A Rookie's Guide to Cubs Convention

img_2790Attending a Cubs Convention is something that I had debated for a while, but I finally decided to make the trek to my first one this year. Being from out of state (home for me is Rochester, NY), it was going to be a bit more expensive than for the average Chicagoan due to the flights, but I decided to treat myself this year.

I booked a room in the Sheraton Grand Chicago (where the convention is held) for two nights, mostly because I needed a hotel to stay at anyway, but also because I can’t handle large crowds and loud noises for an extended period of time, both of which are in surplus at the convetion. This way I could escape up to my room whenever I needed to decompress from all the activity and it ended up being a lifesaver.

I don’t want to sound like a total curmudgeon, since I did have a lot of fun at Cubs Con. But realistically, if you’re more introverted like me, I recommend getting a hotel room either in the Sheraton or at one of the many hotels nearby, even if you’re from Chicago. It was so nice to be able to go back upstairs and sit in silence, or even just have a bathroom always available.

This post is geared mainly towards people who have never attended a Cubs Con, as I wanted to share my take as a rookie attendee and what to expect if you decide to attend.

First thing: check in to the hotel is separate from check in to the Convention. If you’re flying in, a taxi ride from O’Hare to the Sheraton will run you about $50 with tip and will take about a half an hour. I found that the taxi rate was the same as an Uber so it was easier for me to just hop into the taxi line and be on my way.

When I arrived at the hotel at around 12:30 PM on Friday the lobby was already packed. There were plenty of hotel staff to assist with check in and it took about 10 minutes. I then went up to my room to drop off my bags and went back down to the floor where the Cubs Con check in was. The lines surprisingly weren’t that long and I again only waited about 10 minutes. Since I bought the hotel package I received my passes and the goodie bags right there, but if you buy your passes separately with no hotel room I believe they are mailed to you.

The goodie bags were underwhelming: a drawstring bag with the Cubs logo on it with a calendar, program, and miscellaneous inserts advertising travel packages, etc. The most important thing you’ll pick up (besides your actual pass) is the scratch off ticket that may contain a voucher for an autograph. Sadly, mine were only for $5 off $50 at the Cubs store. More on the vouchers later for those who are unfamiliar.

The check in is on the same level as the vendors, so I meandered around to see what was available. As you could expect, there were plenty of people selling signed merchandise, photos, clothes, and all other types of Cubs memorabilia. There was also an official Cubs Store set up. A new addition this year was the “Through My Eyes” booth from Ian Happ and Patrick Vale, and at the time I was walking around Ian was signing prints. I knew before I arrived that I wanted to pick one up and Happ is one of my favorite players (you know this if you follow me on Twitter), so it was really cool to meet him and get an autograph in a pretty non-stressful situation – the only people allowed to get in line were those who were going to buy a print.

The Opening Ceremonies started at 6 PM on Friday night and I had heard that people start lining up pretty early before the doors open in hopes of getting a seat, but I also heard that it can become very Hunger Games-style, with adults pushing past children to get seats. That sounded like a nightmare to me, so I planned on going down at around 5 and just standing in the back and not getting into a fight with anyone. My plan worked out fine and I was still able to see everyone and everything thanks to the two big monitors on either side of the stage.

I did not stay for the Late Night with Ryan Dempster panel, though I have heard it was really funny and is always a crowd pleaser. I instead met up with some fellow Cubs writers and bloggers next door at Lizzie McNeil’s, which was a lot of fun.

Saturday is where most of the events take place: panels, autograph sessions, and other random appearances from players in areas like the Social Media room. You’ll definitely need a plan of attack. I think most attendees are either interested in the panels or the autographs. You probably won’t be able to do both, especially if there’s a specific player you want to get an auto from.

Now, for the vouchers: If you want to get an auto from one of the more popular players, you’re going to need to pull a voucher with their name on it. These players were designated as “Vouchers Required” in the program, though I did hear that Kyle Hendricks stayed to sign for people without vouchers. This is not guaranteed, though. Some players signed for season ticket holders only on a separate level of the hotel, and some of those still required vouchers.

As I had no voucher and am not a big autograph collector anyway, I definitely wanted to go to the panels. I ended up going to Toeing the Rubber, Business Operations Update, Cubs Talk, and Off the Field. The other panels that I did not attend included Joe Maddon & the Coaching Staff, Baseball Operations Update, In the Batter’s Box, Kids Only Press Conference, Cubs in Cooperstown, and Cubs Jeopardy. The Cubs Bingo event is also incredibly popular (and crowded) and took place at 7:30 PM on Saturday night.

