The 2015 Cubs Convention got underway Friday afternoon at Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. And this convention is already much different than recent years’ gatherings. For the first time in five years there was a buzz running through the hotel hallways. Those that had been waiting to root on the Cubs were back in droves and pointing toward the upcoming season as just the beginning for the young team with the same excitement as a child on Christmas morning.
The Cubs are focused on winning at the big league level and no other proof is needed than to look at the team’s slogan for the 2015 season: ‘Let’s Go’
The first day of the convention began with the tradition Opening Ceremonies.
It was standing room only and the Cubs faithful packed the large ballroom. The fan base was greeted by Tom Ricketts, wearing a ‘Let’s Go’ t-shirt, in of course Cubs blue, after a slide show with a photo of Joe Maddon being the first image shown.
Mr. Ricketts led off by explaining all the team accomplished off the field last year: 100 Gifts of Service, the opening of the new facility in Mesa, the new Legacy partners, the first phase of The 1060 Project, the new media partners that includes ABC-7, WGN-TV Ch. 9 and WBBM. Mr. Ricketts also pointed out the Cubs got better on the field.
Tom Ricketts is ready for the season ahead and proudly told the room before turning the ceremonies over to Len Kasper, “Let’s Go!.”
Len Kasper filled in for Pat Hughes, who traditionally emcees the Opening Ceremonies. Pat recently had minor surgery, but he’s doing good and plans to be ready for his first broadcast of the spring with his partner Ron Coomer.
Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, was not able to attend the convention. Kasper assured everyone that Mr. Banks is doing good he was unable to make it.
The loudest ovation of the night for the Cubs alumni went to Kerry Wood. And the crowd chanted ‘Kerry! Kerry!’ Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins received loud welcomes while Ted Lilly, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe also received huge ovations when they were introduced.
After the coaching staff was called up to the stage, it was time for the Cubs new manager. And Joe Maddon was greeted with a standing, thunderous ovation … arguably the loudest greeting for a Cubs player, past or present, or manager in the last nine years.
Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber also received loud welcomes to the convention.
The only player that was not greeted warmly was a clean-cut Edwin Jackson, who was actually booed.
Jon Lester, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo received the loudest applause among the present players.
And it was clear to see whose team it is. After the cheering subsided for Anthony Rizzo a chant of ‘M-V-P!’ filled the ballroom.
The Opening Ceremonies concluded with a highlight video that for the first time in three years was filled with home runs and excellent defensive plays from players still with the team.
Welington Castillo, who was scheduled to attend the convention this weekend, was not introduced during Opening Ceremonies on Friday night.
Of the new players, Miguel Montero (47), Jason Motte (30) and Chris Denorfia (15) donned Cubs’ jerseys for the first time. David Ross will wear No. 3, Mike Olt switched to 20 and Jason Hammel retained his familiar No. 39. And of course, Joe Maddon has his No. 70 across his back.
Day one of the convention shifted to Friday Night with Ryan Dempster. The former Cubs’ starter and closer and current Special Assistant to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer created a late night talk show in the vein of David Letterman, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. Dempster began his show with a monologue and in between guests he showed pre-filmed skits or vintage Budweiser commercials featuring Harry Caray.
Ryan Dempster really nailed the concept.
Dempster’s first two guests were Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, his new bosses. The three took jabs at one another while bugging Hoyer about never saying anything in public.
The real treat was the interaction between Dempster and Joe Maddon.
The Cubs new skipper learned quickly not to say ‘White Sox’ in a room full of Cubs’ fans and began referring to the Southsiders as the other Chicago team. Maddon does not think another fan base could pull off the convention.
Joe Maddon promised things are going to go very well for the Cubs this year. And Maddon reiterated the Cubs goal is to win the division and he’s not going to back-off of it.
Ryan Dempster’s other guests included Jake Arrieta, Mark DeRosa, Kyle Hendricks, Anthony Rizzo, Glendon Rusch, Rick Sutcliffe and Jon Lester.
Friday Night with Ryan Dempster was quite the departure from the traditional David Kaplan Shows and was more of a casual atmosphere which provided a light-hearted look at the team while beginning the weekend with a smile on a majority of those in attendance.
Based on Friday, the full day of sessions on Saturday should be extremely informative.