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Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Cubs Convention Autograph Report and Review

This was the first year in a long time in which we did not stay overnight at the hotel.  This, however, did not stop me from enjoying all three days of the 2015 Cubs Convention!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The bag of swag again included a program, a calendar, a complimentary issue of Vineline, a couple of pocket schedules and some advertisements, including this one for a Cubs pizza from Giordano's:

This looks delicious
I was delighted to find that I pulled a winner for the 11:00 a.m. signing of Jorge Soler:

We were then off to check out the vendors' wares.  We were extremely disappointed to find that the vendors had now been moved from the convention hall out into the hallway and crammed into conference rooms.  This new "Vendor Alley" was cramped, hot and poorly lit.

Clearly the Cubs, who have not made it a secret that they view the vendors as a threat to their convention profits, saw fit to further marginalize the independent sellers at this year's event.  This is really too bad, because the fun of going to the convention for me always included picking up a cool, old Cubs item or two.  This year, I bought some 8x10s from two different dealers but otherwise did not spend any money on other items for myself.

Hustle and bustle in Vendor Alley
Because we had no hotel room to return to, we were relegated to the hallway and hung there until it was time to get in line for the autograph hunt.  We made our way to the lower level and found six autograph stages, the official Cubs store, Cubs Authentics and the Cubs Auction.  While we hung out, someone paid over $200 for a pair of Soler's pants.

Auctioning off Jorge Soler's pants
We got in line at Stage B and at the appointed hour, were thrilled when super prospect Kris Bryant took the stage.  He was very personable and said his preferred nickname is "K.B."  He signed this 8x10 for me:

Ready to reign terror on the National League 

The other stages were occupied by Albert Almora, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards.  By the time we had met Bryant, however, the lines for each of the other prospects were way too long to have a chance so we headed out to find the other spots where players would be signing.  Much to our surprise, there were not any other players signing!  This was a drastic change from all the previous Cubs Conventions I had ever attended.  Typically, we would get to meet 5-10 players during the autograph hunt game.  (Hopefully, the Cubs will reconsider bringing back the old format for future conventions!)

We then found Jay Johnstone wandering the hallway looking for heavy metal fans.  He was nice enough to stop for this picture and sign my program:

This woman asked to be identified as "Negligent Monster."  True story.
We stood at the back of the room for the Friday Night with Ryan Dempster.  His monologue was actually pretty funny and even included a video short wherein he intimated that he opted out of his contract with the Red Sox to design and occupy the Clark costume.  We did not stick around much longer though.

Overall, Friday night was a big change but we were all giddy having been able to meet Kris Bryant.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In what was a new experience for me, I actually had to get up on Saturday morning and drive to the hotel.  When we got into the convention hall, the doors were open even though it was not 9:00 a.m. yet.  That was very nice.  All of the players signing at 9:00 a.m. seemed to have capacity lines so we got in the queue for Kyle Hendricks, who was signing at 10:00 a.m.

Kyle Hendricks was a huge draw all weekend
Hendricks was very personable, but told me that he really does not have a nickname.  When I suggested "The Panther," he laughed and said he'd need to think about it.  Regardless, he will always be "The Panther" to me.  He signed this card:

Next, I was off to get in the voucher-only line for Jorge Soler, who was scheduled to start signing at 11:00 a.m.  Javy Baez, sporting a Mohawk, was signing on stage at the time:

A much thinner looking Javy Baez signs for a young fan
Once Jorge Soler was there, I waited patiently in the line and when I got to the front, security took my pull-tab card to punch it.  It was then that she informed me that I had won a signature for Sunday at 11:00 a.m., not Saturday.  I am an idiot.  My heart sank.  I told her that it was an honest mistake but she would not budge.  Finally, she told me I could plead my case to a supervisor.  The supervisor was super cool and let me get the signature because the guard at the front of the line had let me in and I had waited my turn.  Boy that was close.  Should I win again, I will make sure to double-check the date!

