The Chicago Cubs decided in July to cancel their annual offseason convention, which was scheduled to take place next weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
COVID-19 concerns made it impossible for the Cubs to plan that far ahead, and with the pandemic still raging six months later, they obviously made the right call.
The Cubs Convention is the longest-running fan fest in sports, and I’ve been covering it since the second edition in 1987, before most of the current Cubs were born. That was the convention at which outfielder Keith Moreland asked fans to write President Ronald Reagan to demand lights get installed at Wrigley Field and fans begged general manager Dallas Green to sign free-agent slugger Andre Dawson.
“We were 70-90 last year, and I’m not sure if Andre can make us 90-70,” Green told Cubs fans. “The growth and stability of a franchise has to start with the minor-league system.”
The Cubs eventually signed Dawson to a bargain-basement contract that year and he won the National League MVP Award with 49 home runs, but they still finished in last place in the NL East at 76-85. Thirty-four years later, they’re again looking to upgrade the minor-league system, as evidenced by the recent trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres for four low-level prospects.
Anyway, it’s a shame the convention had to be canceled. It’s the unofficial start to the new season and always fun to see familiar faces and dream of better days ahead.
Of course, if the Cubs really wanted to keep the tradition alive, they could always hold a virtual Cubs Convention with question-and-answer seminars held on Zoom.
We can only imagine how it would go.
<mark class="hl_blue">Meet the Cubs, 5-6 p.m.</mark>
It’s mid-January, and amazingly, many of your favorites are still here, including Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward. The key players make cameo appearances and confirm they’re happy to still be Cubs and are looking forward to competing for another NL Central title in 2021. Manager David Ross also appears to let everyone know how Jon Lester is doing and whether he’ll be back for one last hurrah.
<mark class="hl_blue">Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster, 8-9 p.m.</mark>
The former Cubs pitcher and current Marquee Sports Network personality returns with the late-night talk show that got Bryant in hot water in 2019 for calling St. Louis “boring.” This year’s special guests will be Mark Grace and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.
<mark class="hl_blue">Meet Cubs management, 8-9 a.m.</mark>
Jed Hoyer makes his debut as Cubs president and explains the difficulties of following in the footsteps of Theo Epstein without a general manager to bounce ideas off of, while also reminding fans “one eye is on the present and one eye is on the future.” NBC Sports Chicago host David Kaplan follows with a rebuttal.
<mark class="hl_blue">Ricketts roundtable, 9-10 a.m.</mark>
Back by popular demand after canceling their 2020 seminar, co-owners Tom and Laura Ricketts discuss their hopes and dreams for the 2021 season, new TV play-by-play man “Boog” Sciambi and whether fans will be allowed back at Wrigley Field this year. A Ricketts-to-be-named-later will appear if scheduling permits. No Sammy Sosa questions permitted.
<mark class="hl_blue">Will Sammy Sosa return? 10-11 a.m.</mark>
Will the Cubs ever welcome Sammy back into the family? That’s a question fans have been asking the Rickettses at the convention for more than a decade. Now comes the opportunity to ask Tom and Laura the same question over and over again for an hour straight, with one caveat: Every question must be preceded with a long-winded opinion on why Sosa should or should not be welcomed back. Tom and Laura will be required to forget to unmute themselves for the duration of the seminar.
<mark class="hl_blue">Meet the new Cubs, 11 a.m.-noon</mark>
Newly acquired starting pitcher Zach Davies is joined by outfielder Phillip Ervin, infielder Max Schrock and … well, it’s all yours, boys.
<mark class="hl_blue">Remembering the documentary of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game, noon-2 p.m.</mark>
The oft-aired Marquee documentary on the epic 1998 game will be replayed before Wood discusses the filming of the documentary. Afterward, it’s the debut of a new Marquee documentary: “The Making of the Documentary of the Kerry Wood 20-strikeout Game.”
<mark class="hl_blue">Meet Cubs business management, 2-3 p.m.</mark>
Cubs Business Operations President Crane Kenney reveals the tentative plan to allow up to 50% capacity at Wrigley Field at the start of the 2021 season, in addition to new health and safety protocols that prevent fans from throwing back opposing home run balls or passing food and beverages down the aisle. Kenney also might reveal a new and improved sound system at Wrigley that can be heard as far away as Lake Forest.
<mark class="hl_blue">Sweet Lou and the 2009 Cubs, 3-4 p.m.</mark>
Former Cubs manager Lou Piniella and several players from his 2009 team recall the year Cubs fans can never forget, no matter how hard they try. Milton Bradley, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Randy Wells and Kosuke Fukudome regale fans with stories that boggle the mind, including Bradley’s suspension after ripping management and Zambrano’s bat-wielding attack on the Gatorade dispenser. Alcoholic beverages will not be provided.
<mark class="hl_blue">Meet Ronnie Woo-Woo, 8-9 a.m.</mark>
You’ve heard him over the years, but do you really know the back story of what made Ronnie Woo-Woo a Wrigley Field legend and celebrity funeral crasher? It’s a tale of woo.
<mark class="hl_blue">On the farm, 9-10 a.m.</mark>
With no minor-league season occurring in 2020, this traditional end-of-the-convention seminar will be replaced by a slide show of actual farm animals.