I really enjoyed the Cubs Talk and Off the Field panels, as both included Ian Happ and his personality really shined. We all know he’s more reticent and stoic, but he was genuinely funny and warm and I enjoyed hearing him and all of the others (Carl Edwards Jr, Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr, Daniel Descalso, and Rick Sutcliffe) discuss behind-the-scenes and off the field topics.

Sunday is the least crowded and last day of the Convention. I enjoyed being able to walk around and get close up seats in the panels. I saw the second half of the Sunday Morning panel and most of the Down on the Farm panel. I really enjoyed the Down on the Farm talk with Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison, as they discussed the minor league system and what players to pay attention to. I was a little bummed that no players were included in the panel, but maybe none were available. Taylor Davis would have been an interesting guy to hear from.

Checkout from the hotel was at noon, so I had to gather my bags and leave shortly after Down on the Farm wrapped up. Given how busy the event was, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hotel staff was a bit more forgiving with the check-out process and time.

Cubs Convention is a whirlwind event and I honestly would not have made it through if I hadn’t booked a room in the Sheraton. I will say that it was not a perfect event, but it was overall a positive experience and I am glad that I went. I am not in a hurry to go back, though.

My main criticism is that I was a bit underwhelmed by the player presence. The comparison that came to mind was when I went to Disneyland as a kid and was so excited to see all of the characters walking around, but I ended up seeing only Chip and Dale. Where’s Mickey Mouse?! I was kind of expecting more players to be out and about interacting with fans. That being said, I know that some of them made appearances in the minor league rooms and Social Media room. Also, I understand that a guy like Kris Bryant or Javy Báez can’t just walk around without being mobbed by fans.

Also, if your main goal of attending is to get a specific autograph, you’re probably going to be disappointed if your desired player is popular. I felt so bad for the kids standing around holding signs saying “In search of Contreras voucher.” I would have given them one if I had one.

But if you want to meet up with friends or new Cubs fans and just take in the atmosphere, you should attend Cubs Convention at least once. It’s an experience I will not readily forget and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to attend!

You can view my photos from the convention here.

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  • Thank you for this article...I too have never been to the convention, and have always wondered what to expect when I do suck it up and go. Now I know it is one of those kind of "bucket list" things I have in my mind and want to keep it on the list and do it sometime.

  • Thanks for reading; I hope you are able to go sometime!

  • In reply to dhsauers:

    I went to the 11th one years ago.....sounds pretty much the same now, but, that’s ok.....it’s winter time.
    (Beats standing outside looking at High Falls yes? Lol)

  • It's a long way to travel for me also. Thanks for bringing the convention to us!

  • “Cubs to sign reliever Brad Brach” estimated $3mil & mutual option for 2020. Pen just got crowded by 1 more.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Really like the value we got him at Milk stout I was hoping the team would sign Brach after Ottavino signed with the yankees.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I do to. With all the pitchers, someone’s gonna have to go. And if we get another arm they’ll definitely have to move some pieces.

    I’m hearing the Padres might be interested & talking toCubs about Bote. Maybe Bote& a Duensing or Kintzler for a AA arm with some future upside to make room.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I like the signing. I expect one or two more arms to be added like this. Get as many guys as possible for the pen and then see who has a good year. Good strategy at this point and then make a trade at the deadline to bolster what you have for the post season.

  • Haven't been around this offseason much everyone this slow offseason basically put baseball on hold for me. This is the 1st real transaction that we have to discuss my goodness what a boring offseason. I really like this signing Brach's been a steady set up man type going back to his baltimore days and he had a 1.52 ERA after his midseason trade to atlanta last season. Another righty with a mid 90s fastball his peripherals were down last year and the risk with him is he'll be 33 in April which is why I'm happy that this is a 1 year deal. I personally wanted Ottavino or Britton but I've wanted this guy since some of the top relievers signed. Good price and it allows the team to still have flexibility to sign other value guys. With Rickett's hamstringing the teams spending I'd like to at least see Theo go for some of these decent above average guys whose market are hurt by owners collusion or whatever is going on in MLB offseasons these days.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    It's a solid signing. Especially if he can get back to 2015-2017 Brach. The walk rate is a concern but at those dollars it's a bargain.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Good talking to you again TC it's been a while. I agree his age, peripherals and walk rate give me some cause for concern but at those dollar figures this is a no brainer signing. I also like how Theo capitalized on this unusual free agent market for average to above average players that has been going on for 2 years running now. I feel like 3 years ago a reliever of Brach's caliber would get at least 2/12 or 3/15 so I love the value here. It's just nice to be talking about actually adding someone to this roster boy this offseason around the league has been brutal to witness hard not to think there's some collusion going on among owners. Don't be shocked to see the majority of the cubs moves made in this late signing period this is just the new reality of MLB offseasons suddenly.

