Another Chicago Cubs Convention has come and gone, and all that we are left with are the memories of the annual celebration and kick off to the upcoming baseball season. Like most years, the convention was filled with fans all dressed in their Cubby best, packing the halls waiting to meet their favorite Cub players from today and from yesteryear. What was not the same though, was for the first time in over 20 years, the Cubs Convention was not held at the Chicago Hilton, but at the Chicago Sheraton. Overall, the change was for the better, though there are always things to improve for next time.
The change, which upset a few fans, was done primarily because the team has an exclusive contract with the Starwood hotel chain for when the Cubs are on the road. So if you are traveling to see the Cubs on the road (or of you live in a city where the Cubs travel to) now you know what hotels to stake out for your Cub sightings.
WORLD SERIES DREAMING IS NOT RESPONSIBLE IF YOU GET ARRESTED FOR STALKING
The only downside to the convention being at an entirely new location was the Sheraton workers learning on the job. While most of the workers were the same Cub employees who have helped for years at the Hilton, the hotel employees were still new to the convention, and appeared unprepared for the mass herd of Cub fans that arrived. Any time a player was spotted in the lobby by fans, the hotel employees were quick to usher them away from the fans, even if they were willing to sign autographs. Even though they would never admit this publicly, I am sure the players were glad of this as us fans can get rather annoying.
Because we are season ticket holders and were staying at the hotel, we were given the opportunity to have our picture taken with Theo Epstein. He is a great man, who could not have been nicer, though I know he is being paid to be there and must represent the product well. After the photo was taken and we were leaving the photo stage, I wished him luck on re-signing the remaining two arbitration eligible players Jeff Samardzija and James Russell. His answer was quick. “We have them signed” then he turned his attention to the next guest.
With this news, I sprang into action, tweeting out the news. That’s right; Anno Catuli and World Series Dreaming broke the news of their signing to the world. We beat ESPN, Comcast Sports Net and even the Cubs own beat writer Carrie Muskat to the news. But alas, none of those big wigs felt that I should be given credit for breaking the news first. But I know that I did, as do all of you who follow the blog, twitter and facebook page. That is all I need, I am still flying high over my accomplishment.
In addition to the hotel staff doing their best job of keeping fans away from the players, the opening ceremony was a bit of a letdown compared to other years. The main reason was the poor setup for the event. The players were not on a balcony as they had been in previous years, which made them easier to see. This year, they were on a stage which was not elevated all too high, which made getting a good view nearly impossible unless you were in the first row or over six feet tall, which I fall a few inches short of.
Other than that, I feel the convention was a roaring success. My family and I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot of interesting tidbits along the way, starting with the very first night. Like most years, the only thing worthwhile on the opening night is the opening ceremony, so the rest of the night was devoted to spending time with other friends who were there enjoying the festivities as well.
Enter day two; the first seminar of the weekend was the traditional “Meet the Ricketts”. The weekend could not have started better in my eyes. My mother (who was celebrating her birthday) had the privilege of speaking to Laura Ricketts before the seminar started. They were making small talk, and she mentioned that she was celebrating her birthday. She then dragged her entire family over to meet her, and they all wished her a happy birthday.
Before the seminar started though, I made my way over to Tom Ricketts and enjoyed a short conversation with him. We discussed the new location and what I thought of the change. I mentioned how disappointed I was in the opening ceremony and the lack of visibility and the shocking absence of the “National Anthem”. He was surprised that the anthem was skipped over, but said that he would make sure this was rectified for next year. During the seminar a veteran stepped up to the microphone and also voiced his displeasure in the absence of the patriotic song.
I then asked who decided who was in charge of retiring numbers, and he said it was an entire organizational discussion. He then asked if I had any suggestions, and I of course mention Sammy Sosa. Much like with the topic of the anthem, a fan during the seminar also asked about the retiring of Sosa’s number (which surprisingly got a loud round of applause) and then also brought up the idea of retiring Kerry Wood’s number. His answer on Sosa was pretty much the same as what he gave me before the seminar started.
Basically, Mr. Ricketts told me that he would like to bring Sosa back into the Cubs organization and went on to say how that entire era was a difficult one to really discuss because of what we think we know of some players, what we suspect of others and what we don’t know about the rest from that era. He came off as genuinely interested in working on something with Sosa in the near future. Wood, on the other hand, not much time was devoted to him in that question other than to say no discussion have been had about retiring his number. That leads me to believe they had been having discussions about the possible retiring of Sosa’s number. Whichever decision is made, there will not be unanimous support as the Cubs fan base seems relatively split down the middle.
I was very impressed with the Cub fans is year, who for the most part avoided the meatball questions of “what have you done for me lately” but were very complimentary of the job they have been doing the past few years, and had a number of good questions. One of my favorites (besides the one about Sosa) was if they had plans to wear some throwback uniforms while playing on the road, as well as another fan wondering if they ever thought about honoring some of the other great teams in Cubs history, besides those that fell short like the 1969 and 1984 clubs. The Ricketts family liked both suggestions and seemed in agreement.
Of course, you had some meatball questions from a couple of fans. The one that stands out was an elderly man who approached the microphone to complain about the players who have long hair and are not clean shaven, pointing to the professionalism of the New York Yankees. He also eluded Dale Sveum saying how he looked like someone who slept on a park bench. This got a number of cheers, while others just shook their heads.
Other than that, the most informative seminar came later during the “Wrigley Renovations” discussions which we talked about earlier.
I personally am in favor of these renovations, as I feel they will go a long way to preserving Wrigley Field for generations to come. The fact that the Ricketts will be footing the bill for the entire $300 Million process is a bit surprising to be honest, but when the city isn’t willing to budge an inch to help (because they do not own the ballpark like they do with US Cellular, Soldier Field) there are some things you must do on your own. The entire process with take place over five years (all during the off season) and the Cubs WILL NOT, I repeat WILL NOT play any regular season home games elsewhere so you can put that entire rumor to rest. Part of the renovation plans do include plans for (are you sitting down?) a jumbtron.
The Ricketts family has my full support with all they want to do with the ball park. While I enjoy going to games at Wrigley, I would go watch the Cubs anywhere. The ballpark is just an added luxury. There will be many fans who disagree and say they want the Cubs to win first then make changes, but who is to say you cannot build a team while renovating the stadium at the same time? This was just another example of fans that want to complain about something.
Overall, I had a great time, and I am ready for Spring Training to start. Even if the team on paper does not look like they will be competing for any division titles anytime soon, I am as ready as ever for some real Cubs baseball.