Reflections of an Experience

Two weeks from today, the 22nd annual Cubs Convention will kick-off in downtown Chicago at the Hilton and Towers Hotel. Last January I made my inaugural journey to the Convention and was introduced to a world of which I was unaware. But 48 hours later I knew the experience would simply be the first of many at the Annual Cubs Convention. It was a whirlwind of a weekend in which I met players, coaches, broadcasters and fans from all walks of life. I experienced many memorable moments and had my first beer ever with a former ball player. The Cubs Convention is unique because it was the first of its kind, the first pro sports team fan convention, and it was created and brought to you by the Chicago Cubs current president, John McDonough. Also, the Cubs Convention will always be important to me because it was the catalyst for my opportunity to write for the CCO and it was the first story I ever reported for the site. As the conventions draws near, I wanted to share my experience last year and reflect on the various encounters and events.

I walked into the Hilton and Towers without much an idea of what to expect, but immediately I knew I was in what I now call, “mini-Heaven.” Mini-Heaven is where nothing else but the Cubs matters for 48 hours….yea, no kidding, right, but it’s true. The grand ballroom was already overflowing with fans, so I had to position myself on the stairs for the opening ceremony. Pat Hughes emceed the event and introduced all of the players and coaches. I remember the roar for Prior was the loudest as Hughes proclaimed, “Could this be his Cy Young year?” Whoops. Anyway, I was so overwhelmed with “sports emotion” that I did not want it to end. For the rest of the evening, I watched people wait in lines for players’ autographs from decades gone by. No offense to Jay Johnstone, but I was not going to stand in line for his John Hancock.

After meandering around the expansive hotel lobby my buddy Craig and I bellied up at one of the multiple watering holes in the Hilton. We were sipping on the nectar of the gods when Craig jabbed me in the ribs. As I looked up to backhand him in the face I noticed that Bob Dernier had just taken a seat on the stool next to me. That is right, Bobby Dernier, the first half of the Daily Double. Granted, this was not Andre Dawson, I had already gotten a picture with him earlier, but it was also not the aforementioned Mr. Johnstone. Bobby D. was very accommodating and kind and spent two whole hours telling us stories and rehashing the good times. Awesome, it was simply awesome.

The following morning started with the GM and Manager meeting and what must have been a room full of one thousand people hung on every word. Many fans peppered the two with questions, but they were up to the task, well Hendry more so than Baker. Basically, this is an hour where any fan can ask any question they want and they will receive an answer. I must give The Hendry credit because I do not recall him sidestepping any of them. The rest of the morning was full of multiple activities ranging from autograph signings to a room of people watching current and former players compete in Cubs Jeopardy. Michael Barrett is funny, I mean really friggin’ hilarious, the guy cracked me up, repeatedly.

In the afternoon I was treated to what was dubbed “The All-Star Panel.” For over an hour Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe told stories and answered questions from fans. The opportunity to hear these men speak about the intricacies of the game and rehash old times was immeasurable for a Cubs fan. At one point the Hawk was telling a story about how Sutcliffe grazed his chin with a pitch before the two played together. Sutcliffe then said it was a mistake and everyone chuckled thinking it was done. Then Fergie spoke up and said he hit many a batter in his day and not one was ever a mistake and went on about how the ball does not slip and it is rarely, if ever, a mistake when any pitcher hits a batter. Sutcliffe then smiled, leaned forward toward the mic and said, “Sorry Hawk,” and the room erupted in laughter. What an afternoon.

The Convention ended Sunday around noon, but I did have the chance to meet Matt Murton and attend a meeting entitled “Down on the Farm.” Murton and Sean Gallagher were on the panel while Dave Otto, yes you read that correctly, Dave Otto emceed. It was great to listen to players discuss their experience in the minors as well as a slew of their teammates. While the farm system has not produced much lately, I am excited about pitchers such as Gallagher and Donald Veal. I think they are both at least a year away, but odds are that one of them will produce at the top level.

Throughout the weekend I crossed paths with Ron Santo, Pat Hughes, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Len Kasper (a ridiculously nice man, he actually thanked me when I asked him for his autograph), Bill Madlock, Bob Dernier, Juan Pierre and others. It was a time I will never forget and something I must do again. If you have not experienced the convention I would recommend it as much as I recommend TIVO and Miller Lite. I know tickets are hard to come by and one would have to drop about $150-$200 to go, but if you can afford it, GO.

There are so many things to look forward to this year. The hype and excitement surrounding this team is raising the proverbial roof. In a perfect world, I will have a sit down conversation with Ryno, a beer with Sut and a burger with Lou, now that would make for a good story. After those things happen, all that is left is the World Series….sorry I may be getting unrealistic now.

Feel free to drop me a line at brian@chicagocubsonline.com and until next time….

Stay Classy Cubs Fans

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein
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