  • Great Article. I attended the convention many years ago and for a few years in a row when my dad was alive. He enjoyed going and I enjoyed attending with him and my brother. Haven't been in a while but may go again sometime in the future. Sounds like not much has changed. I would encourage any Cub fan to go at least once. What I liked is that you can get in line at the forums and actually ask a question to Theo, Jed or Javy. Kinda cool.

  • Pollcok reportedly to the Dodgers. The market for Harper is falling...do the cubs have a shot at sneaking in late like they did last year with Darvish? With Harper or Machado?

  • In reply to Pappy:

    I know they all but ruled Harper out but charles the cat sure seems insistent it's just smoke screen lol. The cubs are usually transparent with what they say to the media so it's hard for me to doubt the notion that they just aren't spending much this offseason. I'm still in denial though and wouldn't be shocked if they traded some salary away and swooped in and signed Harper last second he only has so many options at play here.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I guess anything is still possible. But I just don't see any way it makes sense for the Cubs to sign Harper unless they can move Hayward. And with Atlanta re-signing Markakis, I don't know if there is anyone other than SF that would have any interest in trading for him

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Agreed 100% the only way they get him is by clearing at least 10+ million in salary to get Harper. It won't be easy maybe they trade Zobrist even there's a rumor out there that the team is considering moving him to allow them to get a younger piece. I'd prefer to keep Zobrist around of course if we can

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Yeah, Zobrist is our de facto leadoff hitter. I don’t see them sticking withTony there... Ha ha!

  • Ken Rosenthal reports Brach actually gets 4.35 million guaranteed. That makes more sense I was wondering how they signed him that cheap on a one year deal.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    That was the initial estimate by Heyman when the news broke...

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    I don't know too much about Brach but he's not a hard thrower and does better with LH batters than RH. Maybe he is the Jessie Chavez replacement.
    I agree with KKhiavi in that despite what was said at the Cubs Convention I just feel that they aren't out of the Harper/Machado signings. This FO is very quiet--we had no idea Dexter Fowler was going to be signed before the 2016 season--not a single story that he was even thinking about signing again with the Cubs. That's the sense I have now.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The one thing that you keep hearing is that Washington will always take him back. My guess is that at some point Boras goes to his good pals the Lerners and says give us $1 mil more than Stanton got and unlimited use of a private plane and it's done. It's an absolute shame that two 26 year old generational players have been devalued by this. it's really starting to leave a sour taste in my mouth about the game.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Devalued by what TC? I’m missing your point ....

    Would you not think that FO’s are finally coming to their senses and realize 10 year deals are very poor business decisions?
    These same FO’s are gauging players more by analytics more than ever before......I don’t think there is any collusion.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I think there's massive collusion. Harper hasn't even reached his prime yet which has been the argument "we don't want to pay for past performance". With Harper most of the great years are ahead of him. 10 years at $350 means he'd have to put up about 40 WAr in those 10 years and I'm sorry that's not a stretch. Of course you don't do a deal like Pujols or Cabrera but this isn't that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don’t. There’s the luxary tax, the normal big spenders being handcuffed already by long term high $ contracts, teams being on tighter budgets & GMs trying to keep their jobs by not making big $ mistakes.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yeah and don't get me wrong when a team comes out and says we're not getting Harper it's hard to take things seriously but what if that means they're not getting Harper at this time. What if Theo finds a way to unload 10+ million in salary does that change the teams approach then? It seems like this market may hurt these guys markets and while that's unfortunate it does allow teams to maybe get them at a cheaper then anticipated price. I wouldn't be surprised either way at this point.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    *hard to not take that statement seriously

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