Soler did not seem to be very interested in being there.  He acknowledged me with a polite smile but did not respond to my inquiry as to how he was looking forward to the 2015 season.  (Perhaps he does not speak much English?)  He signed this 8x10:

While my boys went with my sister to meet Leon Durham, I got in line for George Altman, whose very creative nickname was "Big George."  I asked him if he was able to find good American food when he played (and destroyed) in Japan.  He told me that he really enjoyed playing there and then gave me his business card indicating that he has recently published a book about his life:  George Altman My Baseball Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors and Beyond.  He signed this card for me: 

Next, we got in line to meet Jacque Jones.  He did not specifically recall the play depicted in the photo but indicated, "I'm sure that hurt!"

Tough to see the autograph, huh?
Here is his signature on a card he signed for my sister
Sunday, January 18, 2015

We arrived a bit earlier on Sunday morning and found a large crowd in the hallway outside the autograph hall.  They let us in about 8:45 a.m. and we got right in line for Chris Coghlan.  Although we were disappointed to learn that he roots for the Red Wings, he was very receptive to a new nickname.  He said people either call him "C.C." or "Cogs."  I told him those were boring and asked him what he thought of Chris "King Cobra" Coghlan.  He laughed and said he was not so sure about the "King" part, although he was down with the "Cobra" moniker.  Move over Dave Parker, there is a new Cobra in town!

Chris "Cobra" Coghlan

Next we met Glenn Beckert.  Unfortunately, Mr. Beckert was having some trouble getting around and we heard that he cut his signing session short on Saturday because he was not feeling well.  He has always been awesome to talk to and very personable.  Here's to hoping this is just a temporary ailment.


We then met Bobby Howry, who explained that he liked to choose 62 as his uniform number because he knew it would always be available, especially when his first choice - 46 - was not.   

Bobby Howry - good ol' number 62
Next we went to get in the Gary Matthews line but found that the schedule in the program was not accurate.  Instead, we found southpaw Glendon Rusch signing at that time.  I was delighted to learn that Rusch is a metal head and loves 1990s music including Metallica, Anthrax and Rage Against the Machine.  He is also a huge Seahawks fan and was certainly happy with outcome of that afternoon's NFC Championship.



The last autograph for the weekend was Milt Pappas.  Although he was in the Kids Only line, he was nice enough to sign my son's item and this card:

On the way out, we saw Tom Ricketts signing autographs and taking photos with fans and that was it for the weekend.  We went home, watched the Seahawks' miraculous comeback win over Green Bay and nursed our aching feet.

2015 Cubs Convention Overview

  • I am truly excited for 2015 Cubs baseball.
  • I had a great time, as always, hanging out with my kids, sister and all the random folks I spoke with over the weekend.  (But, I missed my friend and his dad who were not able to make it this year.)
  • It was nice to have all of the autograph stages in one area.
  • Chris Coghlan is now "Cobra."
  • The double queue and ticket distribution system for the autograph stages was well run.
  • The seminars and presentations were PACKED.
  • The Autograph Hunt this year was not terribly fun.  I am not complaining in that we were able to meet Kris Bryant but then it was just over.  There were only five other minor league prospects signing and there was no chance we would be able to get another autograph in the allotted time due to the length of their respective lines.
  • The Cubs are continuing to squeeze out the individual vendors and this is rather unfortunate.  Although the Cubs have complained that the vendors were hurting their jersey sales, the Cubs don't sell unsigned 8x10 photos, vintage memorabilia or individual baseball cards.  In fact, the official store at the Convention is really just a glorified garage sale used to rid themselves of the past season's unsold licensed apparel and merchandise.
  • My kids had a blast meeting the players and collecting autographs but were not terribly excited with the players in the Kids Only line this year.  Even though I explained that Fergie Jenkins is a Hall of Famer and Milt Pappas threw a no-hitter, they really (and how could I blame them) wanted to meet current players.
  • No more Pepsi booth and, accordingly, no more free samples.  The hotel was charging $5 for a can of pop.  Bring your own drinks or find the water coolers spread throughout the convention!
  • Can't wait until next year.  Go Cubs in 2015!      



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