would take suggestions from the crowd about hosting a Deaf Day at the park (something the Cardinals apparently already do every year for a Cubs/Cardinals game) and possibly also for sponsoring a Chicago Marathon team. Pretty cool.
Next up was Joe and the coaching staff. There were some amusing comments about Joey Votto and his running conversations with Brandon Hyde that were amusing. I loved the camaraderie of the whole staff. I’m very interested to see what Chili Davis brings to the table. Joe was also very quick to defend the Dodgers and the way they used their pen throughout the postseason. He pointed out that they handled their team that way start to finish and that people are too quick to look for a narrative. He said anyone who doesn’t think the Astros are for real should watch them taking batting practice some time.
The hitters followed that. There was nothing that was really news there. Anthony Rizzo could be the subject of a reality show. I love that he can be a big kid one minute talking about actively looking to antagonize his teammates by playing irritating music in the clubhouse and trying to get under people’s skin and that once he does he’s going to do it some more and see if he can get some good fights going in the locker room and then be super serious talking about how much he enjoys doing charity, or that anyone who expect Bryce Harper to be some kind of savior for this team two years after this team won a championship is crazy. Kris Bryant rarely has anything interesting to say, though I will give him credit for his over the top affection for Joey Votto and for saying he is bingeing Bachelor and Vander Pump Rules. Addison Russell might play professional darts??? Willson is so genuine. And surely you’ve all heard about the F-bomb! J-Hey seems like a very real guy. He talked about a “Snap Room.” Basically one of the old weight rooms where a player will go to throw things around and blow off steam when he is struggling and other players go and cheer him on while he’s doing it.
The pitchers were next. Steve Cishek is clearly excited to be a Cub. Tyler Chatwood isn’t a high energy guy, but also appears to be happy to be out of Coors and get back to using his curve as more of a weapon to supplement a plus fastball. Carl Edwards Jr. did the worm and doesn’t really have a technical approach to pitching, he’s just been doing it since High School and has really long fingers. But Kyle Hendricks is an engaging and interesting guy. He laughs so easily when he isn’t on the field. And he assured us that he’s snapped a few times too, though he doesn’t think anyone has seen it.
On Sunday morning, we attended the session about the minor leagues. Suffice to say that there wasn’t a lot of specific information. I did find it interesting that when asked to identify a person or people who were most influential to development, Dillon Maples first talked about nutritionists and how they are involved at every level of the minor leagues. Not an answer I expected out of a young guy.
I enjoyed my time at the Cubs Convention. I wouldn’t label it as must-see. I think I probably feel it is priced just a tad bit high for the entertainment value received, but I’d definitely consider picking up tickets on the secondary market and going down for the Saturday sessions again in the future.