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Cubs Convention Report: Day One
by Phil Bencomo
"We're going to be good, and stay good."
Such were the words of GM Jim Hendry at Friday's Opening Ceremonies, echoing a similar sentiment expressed by both Team President John McDonough and the Director of Marketing and Sales, Jay Blunk.
The Convention theme this year is extremely simple: Win. The letter 'W' is plastered throughout the Hilton and on the Convention passes themselves, and while this is clearly a marketing ploy following a pitiful '06 campaign, the emphasis on winning now is much appreciated, and something fans responded very strongly to today.
The highlight of the day was, indeed, the Opening Ceremony. Players past and present were introduced with loud ovations, and news of several moves slipped out in the process. The first was entirely expected. Perhaps not in this venue, but expected nonetheless. John McDonough, it seems, is no longer an interim president. Upon introducing McDonough, Blunk made sure to identify his former boss as "the Cubs' new president."
What was quite startling, however, was the appearance of Cub draftee Jeff Samardzija at the ceremonies. As was then revealed to those Conventioneers who were far from a computer or TV at 1:30 pm, Samardzija has signed a five-year deal with the Cubs. Apparently, Hendry held a press conference at 1:30 at the Hilton, then had Jeff stick around for the Convention. On the heels of the preceding two announcements, I almost expected the Cubs to reveal a five-year contract with Carlos Zambrano as he was introduced. But alas, it did not happen.
Though this next tidbit wasn't a surprise, it certainly warranted a strong reaction from the crowd. Mark Grace will be attending the Convention on Saturday, an announcement that drew more cheers than the introductions of Ryan Dempster and Scott Eyre combined.
The Opening Ceremonies concluded with the typical Rah-Rah video recap of the offseason and 2006. Again, the emphasis (all the way down to the accompanying music) was on winning now.
Before the Opening Ceremonies, however, was quite a different experience. The Ceremonies are all about crazy, hyped-up Cub fans. The Exhibition Halls are similar in a way: They are home to the crazy, hyped-up collectors and autograph seekers. You see, the people who roam the Halls are far from normal. They stand in line for hours at a time for a single autograph; they chase players in back hallways, waving rookie cards and photos. Not that anything is entirely wrong with doing those things. But problems do tend to arise when several hundred of these types of people are doing the same thing with the same goals in mind. It can get downright nasty. And the security people, composed almost entirely of elderly women, can't do a thing about it.
Such was my experience at the Locker Room Sale. Here, the Cubs sell game-used equipment, jerseys, lineup cards, and other dugout trinkets. Sounds quite appealing, right? Well, not when hundreds of people form a massive line hours before the room's doors even open, then swoop in and buy the best items.
That being said, I did end up with an authentic lineup card from this September game, and a couple of locker name plates. I'll (eventually) scan them in for your viewing pleasure. I may even stop by again Saturday and see what's left.
The most entertaining event of the day, however, had to be the auctioning of equipment at the Locker Room Sale. Whereas most of the items are sold for a set price, the items in the highest demand are put up for auction. I watched as two men bid against each other for a suitcase filled with... nothing? Game-used jock straps? The auctioneers wouldn't tell them the contents of the case. Even so, the men raised the price higher and higher, until a heavyset man with a red face angrily cried out, "$600!" The bid won, and the guy walked away with used shoes and some shin guards. Later, bids exceeded $500 for a used Zambrano jersey. I left, dumbfounded, before the final price was determined. You see, those are the type of collectors that I will never fully understand. That much money for a jersey...
Now for some pictures (click for a larger view). The first two are of the Opening Ceremonies, and the third of a certain jersey I stumbled upon.