Marquee Sports Network kicked off coverage of the 2023 Cubs Convention Opening Ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday and while the crowd was a bit smaller than in previous years (there was an entire section of empty chairs to the right of the main stage that was definitely filled in 2020), there was an enthusiastic atmosphere on the fourth floor of the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Chicago.
Cubs fans from all over the world descended on River North to take part in the festivities — chanting for David Ross, Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson as they were interviewed by Cole Wright and Boog Sciambi.
The team has a notably different look than the last time we gathered in January to celebrate all things Cubs. The only remaining member of the 2016 core is Kyle Hendricks. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ are no longer role players but the headliners. They were joined by many new faces making their first appearances at Cubs Convention, including Swanson, Cody Bellinger, and Jameson Taillon.
Cole Wright opened the festivities. Marquee’s No. 1 hype man had no problem getting this crowd excited before the players were introduced. He noted that defense wins championships before highlighting that there was the potential for six Gold Glovers to take the field on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.
He turned the stage over to Wayne Messmer for the national anthem, who then introduced Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts to a rousing chorus of boos:
Cubs Convention kicks off with Chairman Tom Ricketts being booed on stage. pic.twitter.com/pPx2nXWiv5— Krista Ruch (@KristaCBS2) January 14, 2023
This was reminiscent of the last time Ricketts took the stage at the Cubs Convention three years ago to introduce Marquee Sports Network. Tom tried to calm the crowd with a plea to “Guys, let’s be cool. Let’s be cool.” before introducing a legend no one would consider booing, this year’s Ford C. Frick award winner, Pat Hughes. Hughes will accept the award at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend in July. Ricketts also had the pleasure of introducing 2023 Cubs Hall of Fame inductees Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace, who both received standing ovations.
The Cubs former players who joined the stage were introduced chronologically, starting with the 1960s and Randy Hundley all the way through 2016 stars Miguel Montero, Pedro Strop and Matt Szczur. Then came the Hall of Famers: Andre Dawson, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith and Billy Williams.
They preceded the Cubs coaching staff, complete with a Party at Napoli’s joke for first base coach Mike Napoli.
The prospects came next with the crowd enthusiastically welcoming the future to Chicago as Owen Caissie, Pete Crow-Armstrong, DJ Herz, Ed Howard, Matt Mervis, Jordan Nwogu, Daniel Palencia, Chase Strumpf, and Jordan Wicks took the stage.
Kevin Alcantara kicked off the current 40-man roster, announced in alphabetical order. He was followed by Adbert Alzolay, Miguel Amaya, Javier Assad, Tucker Barnhart, Cody Bellinger (who fist bumped centerfield heir apparent Pete Crow-Armstrong on his way to join the team), Brad Boxberger, Ben Brown, Alexander Canario, Brennen Davis, Jeremiah Estrada, Yan Gomes, Ian Happ (who showed his respect by shaking what seemed like the whole stage’s hand), Kyle Hendricks (who walked out to Superstitious, A++), Codi Heuer, Nico Hoerner, Eric Hosmer, Brandon Hughes, Ryan Jensen, Anthony Kay, Caleb Kilian, Nick Madrigal, Miles Mastrobuoni, Zach McKinstry, Christopher Morel, Ethan Roberts, Manuel Rodriguez, Michael Rucker, Adrian Sampson, Drew Smyly, Justin Steele, Dansby Swanson, Jameson Taillon, Keegan Thompson, Hayden Wesneski, Rowan Wick, finally capping it off with third baseman Patrick Wisdom.
There are always absences from the Opening Ceremony for a variety of reasons. This year was no exception with Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman not in attendance.
Marquee’s coverage added a lot to the environment in the convention hall. There used to be gaps between the program that are now filled with Marquee content on the big screen. What better way to encourage fans to keep their seats than an interview with Grace and Dunston while resetting the stage?
It was clear that despite an overhauled team that saw a 2016 World Series Champion, all-star catcher sign with the rival St. Louis Cardinals, these fans still love their Cubs. But it was equally clear that fans harbor some resentment for ownership and the front office that let almost all of that championship core walk via trades or free agency over the last two seasons. It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to the the Ricketts family and Front Office panels coming up morning. I’ll have more on those here later today.