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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Cubs Convention Wrap


The 2016 Cubs Convention came and went, like always, in a flash.  After registering on Friday we checked out Vendor Alley and found it was about the same as last year – smallish and not terribly exciting.  After picking up a number of 8x10 photos we walked around and found that lines had already formed for each of the six autograph stages on the lower level.

Friday

Last year, the Cubs eliminated the “Autograph Hunt Game” in which players would be dispatched to various secret locations all over the hotel after the Opening Ceremony to sign autographs for the fans. In its current incarnation as “Surprise Signings,” there were six minor leaguers sent to the dedicated autograph stages.  This year’s group included Jeimer Candelario, Eric Jokisch and Dan Vogelbach, among others.  These were the only players signing anywhere on Friday night.

We got into the line for Stage F and met Dan Vogelbach.  Vogelbach said his nickname is “Vogs,” which I told him was pretty boring.  I asked what he though about “Devo” (as in “D. Vo”) and he said he liked it.  He even signed my photo with “Whip It” inscribed.  Devo seems like a nice kid and said he is slated to start the season at the AA Tennessee Smokies.


For old time’s sake, we decided to have dinner at Kitty O’Shea’s and headed out.  The Convention used to be held at the Chicago Hilton and Towers and Friday nights at the hotel bar – Kitty O’Shea’s – used to be epic.  It was not uncommon to rub elbows with upwards of ten of more players in the bar and most were very accommodating for a chat or a quick autograph.  Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see Bobby Dernier or Tim Stoddard in the lobby bar at the Sheraton, but they seem to be the only two who make themselves available to the fans is such a friendly manner.

Saturday

My younger son joined us Saturday morning and after perusing the vendor’s wares anew with him, we grabbed a spot in the session “Life Off the Field” in which Neil Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Miguel Montero and Addison Russell spoke about their lives away from the game.  I asked the players what kind of car they currently drive and what their dream car would be.  Ramirez currently drives a Hyundai Sonata and said he would like a truck.  Cahill drives a truck.  Clayton Richard got a good laugh when he indicated that he would like a truck but admitted that he actually has to drive his wife’s Honda minivan to the ballpark.  Miguel Montero has his dream cars and said he loves to drive his Ferrari and Lamborghini.  Addison Russell just wants a Rolls Royce Ghost.  In answer to a later question about his having given up number 22 for Jason Heyward, it was suggested the Ghost, which starts north of $325,000, might make a suitable trade for the number.

Autograph lines - Saturday January 16, 2016
We next shuffled downstairs go he could meet Justin Grimm and Miguel Montero in the Kids Only line.  The Jeimer Candelario line was very short so we hopped in.  I asked Candelario what his dream car would be and he must have misunderstood me.  He looked up and told me, puzzled, “I don’t have a green car.”   He was nice enough to sign my program anyway.

Here is Dan Vogelbach playing a casual game of RBI Baseball in the hallway with a lucky fan.
My first hopeful autograph for the day was David Ross.  He was very personable and said he is very fortunate to still be healthy enough to be playing at his age.  His dream car is the one he drives – a Ford Raptor.


Tough to call a guy "Grandpa" when you're a tad older than he his...
I was lucky enough to win the pull tab for the Kyle Schwarber signing that afternoon.  I asked him if he had ever gone to the park as a kid and hit golf balls with an aluminum bat.  He never had but thought it would be fun to do.  (Hey ESPN, how about letting major league sluggers smash golf balls with aluminum bats?  I’d watch that.)  As for the photo below, I told him that was exactly how I looked when I rocked a golf ball onto 47th Street from the back stop at Waiola Park.  He said it was fun to hit bombs.  Duh!


Sunday

My older son was able to join the fray on Sunday and we got promptly in the line for C.J. Edwards.  I found him to be just about the shyest person I ever met.  He does not have a dream car.  He signed the program for me.

C.J. Edwards
We next got in line for Clayton Richard.  I now had the opportunity to ask a follow-up question regarding what kind of truck was his dream.  After a brief exchange regarding how awesome it is to be lefty, he indicated he would a Hummer.  (Do they still make them?)  He signed this 8x10 for me and card for my son.



My last autograph of the day was John Baker, former catcher and newly minted front office member, working under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.  Baker thinks it’s hilarious that he is best known as a Cub for a single game in which he pitched a scoreless inning and ended up scoring the winning run.  As a result, he was awarded the win and retired from baseball with a 1-0 record, a 0.00 ERA and a respectable WHIP of 1.000 (he did walk a batter but gave up no hits).  Baker then told me he is a numbers guy and has really been immersed in the advanced metrics the Cubs use to evaluate players.  In fact, they were so aggressive in their pursuit of Jason Heyward because they project him to be an even better fielding center fielder than he was as a 3-time Gold Glove right fielder.  He was awesome to talk to and I felt bad for the folks behind me since he spent over three minutes with me.  (My son clocked it.)  He was nice enough to sign this card for me.


The lines for the Kids Only stage on Sunday were pretty light and my boys were able to do my investigative dirty work for me.  Scott Eyre had a Mercedes when he played but said he just drives “something boring” now.

Scott Eyre thinks about his dream car
Broadcaster Jim Deshaies also had a Mercedes as a player but said that he and his wife just got a Ford F-150 that they tow behind their RV.

Jim Deshaies
We ran into the Addison Russell kid and his parents.  His dad said that the haircut was done by a barber where they live in the Quad Cities and he was shocked at how much attention his son has received over the weekend.  Cool way to end the Convention for me.


We found a blurry Tom Ricketts wondering the hallways Sunday as we put a cap on the 2016 Cubs Convention.


Until next year and with the hopes we will be celebrating a World Series victory!

2016 Cubs Convention Overview

  • I am truly excited for 2016 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.  Here’s looking at you – Paul the Mountain Man from Colorado, Lisa and kids from Yorkville enjoying their first Convention, Matt and Rachel from St. Louis (but originally from Nebraska), the Assassin and Leatherpants.
  • It was nice to have all of the autograph stages in one area.
  • Dan Vogelbach is now “Devo.”
  • Again, the double queue and ticket distribution system for the autograph stages was well run.
  • The seminars and presentations were PACKED.  In fact, I was almost not let back in after leaving to use the restroom and to grab a cookie for my son.
  • The Surprise Signing this year was not terribly fun.  I am not complaining in that we were able to meet Dan “Devo” Vogelbach but the “Autograph Hunt Game” was one of the highlights of the weekend.  Of all the people I talked to in line all weekend – not one preferred the new format.  
  • As usual, my kids had a blast meeting the players and collecting autographs but the Sunday lineup for the Kids Only featured only Scott Eyre and Jim Deshaies.  No offense to either but it would be nice if the Cubs would schedule more current players or recently retired players, like Kerry Wood, in the Kids Only line in the future.  
  • I expect prices at the hotel to be expensive however, they were charging $5 for a can of pop and the grab and go prices were outrageous.  Make alternate plans for meals, if possible and bring your own drinks or find the water coolers spread throughout the convention!
  • I can't wait until next year.  Go Cubs in 2016!     


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