The 2016 Cubs Convention got underway Friday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. There was an energy and excitement on the first day of Cubs Convention that has not been there in at least the last 10 winter gatherings. Thousands upon thousands of diehard Cubs fans filled the hotel in Downtown Chicago with one thing and one thing only on their minds.
Day One of Cubs Convention is usually filled with optimism and a level of excitement. The Opening of this year’s convention was like someone turned the amplifier up to 11, to borrow a line from Spinal Tap. Everything was bigger and louder and the Cubs played to the crowd like rock stars.
Opening Ceremonies and the entire first day was quite the experience for this convention veteran.
The Cubs led off the festivities with a highlight reel from the playoffs. The Cubs’ victory in Pittsburgh and celebration after winning the NL Wild Card and then Joe Maddon’s team taking down the Cardinals in the National League Division Series sent the convention hall into a frenzy.
The Cubs expanded the hall by two rooms to hold as much of the overflow crowd as possible. And Tom Ricketts was greeted by a thunderous, standing ovation after he was introduced.
“Not only is this the best sports convention,” Ricketts said. “This is going to be the best Cubs Convention ever!”
Last year Ricketts wore a t-shirt with the Cubs slogan for the season, “Let’s Go” across the front. The slogan meant a lot of different things to the Cubs. Ricketts explained what the slogan meant to him and the team the most.
“Stop talking about the future of our baseball team. Let’s talk about this year. Let’s play now. We said Let’s Go and in 2015, wow did we go.”
Ricketts talked about the three goals the family set when they bought the team: 1) To win the World Series 2) To preserve and improve Wrigley Field 3) Give more back to the community, be better neighbors
Ricketts proudly stated the Cubs made a lot of progress last year on each goal.
Last year Cubs Charities raised and distributed over $3.4 million. The work that was done in the community by the team, front office, coaches and players helped make Cubs Charities one of the most powerful charity organizations in the city.
2015 was a pretty big year for Wrigley Field, starting with the video boards and new bleachers. Last year the Cubs really got into rebuilding Wrigley Field. Ricketts said this season the changes will not be as noticeable, but the Cubs are opening the new player’s clubhouse.
“This year we are premiering and launching the best clubhouse in all of Major League Baseball,” Ricketts said. “Starting with what we did a few years ago in the Dominican and then moving on to Spring Training, we have gone from worst to first in player facilities.”
Ricketts thanked everyone for their patience. And because of the work that has been completed and will be done, Wrigley Field will be there for the next generation of fans.
The Cubs most important goal, winning the World Series. Ricketts explained how 2015 was an incredible season. There were all sorts of rookies stepping up. The Cubs had 13 walk-off wins, the most in all of baseball. The season did not end the way the Cubs wanted it to. The Cubs didn’t quite make it all the way. Ricketts said last year was a building block and he’s confident they will reach their ultimate goal.
Ricketts pointed out the Cubs dominated the post-season awards … Kris Bryant, NL Rookie of the Year; Joe Maddon, NL Manager of the Year; Jake Arrieta, NL Cy Young Award. And the Cubs dominated the off-season as well according to Ricketts by signing John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward.
“So my message to everyone in this room is thank you. We are in this all together. The fact is that we couldn’t be here today if you weren’t patient and supportive of this team a few years ago when we had to rebuild to be in the position that we are in today,” Ricketts said. “The fact is we are now one of the best teams in baseball. It never could have been done if the people in this room had not been patient and allowed Theo [Epstein] to do things the right way over a period of time. And now, look where we are today.”
“As we bring it back to ‘Let’s Go.’ The fact is we want to go again this year. We are in this together. Let’s Go. I just want to say one last time, thank you and give yourself a round of applause. You are the best fans.”
The Cubs are not changing the slogan for the upcoming season, it will stay the same in 2016 … “Let’s Go!” But as Joe Maddon says with eight more wins in October.
Tom Ricketts introduced Pat Hughes and turned Opening Ceremonies over to the Voice of the Cubs. Mr. Hughes received a standing ovation and it was great hearing his voice again after a couple of months.
Pat Hughes introduced the players, past, future and present, and Joe Maddon and his coaching staff. Ryan Dempster received a huge welcome and Kerry Wood as well, along with a chant of, “Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!”
The reception for Ryne Sandberg was deafening, by far the loudest ovation for the former players and Hall of Famers. There was a chant of, “Ryno! Ryno! Ryno!” but there was not announcement about him being back with the organization in an official capacity.
Javier Baez, Addison Russell (wearing No. 27), Kyle Schwarber and John Lackey were welcomed loudly. And the Cubs used a photo of Lackey in a Red Sox uniform when he was introduced. A chant of “Lackey! Lackey! Lackey!” broke out. Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward also received rather loud welcomes from the crowd.
Anthony Rizzo received the largest ovation of the night, simply deafening and the cheers quickly turned into chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP.” Kris Bryant was almost as loud, but not quite as loud as Rizzo, even though there were more squeals mixed in for Bryant. Joe Maddon and Jake Arrieta had the tough task of following Rizzo and Bryant, and there was still too much of a ring in the ears to get a gage on the receptions for Maddon and Arrieta.
Opening Ceremonies wrapped with a highlight video that covered the entire season. Just one magic moment after the other. And it was hard to tell who was enjoying the video more, the fans or the players.
Day One of the 2016 Cubs Convention can only be considered a success. The Cubs know how to put on a show. And by the end of the night, they left their audience rooting for more.
Be sure to follow Chicago Cubs Online on Twitter (@TheCCO) for constant updates Saturday from the Ricketts family, Baseball Operations, Business Operations and Joe Maddon and his coaching staff sessions. Recaps of Saturday’s sessions will be posted.